I think it was in 2011 when the now discredited Fine Gael/Labour coalition government of Ireland in trying to raise some much needed capital decided to levy a Household Charge of €100 on all properties in Ireland. They decided to let the villainous bankers, developers and politicians get off scot free and go for the easy meat, poor Joe Public, The very ones who had no hand in the impoverishment of the state of Ireland.
This Household Charge was to be followed up in 2013 and every year thereafter with a Property Tax to be levied on each property depending on value. There are considered to be 1.6 million such properties in Ireland. The rewards were great €160 million first year, followed by upwards of €320 million per annum ad infinitum.
At the time I thought the idea lacked substance it was surely unconstitutional to levy a charge on the family home and I joined in with vigour at the uproar this charge caused. Many rightfully refused to pay and organisations sprang up to challenge this tax. Organisations like “Attack The Tax” and “From Acorn To Oak” were founded and they constructed a legal vehicle with which to question the unconstitutional nature of this tax. Many joined but the government first of all withdrew the tax from the pay packets of those in the public sector and ordered the Inland Revenue to take it from those in the private sector but still many refused.
The County Councils had been charged to collect this Charge and in 2012 Mayo County Council decided to bring a test case against Peter Anthony Keegan from Westport, an ordinary guy who must have been pulled out of a hat. They charged him with non-payment of the tax and Mr Keegan fought his battle for two years which involved many Court appearances saying the Charge was unconstitutional.
On March 5th last week Mr Keegan was summonsed by Mayo County Council to appear before Judge Mary Devins at the Castlebar Circuit Court to finally face charges for non-payment of the Household Charge. Mr Keegan had challenged the Council and their legal team Ward McEllin to disprove its unconstitutionality. They could not and Ward McEllin withdrew all charges before the case came to court. Obviously the judge and Ward McEllin had been in discussion and the judge must have told them that she would rule in Mr Keegan’s favour and therefore before a judicial decision could be made, it would be better to withdraw so that there would be no legal precedent set.
The case potentially is a huge victory for the people of Ireland and you would have thought the withdrawal would have been all over the media but there has not been one whisper from the mainstream, television and national newspapers. It does show how much the media are in the pocket of government. It has very damaging consequences for Enda and his mates in the Dail as everyone who paid the charge should be entitled to a refund, some €160 million or thereabouts of illegal tax. Some might even consider seeking redress for damages if they were bullied, harassed, threatened or frightened into paying like a lot were. Mr Keegan is certainly going to be seeking costs for his two years of worry.
The Property Tax that followed this Household Charge was set up in the same manner as are the water charges being sought by Irish Water and these charges will eventually be addressed. It has been a victory for the people of Ireland and a lesson to be learnt by everybody. If the state or its agents try to make anybody sign a declaration (a Contract or Agreement), do not. No man or woman can be forced to make a declaration or sign an agreement against their will. This is what Mayo County Council tried to do but failed when it realised there was no law in existence that allows such a thing. The Human Rights Convention expressly forbids it. The State of Ireland have a real problem on their hands and this can of worms will be opened more fully in the next few years and that is why the media have kept shtum.
However the following morning, 10 days afterwards and after I had published the above The Irish Times reported the event with a slightly different slant.