Anti-household charge campaign is only the beginning
As far back as September 2011, the Galway section of the Campaign against Household and Water Taxes vowed that we would go into every area of the city and as many areas of the county as possible to encourage home owners who are expected to bailout the gambling debts of bondholders and speculators not to pay the unfair household tax.
Since then, we held meetings in Westside, Ballybane, Knocknacarra, Terryland, Salthill, Renmore, the city centre, Tuam, Williamstown, Loughrea, Kinvara, Ballinasloe and Gort and we have participated in many more. We have leafleted, postered, canvassed and protested. Now with the passing of the deadline, a massive amount of households are refusing to pay.
This does not mean the end of the campaign, it is only the beginning. We have won the first battle in establishing mass non-payment by the registration deadline. The Government’s limited campaign of scare tactics does raise a few points that should be addressed:
1. That people will face massive fines; the penalties bring the total liability, at the end of this year to €142. That's a €2.73 weekly instalment. The €2,500 non-registration fine is not automatic. They have to find people. Without a database linking you to your home, they will find that very difficult. They have to bring you to court when they are not bringing criminal bankers or corrupt politicians. They have to prove a case against you that you did not pay. Only then, can they subject you to this fine. Government ministers have repeated again and again that no one will go to jail for not paying their household tax.
2. That they will use utility companies to track you down; many renters have electricity and phone bills in their name. This does not mean they own the house.
3. That they will take the fine out of your social welfare payments, wages or pensions; there is no legislation for this. The legislation under the fines act primarily deals with criminal law. The household charge legislation is a statute. Even Enda Kenny admitted in the Dáil on 8 February 2011 that there may be constitutional difficulties with this.
4. That they will make you pay when you sell your home. Like the anti-water charges campaign in the 1990s, we are going all the way until the legislation is abolished.
The Government ran with the lie that the proceeds are going to fund local services. The last budget cut €170 million from local councils with local taxation from motor tax being given a reduced share. They were hoping to raise €160 million from the household tax with a €10 million shortfall.
The Government and media partied with the registration figures. Last week there was widespread manipulation of figures to make the Government position look a little less dreadful. The baseline figure for registration is 1.8 million, not the 1.6 million which was used.
The household tax is an interim tax to more and more increased home taxes. The Commission on Taxation has stated that a home owner with a house valued between €150,000 and €300,000 will be paying €563 from next January. When you take into account John Fitzgerald's statement on Matt Cooper’s show last summer, we see water charges at €500 in 2014. That’s €1,063 a year for living in your own home with no guarantee that it will ever be linked to income or ability to pay. That's on top of the stamp duty you paid, and if you have a mortgage, you are still paying it.
We are encouraging people to break the law in an act of mass civil disobedience against an unjust law. The breaking of other laws in this state can put both the law breaker and others around them in serious risk of injury or death. We don't advocate the breaking of criminal law. It is not a criminal offence to break this particular law. The breaking of it harms no one and under current legislation, no one can be sent to jail for breaking it. Plenty of high profile people have broken the law and fiddled their taxes but because they hold influence with the powers that be, they have not and will not be prosecuted despite the stacks of evidence against them.
Without the breaking of unjust laws, there would be no civil rights for black people in the USA, there would be no eight-hour working day and there would be no voting rights for women. So how do people resist the barrage of attacks on the less well off from the wealthy elite? Do we wait for the desperation felt in Egypt and Greece that will result in total chaos? We believe the tactic of mass non-payment is the correct approach in trying to resist this particular form of austerity in a program of austerity that has failed and continues to fail. Technically, we are now entering into another recession. For most people, we never came out of the last one.
With all the Government scare tactics, we know that many were frightened into paying the household tax. We are making an appeal to those also, to make a contribution to the campaign and to help in the building of a legal advice fund. Local authorities may have the tenacity to commence legal proceeding against non-payers (if they find them) and the campaign will be ready to deal with that scenario if it should arise.
This campaign represents the organised resistance of a huge amount of Irish people. It flies in the face of those who submit to the irrational logic that Irish people don't take a stand like our Greek or Spanish counterparts. While we may not be taking to the streets in mass general strikes or setting city blocks alight and having running battles with the police, we instead have organised a mass campaign of civil disobedience with critical precision and planning that has the power to pose a real challenge to the Government and strike a powerful blow against the policies they are attempting to implement. We appeal to all sections of society to join with us in this movement and make a stand. Together we will defeat this charge and all the extra taxes it initiates.
Sean Byrne (Treasurer), College Road
Conor Burke, Oranmore
Daniel Doorhy, Loughrea
Declan Sweeney, Tuam
Conor McGuiness, Knocknacarra
Liam O’Grady, Knocknacarra
Helen Heaton, Knocknacarra
Padraic Walsh, Ballinfoyle
Ann O'Donnell, Ballinfoyle
Paul Murphy, Newcastle
Ruaidhri Burke, Galway City
Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes