IRELAND’S POLL TAX: Building a mass non-payment campaign
In response to the new tax an alliance of political and community groups launched the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes (CAHWT) in September 2011. Kevin Squires reports.
The campaign aims at defeating the Household Charge through actively engaging local communities in a mass non-registration and non-payment campaign, thereby making the tax impossible to collect.
Linking opposition to household and water taxes with those also opposed to the government’s new fees for the regulation of septic tanks, the campaign has grown massively in a short period.
Meetings around the country regularly attract between 200 and 600 people, and groups have been established in towns, cities and villages in all twenty-six counties in the Republic. Using the slogan “Don’t Register – Don’t Pay” the Campaign aims to have hundreds of thousands of non-registered households by the 31st March deadline for registration. It looks set to achieve this goal; based on figures released by the state, the Campaign estimates that only about 5% of eligible households have registered, while thousands have signed up to become CAHWT members. If this trend continues, it will be incredibly hard for the government to enforce the tax.
In addition to a national rally in Dublin on 24th March the Campaign is also organising local protests around the country. CAHWT organiser in Ringsend, Dublin, Tom Crilly told LookLeft; “With all the cuts to services, nationally and locally, and with more to come, people’s anger is growing. The non-payment campaign is a way in which people can register this anger and take action against the government”.
That the Campaign has captured people’s imaginations is evident both from the amount of meetings being organised, with ten in just Co. Limerick alone during February alone, and also the large volume of phone calls received by the National CAHWT Hotline (1890 98 98 00) set up to advise people on non-payment.
All the major left-wing organisations and several independent elected representatives including TDs John Halligan, Thomas Pringle and Dublin city councillor Cieran Perry are involved. However, CAHWT steering committee member Gregor Kerr, believes that the campaign is much broader than its component parts.
Kerr said; “The campaign is empowering ordinary people to become local organisers. The overwhelming majority of those attending meetings are not members of political groups, and they aren’t just coming to complain about things, they are coming to get involved and take action”.
This wider movement Kerr believes will be reflected as the Campaign “moves to a structure based on delegates from local groups, and a delegate conference will be held before May”.
Responding to understandable fears about the possible consequences of nonregistration, the Campaign says that “the legislation allows for a fine of up to €2,500 for failing to register by 31st March. But it’s not an automatic fine, it has to be brought before a court and a case proved.
“This is the importance of building a mass campaign. If hundreds of thousands don’t register, it will be absolutely impossible for them all to go to court. The campaign will organise legal representation for anyone who is taken to court and by challenging each case, the system will become completely clogged up. If someone is taken to court we will organise hundreds of fellow non-payers to turn up to support them”.
With Phil Hogan announcing in early February that the inspection fee for septic tanks will be reduced from €50 to €5 for three months from April Meath CAHWT organiser Seamus McDonagh believes the campaign has already won its first victory.
“It is a clear sign that the government is on the run from ordinary householders around the country,” he said.
To get involved in your local nonpayment campaign visit: www.nohouseholdtax. org or low-call the Campaign Hotline on 19890 98 98 00.