Councillor resists charge - but will eventually pay

Fianna Fáil Cllr Andrew McGuinness says he will not be paying the Household Charge before the deadline this Saturday.

Fianna Fáil Cllr Andrew McGuinness says he will not be paying the Household Charge before the deadline this Saturday.

Son of the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee chairman, Deputy John McGuinness, he says he is resisting the charge on the grounds that he feels it is unfair, although he acknowledges that legally he will have to pay it eventually.

“I haven’t paid the charge. I don’t want to pay the charge but I’m not going to break the law either,” Cllr McGuinness said yesterday (Tuesday). “But this Government are forcing me and everybody else to either pay an unfair charge or break the law and be penalised.”

“I am not going to pay the charge before Saturday. I’m going to use this time to take a stand with the people to protest the implementation of a charge that is simply wrong. If I’m penalised, then so be it,” Cllr McGuinness said.

The 31-year-old councillor said that, like many members of his generation, he had purchased a house during the boom and was now already paying a high price.

“On a personal level, I bought my home in the boom time and now I have a mortgage twice the value of my house and (Environment Minister) Phil Hogan wants to take another €100 off me,” he said. “There are thousands of young people like me who bought their homes at the peak of the boom.”

He also said that many people found themselves in even worse situations, and that he felt the deadline for paying the charge should be extended.

“There are people in dire circumstances, living by the day, who simply can’t afford basic essentials, let alone Phil Hogan’s charge,” Cllr McGuinness said. “And the fact that Minister Hogan refuses to extend the time frame to pay it so the less-well-off can have the time to raise the money is just nothing short of bullying at its worst.”

“A public representative knows right well the poor circumstances many people are now in, we see it when we call to their doors, and to turn your back on that is just downright unfair,” he added.

He said that he would not advise anyone to break the law by not complying with the charge, however.

“We have people ringing us and asking whether they should pay the charge, but I am not going to advise anyone to break the law – I can’t as a public representative,” he said in regards to people contacting Deputy McGuinness’s constituency office.

Lives in unfinished estate

Fianna Fáil Joe Reidy says he also has not decided whether to register for the charge by Saturday’s deadline – in part because he is living in what he considers to be an unfinished estate and in part because he feels the matter of the Household Charge has been “badly handled.”

Cllr Reidy lives in Margaret’s Field estate in Kilkenny, which he says is unfinished but which is not included in the list of 36 estates in County Kilkenny that are exempt from the charge this year. The developers of Margaret’s Field have just been granted a five-year extension by Kilkenny County Council to complete the estate, however.

“I will eventually pay it, because it has to be paid, but I just think the whole thing has been handled so badly,” he said. “You should be able to go and just pay it like you do with a TV licence.”

Sinn Féin Cllr Kathleen Funchion has also said that she and her husband, Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane, will not be complying with the charge before Saturday’s deadline.

They live in an unfinished estate in which residents are exempt from the charge, but they are still required to register – which they say they will not be doing before Saturday.

For more on the local response to the Household Charge, see Page 3.