Pressure mounts to amend property tax for less well-off

Jack O'Connor: Defended Labour's role in cuts.

Labour faces pressure to overhaul the property tax for the less well-off after delegates at the party’s conference voted to remove the charge from those on the dole and those struggling with mortgages.

A Siptu-backed motion at the conference called for the tax to be amended and for relief for families dependent on social welfare payments as well as those in receipt of family income supplements.

It also called for families to be exempt who are on low incomes and those on middle incomes who are servicing high mortgages because of homes bought during the property bubble.

Siptu president Jack O’Connor backed the amended motion, which delegates also voted to support, despite a caution from housing minister Jan O’Sullivan.

Ms O’Sullivan accepted a call for Labour to examine replacing the property tax with a site valuation tax, which delegates said would be fairer for homeowners.

The passing of a motion makes it Labour policy, but not the Coalition’s.

Meanwhile, Mr O’Connor defended Labour in government saying service cuts and financial pressures on voters would be a lot more than without the party in power.

“This is clear because on any reading of the Fine Gael election manifesto the cuts imposed would be somewhere between €1.6bn and €2bn more than those which have been inflicted to date.”

Fine Gael alone in government would have gone ahead with the large-scale sale of state assets, hinted the Siptu chief in a speech to members.

“Moreover, the legal mechanisms which underpin the threshold of decency on pay and conditions for tens of thousands of our most vulnerable workers would have been dismantled and we would now be well on the way to the wholesale sell-off of our most critically important public enterprises,” he said.

Earlier, delegates supported a motion to make termination of fatal foetal abnormalities in pregnancy Labour policy.

Councillor Lettie McCarthy of the Dublin Rathdown branch said couples should not need to travel abroad for such procedures.

“It is estimated that around 1,200 women choose to travel abroad to terminate their fatal foetal abnormality pregnancy rather than endure the mental and physical health risks associated with continuing with these pregnancies, pregnancies that sadly have zero chance of success.”

Delegates at a separate debate voted against proposals to split Labour’s executive board’s posts evenly between men and women.

Labour delegates also voted to recognise Travellers as an ethnic minority and for the Government to recognise their ethnic status within 12 months.

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