Vita worker ‘will go to jail’ over €100 household levy

A former Vita Cortex worker who spent five months on a factory sit-in said she is now prepared to go to jail for not paying the household tax.

And Helen Crowley, from St Luke’s in Cork, said her experience during the marathon sit-in has made her realise that it’s time for ordinary working people to stand up and fight for their rights.

She was speaking last night as she joined members of the Cork Campaign Against the Household and Water Charges in protest outside Cork’s City Hall.

Ms Crowley was one of 32 Vita Cortex workers who lost their jobs when the foam factory shut down on Dec 16 last.

She was one of the few workers who spent every single night of the five-month dispute sleeping on the factory floor.

The sit-in ended last week when the workers were finally paid their redundancy packages.

“The Vita Cortex thing really changed my mind,” Helen said last night.

“I was going around all my life with my head stuck in the sand. I now realise I have to stand up for my rights.

“We’ve paid enough down through the years and I’ve decided I’m not going to pay the household tax.

“Someone said would I be willing to go to jail. And yes, I am. I’d be willing to do that now.

“We’ve been like sheep for too long.”

Another protester, Keith O’Brien, from Ballyphehane, is a single man who has just been put on a three-day working week.

He said he was protesting on behalf of the “working man”.

“We just haven’t any more to give,” he said.

“The household tax and the water charges and everything else that’s coming down the line is hitting the working man.

“The people it’s not affecting are the politicians and the bankers. We just can’t afford to pay for these people.

“My money is going down, but everything is else is going up.”

Later, the city councillors voted against a Sinn Féin motion which called on city manager Tim Lucey not to use powers under the Household Charge Act which allow him to access information held by utility companies to help track down people who haven’t paid the tax.

Cllr John Buttimer (FG) said the Data Protection Commissioner has examined and is satisfied with the legislation.

And he criticised protesters who picketed City Hall in March as people queued to pay the day before fines kicked in.

“They were there to intimidate and scare people out of paying the charge,” he said.

Cllr Des Cahill (FG) said protesters blocked doors, subjected council staff to verbal abuse, and shouted at people who had paid.

But Worker’s Party Cllr Ted Tynan, who was among the protesters, defended the event which he described as “dignified”.

And anti-household tax campaigner, Socialist Party Cllr Mick Barry said: “It is the Government which has tried to bully, scare, and intimate the population.”

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