News from the Oireachtas

By Tim Ryan, Oireachtas Correspondent

By Tim Ryan, Oireachtas Correspondent

Sheriffs like blood-thirsty hounds - McGrath

The operations of “rich, fat-cat sheriffs” were strongly criticized in the Dáil by Tipperary Independent Deputy Mattie McGrath.

The legislation governing the operation of sheriffs is outdated and should be re-examined and revised, he said.

“Sheriffs are menacing people and, worse, they are charging exorbitant rates to take what people have not got,” he said. “I know of a man who has been unsuccessful in business and the sheriff now wants to take his car away. However, because he did not give them the car, two individuals want €690 for that day’s visit. They also wanted €690 for a visit the following week. They did not call but the man was sitting anxiously waiting for them.”

That negative system was scandalous, outrageous and intimidatory, he said. It was driving the goodwill, honesty, initiative and vitality from the self-employed sector.

“These rich, fat-cat sheriffs are propagating that system, “ he said. “It is worse than the penal days. In my area they cover Tipperary and Offaly and get exorbitant fees. It is disgraceful. While one can negotiate with the Revenue Commissioners - I have done so on behalf of others - the sheriff is non-negotiable and will not even speak to a person. He will charge his fees no matter what, adding them on. We should instead help business people who are hanging on by their fingernails. We are going nowhere, however, because we are tearing the lifeblood out of ordinary people in rural Ireland. We will not get out of this mess until we change direction.”

The Government should get rid of the advisers and get business people in to provide meaningful advice which can be acted upon, he said.

“We would all support that to get our country back on track. The current system has been a total flop and a disastrous failure, which is mainly due to inertia in the public service. Public servants never worked in the private sector in their lives; they do not understand it, care less and think they are untouchable.”

Property tax a fact of life - Hayes

Property tax is a fact of life in almost every country, Fine Gael Deputy Tom Hayes told the Dáil. It is, he said, a fair system of taxation and for that reason it was unfair and wrong for some Members of the Opposition to advise people not to pay it.

“It is a fair tax and will help the country straighten itself out of the economic mess,” he said.

Speaking on the Finance Bill, which implements the provisions of the Budget, he said he could not understand how some Members of the House, along with others involved in campaigns outside of the House, could say that people should not pay certain taxes.

“I see posters all over the country urging people not to pay the household charge or the €5 septic tank registration charge,” he said. “These are fair charges. No matter how we crib about it, the household charge is a tax levelled on everybody. If there is anything wrong with that charge, it is that it is the same for all households, but the Government will move to adapt it so that people with more expensive houses will pay more, and I welcome that.”

Budget changes in taxation and the change to increase from €4,000 to €10,000 the exemption threshold in the Universal Social Charge would help some 330,000 low paid people, he said. This had gone unnoticed and no Member of the Opposition had said this was a good decision, although they knew in their hearts and souls it was.

“There are young people in the Visitor’s Gallery looking down on us here week in and week out,” he said. “I am more concerned about those people and about the need to straighten out the economy for them. We have come a long way in 12 months. I say to the young people listening in the Visitors’ Gallery that in two or three years’ time, this will be a better Ireland, provided we stay on the road we are on and do not Mickey Mouse around and advise people not to pay this or that tax.”