A MAN who today enters the twelfth day of his hunger strike against the property tax has admitted he does not expect to survive for much longer.
Tony Rochford, who turns 45 next week, has been on hunger strike in opposition to the new tax since last Monday.
Rochford has lost nine kilograms (about 19 pounds) since his strike began – surviving only on water and black coffee – and is continuing to lose weight as he refuses to end his protest.
Rochford borrowed €430,000 to pay for his home in Trim, Co Meath, in October 2008. However, within three months his work – installing marble worktops and features in houses – had dried up.
He believes his home is now worth about €280,000, making it liable for an annual property tax of €495.
He has had a negligible income since then, as he is not entitled to State support because he was self-employed, but had managed to keep his mortgage out of arrears until this week.
He claims, however, that his mortgage lender refuses to enter into any negotiations with him, because he and his wife had already been given a moratorium on their repayments – which has since concluded – and because he has not entered into significant arrears.
“They were very good with the mortgage, but not willing to do any deals until you get into distress… the whole thing is bloody crazy,” Rochford told TheJournal.ie last night.
The great thing about this house for the bank is, if they repossess this in the morning, they’ll only lose €50,000.
He said he has paid off €100,000 of his original loan, leaving €330,000 to be repaid – most of which could be recouped by the bank if it was to repossess and sell.
“I’d love to trade down – gimme a bit of land and I’d build a house myself – but the banks are giving me no options,” he said.
“If I do try and trade down I’m still lumbered with the excess… [because we] kept playing the bloody mortgage for fools. We followed what we were told by the government – do the right thing.”
Other protests were fruitless because while there was broad public opposition to the tax, there were too many fragmented groups against it.
Though Rochford has recently been able to start finding work again, his refusal to pay the property tax means that from next Monday he will be unable to receive a tax clearance certificate – meaning he will be without any income of any kind.
“I’m basically sentenced to death anyway,” he said.
I can’t work to provide for my wife, and I won’t be entitled to any welfare payments anyway.
The government is effectively sentencing me to death.
He added: “I’m not going to keep feeding money into the Irish Exchequer – when I was in trouble here and had no work or no money, they did nothing for us.”
Asked if there was any prospect of becoming so ill that he would give up his life, he said: “I’m afraid not. No, there’s not. I’m just that type of stubborn person.”
Rochford is to mount a protest against the property tax outside the Four Courts on Monday morning – the day upon which the tax will formally be charged, and when he will lose his tax compliance – and says only the repeal of the tax will encourage him to end his strike.