Govt holding firm on household charge

The Government has defended the controversial household charge despite the High Court paving the way for a challenge to the tax.

A judge found grounds for a Fianna Fáil councillor to challenge the charge because it had not been published in Irish.

But that, coupled with the fact that some 85% of householders have still not registered for the levy, has not dissuaded the Government from its mission.

Education minister Ruairi Quinn said imposing the €2 per week tax was unavoidable.

“This charge is necessary, it’s part of where we are at the present time and it will be short-lived,” said Mr Quinn.

The Government hopes to raise €160m from the levy, which will go towards funding public services, including libraries, footpaths and parks.

Householders have until March 31 to register and the Government has warned that those who fail to pay up will be summoned to court.

Latest figures revealed that 15% have so far signed up for the tax.

The minister urged opposition TDs to stop calling for householders to boycott it.

“I would urge you to consider your position in relation to incentivising people,” Mr Quinn added.

“I would urge that anybody in this house who has suggested people don’t pay the charge to think again.”

Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien told the Dáil he had no intention of paying the charge, which he described as unfair and regressive.

He said: “In light of the High Court ruling yesterday, coupled with the overwhelming number of people, including myself, who are choosing not to register and pay this unjust and unfair tax, would you agree that it is now the time to do the right thing and scrap this tax altogether?”

Meanwhile, a group of nine TDs who have spearheaded the Campaign Against the Household Charge held a protest at the Dáil today.

United Left Alliance members Clare Daly, Joan Collins, Joe Higgins, Richard Boyd-Barrett and Seamus Healy, and Independent TDs Mick Wallace, Luke Flanagan, Thomas Pringle and John Halligan were in attendance.

They called for a mass boycott of the tax and appealed to citizens to stand together in solidarity against the Government.

Deputy Higgins said that even if some people are singled out for fines, the campaign against the charge will support them.

"It's really the Government that has the problem on its hands now," Deputy Higgins said.

"The Government must listen to what the people are saying.

"In the event that they try to impose this, and would single out a handful of people.. The campaign will go in their thousands to the courts and make it a major political issue."

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