A government minister has broken ranks and warned Enda Kenny that Ireland’s struggling middle-class cannot afford any more stealth taxes.
Junior Minister Michael Ring, who shares the Mayo constituency with coalition leader Kenny, made the warning as the government prepares to introduce water and property taxes.
Middle Ireland is now feeling the brunt of the Celtic Tiger collapse with a third of mortgage holders in fear their houses will be re-possessed.
Prime Minister Kenny and his deputy Eamon Gilmore, the Labor Party leader, confirmed after 100 days in office last week that there will be no increase in income taxes or any deduction in social welfare payments in December’s budget.
But the government is preparing a range of stealth taxes including the water and property charges – a mistake that will break middle income families according to Minister for State Ring.
Ring told the Sunday Independent: “I take pride in having my finger of the pulse of the nation and this may well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
“I will stand four square behind the government but I have to make this warning. This is an opportune moment to speak out for the people worst off, the middle-income people - middle Ireland.
“People are working now to pay the banks and the Government. They have no other life.
“The people I am talking about here, the worst off, are the middle-income people.
“They’re being squeezed for everything. Their wages have been reduced, they don’t have VHI, they never used the social welfare system and they don’t understand it.”
Junior Minister at the Department of Transport and Tourism, Ring told the paper that he has not attacking social welfare recipients but was anxious to defend the middle-income bracket.
He added: “What I’m hearing from middle Ireland is that nobody represents them. The people that I’m talking about, middle Ireland, know all about the tax exiles and the waivers for social welfare and they’re wondering is it worth their while working at all.
“The burden has to be spread out across the board - top, middle and bottom.
“The reality of the human stories being told to me on a day-by-day basis in my clinics indicates that people will have serious difficulties in paying these charges on the way.
“I understand we are in a serious economic situation and we are a Government that has to make difficult decisions.
“It is my responsibility to support and stand four-square behind these measures as part of collective responsibility and I will.
“But I am seeing people I never saw before coming into my clinics looking for help. There is no public sector/private sector divide. Self-employed, teachers, nurses, guards - they are being hit from every angle.”
Ring’s warning on the proposed water and property charges was clear.
The Mayo deputy stated: “Many ordinary people will simply not be able to pay the proposed extra water charges. They’re already being pushed to the pin of their collars.
“Now they are going to have to find the money to pay water charges and maybe third-level fees as well.
“There has to be fairness for those who pay. There comes a point where you can load all the taxes you want on to people - but for many they are now at a point where they can’t pay, as distinct to won’t pay.”