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Monday January 09, 2012 20:33 by ULA Galway - United Left Alliance ULA.Galway at gmail dot com
Angry scenes as protesters challenge councillors to oppose household charge and amend draft budget
There were angry scenes both outside and inside City Hall this afternoon as councillors gathered to formally endorse the draft budget for 2012. A large number of protestors had gathered outside City Hall from about 3pm in order to meet councillors as they entered the building.
Conor Burke from the anti-household and water charges campaign spoke at the demonstration and emphasised the importance of mass non-registration and non-payment as the primary means of defeating the charge.
“Only by standing together and encouraging each other can we beat this unfair charge. If the majority of people have still not paid by the end of March it will put huge pressure on the Government and they will have to reconsider the tax.
ULA chairperson Dette McLoughlin spoke about the huge burdens being faced by families due to the economic crisis and highlighted the fact that the household tax is a precursor to much more substantial charges in the future.
“Ordinary families are being forced to pay through their teeth so that our government can bail-out unsecured bondholders. Families are struggling to make ends meet as it is and to demand more from them is reprehensible.
“Top economists within the Government’s own think-tank, the ESRI, are predicting that the combined cost to householders will be €1,300 by 2014. Some Fine Gael backbenchers have recently hinted that this may even happen as early as next year. We need to nip this in the bud and the easiest way to do this is to refuse to register and refuse to pay!’
A number of councillors accepted letters from campaigners, which asked them to amend the draft budget, to call on the government to rescind the household charge, and to support residents who boycott it.
The majority of city councillors opted not to enter City Hall through the front doors or meet with protesters. Shortly before the council meeting was due to begin upwards of one hundred protestors entered City Hall and demanded to meet with councillors.
Demonstrators were barred from entering the council chamber by Gardaí and began calling for councillors to meet with them and hear their demands.
After a five-minute standoff Councillor Ollie Crowe was dispatched to meet with the demonstrators and hear their demands.
ULA Galway branch secretary Conor McGuinness spoke to Councillor Crowe on behalf of the protesters.
“We are calling on you and your colleagues on Galway City Council to show leadership and oppose the household charge. We have three requests of you and your colleagues ; firstly we call on you to amend the budget estimates to remove any reference to the household charge, secondly we call on you to pass an emergency resolution demanding that the government rescind this unfair tax, and thirdly we ask you to publicly support Galway householders who boycott this charge.”
Councillor Crowe agreed to convey this message to the council but refused to make any statement on the household charge.
A number of protesters subsequently attempted to enter the council chamber to ensure the issue was indeed raised by Councillor Crowe and to monitor the responses of other councillors. Protesters were prevented from entering by a heavy Garda presence and a number of observers who had already been in the chamber were forcibly removed.
Having conveyed their message loudly and clearly the demonstrators left City Hall. Speaking outside Conor McGuinness reiterated the ULA’s opposition the household charge.
“This charge is deeply unfair. To charge families a €100 for the luxury of living in a house is despicable. To charge a struggling family in negative equity the same amount of money as a millionaire in a mansion is ludicrous and flies in the face of all modern taxation practices.
“To say this charge will help fund our local services is a lie. We already pay taxes that fund local services and we will receive nothing new or improved from this extra payment. In fact Galway City Council has conceded that it will receive none of the money raised from the Household Charge this year. €2.25 Billion of our money is due to be paid to bondholders over the next two weeks. If the Government were serious about funding local services they would halt the payment of unsecured bonds immediately.
“This charge is part of the Government’s austerity programme which was dictated by the IMF and initiated by Fianna Fáil. Fine Gael and Labour are content to continue to implement this doomed agenda, which has failed to show any signs of success over the past three years.
“The Government is intent on making us pay for the crisis of the rich and this is the first opportunity working people, the elderly and the unemployed have been given to show their opposition. Defeating the Government on this charge will send a clear message to them that we will not be scapegoats for the wealthy anymore. “
The campaign against the household and water charge will hold an open meeting to organise the next steps in the campaign this Wednesday 11th January at 8pm in Richardsons. Anyone interested in getting involved in the campaign, or who would like to learn more about household charge or non-payment are welcome to attend.
For more information find ULA Galway on Facebook or log on to www.nohouseholdtax.org.