By Brian McCarthy
HOUSEHOLD TAX CASE
Peter Anthony Keegan is fr*e at last
The Revolution was NOT TELEVISED!
Some of ye may already heard/read the news. It was not advertised on RTE or TV3, and there were no ads in the Irish Times, however, the word is out, and the world is a better place.
Household Charge Defeated In Court Posted on March 5, 2015:
Household Charge Challenge Solicitors for Mayo County Council (M.C.C.) today (5/3/15) withdrew charges for non-payment of the 2012 Household Charge against Peter Anthony Keegan, the first man to be charged with the “offence”. Today’s siting of the Castlebar Circuit Court saw Peter Keegan summonsed by M.C.C. to appear before Judge Mary Devins, to face charges in relation to non payment of the Household Charge.
These charges have seen Peter attending Court many times over the last 2 years, arguing and counterclaiming that the Household Charge is unenforceable due to its unconstitutional nature. Mr Keegan has challenged the Council and their legal team to prove to the court that the Charge applied to him and to disprove his claims of unconstitutionality, and after two years attending court on multiple occasions the case is finally over.
This morning solicitor Ward McEllin, acting for Mayo County Council (plaintiff), withdrew all charges on his client’s behalf before the case could be heard. Peter Keegan walked out of Castlebar Court, a happy man, accompanied by his family and supporters McEllin Solicitors stated it was now a matter for Revenue to pursue. However, Revenue likewise would have to succeed where M.C.C. failed, in proving the Charge was constitutional. Mr Keegan is now protected by the Law, in that he has shown the household charge to be unenforceable, and this has been acknowledged by Judge Devins and the Court Clerk with the withdrawal of charges. Comment The imposition of Local Property Tax and its forerunner the Household Charge on a primary residence, noting that it was only introduced to fill the gap left when the Department of the Environment vastly reduced Local Government funding to pay off the bondholders and the subsequent bailout costs.
This test case is a potentially huge victory for the people against the government, so you would have thought the media would be all over this, but as yet, despite being informed, they have not covered the story. As M.C.C. failed to prove the constitutionality of this Household Charge, or prove that it applied to Mr Keegan, this opens the possibility that everyone who paid the charge, generally under duress, should be entitled to a refund of their €100 plus penalties if applied. Furthermore, those who were bullied, harassed, threatened or frightened into paying the charge may consider seeking redress for damages. We trust also that Mr Keegan will be applying for costs for his 2 years of work and worry. The group behind the victory may now consider looking at the Local Property Tax with a view to testing its constitutionality in the near future.
The victory is a victory for the ordinary people who pursued this when others abandoned ship when it was no longer beneficial to them. It highlights that some groups intentions, methods and agendas can be counter productive to the original worthy cause. So, congratulations to all involved for showing people that they are not helpless against the State, and that they can use the courts to enforce what is right if they use them correctly. Addendum Note This is a win for Peter but only a step for others.
It is not a legal precedent as such because there was no order by the judge as the case was withdrawn. Neither does it prove the Charge is unconstitutional because only the Supreme Court can make that judgment.
What it is is an indication that the State may be worried they do not have a strong enough case should it be appealed as far as the Supreme Court, and do not want to take the risk. Their hope being this will not be reported and will just vanish without the general public getting to hear about it. Well they know now so we’ll see who makes the next move.
CLS Catherine Dolan Aine Nic Ionnractaigh