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Hogan accused of 'sinking to new low'

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Environment Minister Phil Hogan. Photo: Tom Burke

Environment Minister Phil Hogan. Photo: Tom Burke

Environment Minister Phil Hogan. Photo: Tom Burke

MINISTERS have rallied around embattled Phil Hogan to claim that the property tax is being administered "fairly".

Despite the fact that the Department of Environment has wiped 38,000 ghost estate households off their maps, the Coalition is adamant that they are correct.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said local authorities had examined each unfinished estate "one-by-one" to assess if they had access to services such as street lighting, pavements and sewage connections.

He said this was the reason the number of exemptions had dropped from 43,000 to 5,100 households.

Housing Minister Jan O'Sullivan said the figures used to calculate the number of homes exempt from the household charge were inaccurate.

She says that considerable progress has been made in fixing estates that were previously considered as unfinished.

And Ms O'Sullivan said that estates which have the potential to be improved by local authorities will not be exempt.

"They have things to be addressed. They are not exempted and they will be taken in charge by the local authorities in time," she said.

Furious

But there was a furious reaction from Opposition parties who say the Government is targeting people living in seriously sub-standard developments.

Overall, 64 estates across Dublin city and county were exempt from last year's household charge. Just one of these – Priory Hall – will now be exempt from the property tax. Fianna Fail Senator Darragh O'Brien accused Fine Gael of "stooping to a new low in what was already a deeply unfair plan to tax the family home".

"Many residents of these estates paid way over the odds for what is now a seriously devalued home and they are living in unfinished surroundings with no realistic commitment to completion in sight. And yet, Phil Hogan and his Fine Gael colleagues now want to tax their homes," he said.

In the Dail, Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said people living in unfinished ghost estate and "building sites" had suffered significant stress.

"You have certainly failed the fairness test," she said.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath said many households would be unable to pay, adding: "1913 was the Lockout and 2013 will be the "kick-out".

The locations of the exempt estates are available on the websites of the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of the Environment and councils.

kdoyle@herald.ie


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