Anti-Household Tax Rally Draws Hundreds in Cork


A bumper crowd of over 400 crammed into the largest function room of Cork's Metropole Hotel to be part of a rally to mark the end of the first phase of the campaign waged against the government's 'Household Charge'. The rally began with a humorous and topical song composed by a campaign supporter, John Murphy, then several speeches from the top table, and was followed by an 'open mike' session where members of the attendance expressed their outrage, anger, and defiance over the imposition of the Household Tax and the implementation of the austerity agenda.

Among the speakers at the rally were citizen members of the Campaign Against the Household and Water Tax, a trade union representative of local authority workers, one of the Vita Cortex workers, a solicitor who has volunteered her advice to the campaign, and a local politician.

Liz Feighan from Blarney and Maureen Murphy from Ballyvolane/Dublin Hill spoke of how the austerity agenda has made the already-difficult task of providing for one's families even harder still, and how the Household Tax is so unfair and an imposition too far on working folk like themselves. They also reminded the attendance that their numbers on the ground vastly outnumber those who have already paid the tax, and that local organisation in every community is vital to the success of the Anti-Household Tax campaign.

Jim Coughlan of the Cork No. 7 branch of SIPTU and a city council employee made clear his determination not to be dragooned by Phil Hogan et al. into knocking on doors to 'persuade' people to pay this unjust tax, a determination shared by his fellow workers, he assured the audience. Like other working people, Jim said that city council employees have borne the burden of being made pay for a crisis they didn't cause, and face the further threat of having the services they provide being sold off by the city manager or scaled down, and this threat will not go away even if the government raised every penny they could with this tax.

Jim Power, one of the Vita Cortex workers who has spent over 100 days occupying their former workplace in pursuit of the redundancy they were promised was next to speak. His brief contribution began by thanking the people of Cork for giving so much help in their particular struggle, and that he and his 31 colleagues were returning the favour. He said that the Vita Cortex workers were going to hold out for as long as it took to get justice, and that they would be alongside the people of Cork and Ireland as part of the fight against the Household Tax. He finished by saying that neither he nor his 31 colleagues will be paying.

City councillor Mick Barry began his 20-minute speech lambasting the government for their inept and bumbling handling of the Household Tax registration, and pointed out that in the face of the success of the campaign so far they were reduced to threats and fearmongering in these last days before the closing date for registration. Councillor Barry also held forth on the media campaign being waged to get people to comply, holding up the front page of that day's Evening Echo, a cover so overdone in its menace it parodied itself – 'WE'RE COMING FOR YOU'. He also dwelt on the irony of 'hard-working ordinary working people' being criminalised while those who were found against in the Mahon Tribunal report published last week are still drawing massive pensions and have faced no prosecution, and are unlikely to. Councillor Barry proceeded to say that the overwhelming numbers of non-payers were breaking unjust laws, and should not be afraid to stand among a illustrious lineage of principled lawbreakers such as Michael Davitt and the Land League, the workers of the Dublin Lockout, the Civil Rights movements and the Suffragettes, and many more protest movements who brought down unjust laws. He then went on to announce upcoming protest activities by the national campaign, from the planned protest at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis in Dublin next Saturday, the protest at the Labour Party annual conference on the 14th of April, and protest marches to be held nationwide around May 1st. He concluded by saying that the campaign would guarantee that no-one would go to court alone should they be prosecuted for non-payment of the Household tax, he said that the campaign would turn the tables on the government and put them in the dock instead, and this was met by a standing ovation from the audience.

The microphone then went around the crowd, with numerous speakers, both political activists and people new to political activity, reiterating their implacable opposition to the tax. Irish Examiner journalist and organiser of the Ballyhea bondholder marches, Diarmuid O'Flynn, read out a shocking list of the multi-billions of euros paid out to bondholders over the last six months by the state and the state-owned (and funded) banking sector, which is what the Household Tax is really meant to pay, he added. Several people in the audience asked questions about whether the threats of fines, attachments to earnings, liens on house sales and so on were as dire as the government were making out. These questions were fielded by Anne McShane, a political activist and solicitor who is part of a group of legal professionals in the Cork area who are donating time and legal advice to the campaign. The mic returned to the audience, with more people giving voice to their anger at what has been lumped upon them these past four years, and the message that the Anti-Household Tax campaign was the big referendum against austerity rang out from several contributors. Some contributions from the floor spoke about 'defending the rights enshrined in the constitution', and after that the floor contributions tended to more about more general grivances people held against the powerful in society, with the result that some of the energy of the earlier proceedings was lost. Even so, people speaking from the floor gave eloquent testimony for a wider population in the city and country making themselves ready to resist being pauperised to keep the rich rich.

After nearly two hours the rally was brought to a close with several of the top table speakers summing up why they are involved in the campaign, and Councillor Barry took several minutes to exhort people to sign up for their local groups and upcoming protest activities at the several tables manned by campaign members at various places around the hall. As the meeting ended (and also before the rally), these tables saw many people sign up, take out campaign membership, and bring home leaflets and stickers to distribute in their neighbourhoods – indeed some joked that these tables saw more business than the mythical queues at City Hall for this widely-detested Household Tax!