The ‘try on’ by Clare County Council in attempting to link the awarding of 3rd Level Education grants with payment of the Household Charge demonstrates how the poisonous effects of this austerity tax will cause increasing aggravation if the government doesn’t change course and abolish it as well as abandon the plan for a property tax next year.
The letter which the Council sent to grant applicants was quite deliberately designed to cause huge worry, concern and uncertainty. ‘In order to progress the payment of the 1st instalment of your grant, please arrange to submit by return a copy of the receipt issued in respect of the payment of the Household Charge.’ The clear implication here is that payment of the home tax is a prerequisite for the awarding of this grant.
This was a brazen move by Clare County Council because it should have been very clear to the management that it had no legal basis whatever for linking payment of the tax to the grant. Not that you would think that when this issue was brought to the attention of the Minister for Education on Tuesday morning. Disgracefully Ruairi Quinn fully endorsed the Council’s move rather than championing the rights of the students whose education he is charged with protecting. Not altogether surprising perhaps when one remembers how Minister Quinn and his Party colleagues cynically turned their backs on a solemn promise he made to students before the General Election that yearly college fees would not be raised.
It was the Campaign against the Household and Water Taxes which first brought the attempted blackmail of students by the local authority in Clare to the attention of the media and the general public. Pamela Rochford, a young mother from Ennis, gave the details to the nation through RTE’s Morning Ireland on Tuesday morning, encouraged people affected not to be intimidated but to mobilise in opposition and demanded that the government intervene. It was also brought to light that Tipperary South County Council had been trying the same trick.
The uproar and protests that quickly emerged on Tuesday and Wednesday forced an immediate backtracking by the Government and the Councils involved. Tipp South Council issued a statement to say that, ‘Following receipt of further advice today . . . it is now confirmed that grant payment will not be withheld from applicants who have not paid the household charge.’ This Council had conducted an even more deplorable ploy in August when it wrote to disabled applicants for Mobility Aids Grants saying , ‘In order for payment to be released it is necessary for you to provide evidence that you have paid the household Charge.’
Disingenuously, in another press statement South Tipp Council said in relation to the disabled applicants, ‘While the Council asked for confirmation of payment of the Household Charge as part of the Grant Assessment Process, it was not decided that any grant would be refused or delayed as a result of non payment of the Charge.
Nasty and all as this psychological warfare is, it will merely be a dress rehearsal for open war if the Councils proceed to bring those participating in the boycott of the home tax in front of the courts. There are strong indications that this could happen in a matter of weeks. There will be general revulsion that ordinary citizens, representative of the 50% of home owners who are boycotting the home tax, should be dragged into court to try and break their fight against this manifestation of austerity, while many property speculators who caused the crash that gave rise to the austerity are cosseted by the National Assset Management Agency and bankers and bondholders walk away.
The mass campaign that has been built to fight the home tax will mobilise massively in solidarity with those dragged to court, which will make the courthouses major scenes of mobilisation and popular resistance. Those who expect that people will simply be cowed and cave in at first summons will have their eyes opened to the anger and determination that is on the ground in relation to this issue. Just as former British Prime Minister Thatcher met her nemesis in the Anti Poll Tax campaign just over twenty years ago so Fine Gael and Labour will rue the day if they persist with their own poll tax here.
The knowledge among householders that next year they will face demands for a property tax of anything between €400 and €800 for an ordinary home, and that they simply cannot afford such an unjust new imposition, will spur many more to involve themselves in the current campaign. The scale of the conflict that can erupt in the very near future has not at all dawned on establishment political commentators nor on the establishment politicians, who while playing political games in the Dail will find real politics will has moved elsewhere.
CHECK OUT OTHER RELATED ARTICLES:
- Press Statement: Joe Higgins TD seeks debate in Dail today on Clare County Council’s refusal to grant aid 3rd level students whose parents haven’t paid Household Charge
- CAHWT Press Statement: Campaign Against Household Water Taxes prepares for next phase of campaign
- Comment: Mass campaign of non-payment only way of defeating regressive Household tax
- Mass Non-Payment Campaign Needed to Defeat Household Tax
- Video: Leading Campaign Against Household Water Taxes activists announce first steps of building non-payment campaign
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