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Leaders' Questions

Gilmore admits 'difficulties' allowing household charge payment

The Tánaiste also accuses opposition leaders of misleading the public saying how expensive the charge could yet become.

TÁNAISTE EAMON GILMORE has acknowledged that there have been “difficulties” allowing people to pay the household charge, four days before the deadline for paying the €100 fee.

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Gilmore conceded that individuals looking to pay the €100 charge before Saturday’s deadline had been unable to do so for several reasons.

The concession came during a fraught session of Leaders’ Questions, where the leaders of Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the technical group all criticised the government’s handling of the rollout of the fee.

Fianna Fáíl’s Micheál Martin said it was unfair that some householders could find themselves facing extra levies and fines for not paying the charge when they had not received formal notification of it, or not been given a copy of the leaflet being sent to each home.

“Is it fair that fines will automatically apply, even though they’ve yet to receive a leaflet explaining how to pay for it, and given that Labour ministers admit it’s been badly handled?” he asked.

The Tánaiste responded that it was unlikely that anyone in the country could not know about the charge, “and the fact it has to be paid by the 31st of March”.

‘Moral blackmail’ and ‘fully-fledged revolt’

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams, meanwhile, said it was becoming apparent that the majority of citizens were rejecting the “legal threats and the moral blackmail of this government”, which he said was willing to repay a promissory note to a defunct bank worth several times the charge.

“Let me give you one suggestion,” Adams offered. “Abandon the household charge and introduce a cap on wages in the public sector above €100,000.” This, he said, would raise €265 million a year – €100 million more than the household charge.

Gilmore quipped that Adams should not raise queries about the €100 charge being levied in the Republic when charges imposed by Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland amounted to £1,259 per year, and called on Sinn Féin to clarify its stance of whether it wants people to pay the charge or not.

Gaeltacht minister Dinny McGinley, sitting behind Gilmore, shouted: “How much do you pay yourself, Gerry?”

Joe Higgins from the technical group said the findings of the Mahon report had galvanised a “fully-fledged revolt of people power”, as indicated by the low number of households paying the charge so far.

In response, Gilmore noted that the result of Mahon was that politicians needed to remain truthful with the public, and accused Higgins of misleading the public by claiming the household charge could yet reach €1,000 per house.

Higgins said this was based on the recommendations from the Commission for Taxation for property taxes of €560 per house, and from the ESRI for annual water charges of €500.

Read: Department clarifies handling fee for second home charge

More: Hayes says ‘no difficulty paying household charge’ as over 363k register

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