Fianna Fáil Dublin Spokesperson and Leader in the Seanad Darragh O’Brien has hit out at the Government’s mishandling of the entire property tax issue and called on Fine Gael and Labour to shelve the proposal until concrete steps are taken to ease the country’s mortgage arrear crisis and we see jobs and economic growth returned.
Senator O’Brien commented, “Phil Hogan and his Government colleagues have made an utter mess of the property tax issue from day one. The initial household charge, which they told us was the pilot project to show the country how easy it could be, was a disaster. The household charge fiasco served only to demonstrate the Government’s ineptitude and highlighted the scale of financial hardship in the country with almost 40% of the population unable or unwilling to pay the €100 charge.
“Phil Hogan, in his wisdom, responds to this by punishing everyone and cutting the services of local authorities all over the country to the point where one major urban council can no longer keep street lighting operational.
“In the meantime, we finally got confirmation of the scale of our mortgage arrears crisis, with one in five of mortgage holders now either in arrears or having restructured with their banks.
“How the Government looked at these various statistics and judged that the time was now right to rush through a new property tax system is anyone’s guess. But they are wrong. When 40% of the country cannot or will not pay €100, how many of them are likely to agree to €800 or €900? We have a huge section of the population in this country on middle incomes who are squeezed to breaking point and something has got to give.
“I would appeal to those members of the Cabinet who were not always property tax zealots to think again. As Minister Varadkar said before being promoted to Cabinet, “A property tax would further depress the housing market and would plunge Ireland even deeper into recession”. However true that was at the time he said it, it is even more true of the value based tax his Government is suggesting today.
“A more realistic and common sense approach is needed. The Government needs to acknowledge that they have mishandled the entire issue to date and go back to the drawing board. Now is not the time to burden people with already difficult or unsustainable mortgages with more property charges. The Government needs to prioritise efforts to address the mortgage arrears crisis first and get people back to work before introducing any new charges on people’s homes.”