Property tax leads to deep divisions between Inishowen councillors

The growing divisions between Inishowen’s county councillors became only too apparent at the recent Donegal Co. Council meeting when there were some heated exchanges on the thorny issue of the Property Tax.

Fine Gael councillor Bernard McGuinness said it was the strategy of Sinn Fein to oppose the Property Tax.

“The people will decide at the next election who is right. To people who advocate don’t pay, such as Colr (John) Campbell, who claimed the council was giving out misinformation about the levels of collection of the Household Tax –- I’d say I take exception to this,” he stated.

“I’m a ratepayer, and that is part and parcel of what being in business is about. Everyone knows one of the biggest disasters in this country was the abolition of rates – it took away the ability for us to decide our own destiny,”

“I salute those who pay, because they are the true patriots of this country. Nobody wants the Property Tax, but it is in place,” Colr McGuinness said.

Colr. John Ryan (FG) said nobody wanted the Property Tax, but said we have to get real about the problems

“Sinn Fein has to get real – coming in here preaching populist policies. This is total nonsense. The only misinformation in this chamber comes from Sinn Fein,” he said.

Labour Colr Martin Farren said it was difficult for people at the moment.

“Over the last two years, the new government has been in a difficult situation because the country was on its knees. I do feel we are implementing too many policies too quickly and it is hitting a lot of families hard – people should get more time to pay without penalties,” he said.

The row erupted during discussion on a motion from Sinn Fein Councillor Mick Quinn calling on Fine Gael-Labour to repeal the Property Tax.

He was speaking at the reconvened March meeting of the Donegal County Council, where he said the tax was “grossly unfair and unjust”.

The property tax was akin to “starving people out of a famine”, he said.

“Any single person earning over 15,000 euro is liable, and while people can defer paying, the government is imposing a four per cent levy, which would make money lenders blush,” he said.

Colr. Quinn, said that, with one in four mortgage holders in distress, it was going to have huge repercussions.

Colr. John Campbell (Ind) said the Property Tax would bring in around 15 million euro in Donegal.

“This is 15 million out of the economy in local shops and services,” he added.

Colr. Marie Therese Gallagher (SF) said the details were published in the Repeal Bill.

“We’re being accused of misinformation, but that’s the biggest piece of rubbish we’ve heard all day,” she said.

Colr. Jack Murray (SF) said Margaret Thatcher would never be dead as long as Fine Gael were in government.

“Yes, I’m advocating taxing the wealthy, not against those who can’t afford. Fine Gael are looking after the wealthy in society,” he said.

Fianna Fail councillor Gerry Crawford said he supported the motion, while Independent Colr Ian McGarvey stressed he didn’t like to see division on the council about the issue.

Mayor Frank McBrearty (Lab), said he didn’t want to pay taxes, but “I have to”.

Colr. Quinn, said he didn’t plan to reply to some of the remarks made. “We have a costed Bill before the Houses of the Oireachtas. People on the lowest incomes imaginable are going to have to pay as it stands. Austerity isn’t working – it’s insanity,” he said.