17 Aug 2022

Anti-charge campaign in turmoil over money feud

The Kilkenny branch of the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes has been thrown into disarray following a bitter internal feud over the management of members’ campaign funds.

The Kilkenny branch of the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes has been thrown into disarray following a bitter internal feud over the management of members’ campaign funds.

The original committee was dissolved on May 8 when members passed an emergency motion citing the committee’s “inability to function in an open, transparent and democratic fashion”.

Former secretary Conor Mac Liam and vice chair Shane Kelly say that former chairman Noel G Walsh kept secret the details of the campaign account and has consistently refused to produce accounts and financial records - a charge which Mr Walsh vehemently rejects.

In turn, Mr Walsh has said that the Socialist Party ‘hijacked’ the local campaign, and that Mr Mac Liam failed to notify certain members that the meeting to elect a new committee was being held. He says neither himself nor his brother Adrian (Breathnach), the former treasurer, were ever asked to produce any record of finances.

The national campaign is funded by local collections of €5 per household membership, which county committees then send to a central fund. The campaign’s national treasurer Mick Murphy says the fund is used to print leaflets and posters, hire conference venues, and maintain a hotline.

National targets are set for each county, and according to Mr Murphy, Kilkenny has contributed less money than any other.

“Most areas were working away grand, but nothing was coming in from Kilkenny,” he said.

“I was chasing and trying to find out what was going on.”

Mr Walsh says the membership fees have been used locally for funding organised buses to Galway and Dublin, for which he has receipts, as well as printing costs, cable ties and mobile phone expenses. He said there was about €30 remaining in the account.

Mr Murphy says that in the year’s first quarter, the national fund received no money from Kilkenny. In the second quarter, it has received a total of €200 - although this was initially sent to the office of Joe Higgins, before it was recovered for the campaign fund.

“If it wasn’t for the fact that we discovered the bank draft sent to Joe Higgins’ office without an accompanying letter, there would be no knowledge nationally of any money from Kilkenny,” says Mr Mac Liam.

Mr Walsh says that the money was sent to Mr Higgins, as neither himself nor former treasurer Adrian Breathnach had the bank details or address of the campaign’s national treasurer Mick Murphy.

Mr Mac Liam says there has been a lack of transparency.

“People who joined aren’t receiving notices from me, because when I was secretary, I never received the full membership database,” he said.

A new committee was appointed this month, with former secretary Conor Mac Liam appointed chair, Shane Kelly as vice chair, Paul O’ Reilly as secretary and Stephen Bryan as treasurer. The committee has set up a new Credit Union account with three signatories.

Secretary Paul O’ Reilly says he has written to Mr Walsh requesting a handover of monies, accounts, receipts and other materials, however, Mr Walsh says he has not received any correspondence from the new committee.

The spat between the members became public when Mr Walsh posted uncomplimentary comments upon the internet about Mr Mac Liam and Mr Kelly.

Paul O’Reilly said the campaign was doing its best to get back on track.

“We are doing our damndest to resolve this, but it has not been nice,” he said.

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