Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Tap tax campaign targets Hain

Secretary of State Peter Hain will be targeted by water charge campaigners when he makes a high profile appearance on BBC Question Time tonight.

Secretary of State Peter Hain will be targeted by water charge campaigners when he makes a high profile appearance on BBC Question Time tonight.

A picket has been organised at the BBC's Blackstaff Studios on Great Victoria Street by groups opposed to the tap tax.

Last night campaigners vowed the Secretary of State will be harassed everywhere he goes in Northern Ireland if water charges are not scrapped.

The Government was castigated by a series of speakers over the introduction of a tap tax next April at the public meeting in Belfast City hall.

Campaigners said more than 70,000 people have already pledged not to pay the water charge, with a vast increase in signatures over the last few days.

The Government's 'public awareness campaign' was branded as "Labour spin designed to mislead the public," at the meeting, which was hosted by Belfast Lord Mayor Pat McCarthy.

Campaigners said they were confident the charges would be defeated if people refused to pay when the bills first arrive in April.

Kieran Mulholland of the We Won't Pay Campaign said: "It's clear from history that mass protest works. The battle is now joined and like the Poll Tax, this can be defeated if enough people refuse to pay.

"It would take the Government centuries to bring half a million people to court. With the poll tax millions of people refused to pay, but only a few ever had action taken against them.

"What has happened in England has nailed the lie that this extra money will be reinvested - water companies there are building hotels with their profits."

John Corey, general secretary of the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance, said of the planned civil disobedience campaign: "We have only taken this unprecedented step after getting legal advice that refusing to pay is not a criminal offence and water could not be turned off to people who don't pay.

"We own the Water Service and we are saying tonight it is not for sale, " he told the meeting.

Yesterday, a phone poll of listeners to the Stephen Nolan show on Radio Ulster found 93% would refuse to pay water charges, a figure campaigners said has been supported by their own research.

Leaflets promoting the picket castigate Mr Hain and the description by a leaked paper of poorer families as "rock bottom".

The flyer states: "This protest is to remind the ultra-tanned rich overlord that he won't get away with labelling working class communities as 'rock bottom' though he may consider himself an 'affluent achiever'."

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