Mayor Accused of ‘Dirty Tricks’ as People are
‘Financially Raped’

Bitter exchanges with dripping vitriol dominated a special meeting of North Tipperary County Council this week as Government supporting members were lambasted by the opposition over Minister Phil Hogan’s mid-year slashing of the Local Government Fund by 1.5 million Euro, due to the non payment of the Household Charge by about one third of eligible households.

Bitter exchanges with dripping vitriol dominated a special meeting of North Tipperary County Council this week as Government supporting members were lambasted by the opposition over Minister Phil Hogan’s mid-year slashing of the Local Government Fund by 1.5 million Euro, due to the non payment of the Household Charge by about one third of eligible households.

By Noel Dundon

Bitter exchanges with dripping vitriol dominated a special meeting of North Tipperary County Council this week as Government supporting members were lambasted by the opposition over Minister Phil Hogan’s mid-year slashing of the Local Government Fund by 1.5 million Euro, due to the non payment of the Household Charge by about one third of eligible households.

In as volatile a session as has been witnessed in many years, councillors shouted each other down, laughed and sneered, jumped to their feet, and broke standing orders with such regularity, that the meeting descended into a farce. Mayor Michael O’Meara struggled to contain the mayhem and even tried to adjourn proceedings without getting a seconder - he was later accused of trying to delay time to allow Councillor Phyll Bugler attend the meeting so that she could vote against a motion of no confidence in Minister Hogan - a vote which resulted in the Mayor having to use his casting vote to defeat the motion.

Yes, this was as bad as it gets and there was much disillusionment outside the chamber as councillors shook their heads in dismay at what had happened. Not only were tempers frayed and harsh words spoken, but it seems that the sense of harmony and determination to work through party politics, went out the window.

County Manager Mr Joe MacGrath had given a rundown of the position facing the council, but when the issue was opened up to the floor, all hell broke loose.

Councillor John Hogan suggested that the council executive ignore all further instructions from Minister Hogan until such time as he agrees to meet the council first. He proposed that the council seek a deputation to the Minister and accused Minister Hogan of introducing a new fundamental to the principle of local government - whoever collects the most debt gets the most in funding. The basis of equalisation has been forgotten, he said, and he pointed out that people are “grey in the face and almost going hungry” trying to pay bills.

Cllr Seamie Morris seconded Cllr Hogan’s proposal that they ignore Minister Hogan’s dictats, but said that he had huge sympathy for the Manager who has to deal with the “fiasco.” Admitting that he did not pay the charge, he said that people are very afraid to register because they are scared of what is coming down the line.

“Phil Hogan should be ashamed of himself. He is trying to bully people into paying and he has made a right hames of this from the start,” Cllr Morris said.

Cllr Billy Clancy disagreed with the language used by the County Manager in describing those who did not pay, as holding the those who did, to ransom. This was unfair he said, and the added that the people of this country are being “financially raped.” He thanked people who did not pay “for having the guts to stand up to Minister Hogan.”

Cllr Jim Casey described the day as being one of the worst he experienced since being elected many years ago and he went on propose a vote of no confidence in the Minister for the manner in which he has carried out his duties and insulted local government. The proposal was seconded by Cllr John Carroll.

Cllr Ger Darcy pointed out that the Household Charge is part of the IMF deal and he added that it was a tremendous achievement to have 62% of the elegible people of North Tipperary paying the rate, especially in light of all the negative publicity it has generated.

He expressed confidence in the measures to be introduced by the County Manager to achieve higher percentages and he proposed a motion calling on all those who are liable for the Household Charge, to pay it.

Cllr Virginia O’Dowd claimed that the root to the whole problem was when the last Government invited in the IMF to the country.

She also mentioned the Mahon and Moriarty Reports and said that the country would not be where it is today had it not been for corruption.

Cllr Pauline Coonan followed up by blaming the deal the last Government did with the Troika and mentioned the waste of money on e-voting machines among others. The opposition, she said, were “having a field day over this.”

Cllr Smith reacted angrily to this and said that he took grave exception to this as it was “a shameful thing for anyone to say”. Cllr John Hogan agreed and said that he did not wish to criticise the Minister and would not have to do so, if he was doing a better job.

As the shouting match continued Cllr Micheal Lowry told Cllr Coonan that she had grave difficulty with her judgements. “You have the truth, and then you have your version of the truth, and they are both very different from each other,” he said.

Cllr Seamus Hanafin was “appalled” at the manner in which this issue was handled by the Minister while Cllr Clancy questioned when taxation ends and robbery starts.

Mayor Michael O’Meara described MInister Hogan’s decision to slash the Local Government Fund as a “retrograde step”.

After much ballyhoo about the voting process which included an adjournment on the part of the Mayor, the council resumed and eventually voted on the two proposals - Cllr Hogan withdrew his proposal to allow the no confidence motion to be voted on. The vote eventually ended up at nine each with the Mayor casting against the motion. However, it did not prevent Cllr Hogan from shouting “dirty tricks” repeatedly as he left the chamber in protest.

The claim was that Cllr Phyll Bugler had been contacted to get her to come to the chamber and vote as her colleagues were aware that they did not have the numbers to counter the proposal without her - a claim denied by Cllr Bugler.

The motion calling on those who have not paid the Household Charge to do so, was carried by 7 votes to 3 with seven abstaining.

Yes it was a very strained meeting and the fallout from it is likely to last for some time to come.