'Tea Party socialists?' Why the left is leading a tax revolt in Ireland.
As the deadline passed midnight Sunday for payment of a new government fee, only 49 percent of households had signed up to pay amid frustration with the government's austerity agenda.
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Ms. Coppinger says opposition to the tax is an issue for socialists because it is being levied unfairly.Skip to next paragraph
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"It's not a tax on wealth, it's a tax on the family home. We'd call for an assets tax [but] there's no trawl being done on Monet paintings. It's a tax on low and middle income people. A family home is a place to live, not an investment," she says.
Ireland's small but vocal left accounts for just 26 out of 166 seats in parliament but has tapped into a wider sentiment in society, angered by previous tax increases, high unemployment, mass emigration, and public service cuts.
'Tea Party socialists'
Some have mocked the protesters as "Tea Party socialists."
Jim Jackman, a protester who attended a rally Saturday in Dublin, said the appellation is unfair.
"A broad range of people from all social sides of Irish life are very angry. Enough is enough. The government parties are not listening to the people on the ground," he says.
The timing couldn't be worse for the government. Ireland is facing a May referendum on the EU fiscal treaty and the property tax has been mandated by Europe and the IMF as part of the country's bailout terms. The most recent opinion poll says 49 percent will vote Yes to the EU fiscal treaty and 33 percent will vote No, but with 18 percent still undecided and growing anti-austerity sentiment the government could be dealt a humiliating defeat that would lock Ireland outside of the European Stability Mechanism, the EU's permanent bailout fund.
'No, no we won't pay'
Worse still, the deadline for payment was on the first day of a party conference by the ruling Fine Gael. Defiant protesters turned up outside the Dublin Convention Center venue, chanting "No, no we won't pay." Police estimated a turnout of 5,000, while protesters said 10,000.
Widespread non-payment is a direct affront to government authority, says Gerard Casey, philosophy professor at University College Dublin.
"The government desperately wants to save face with the EU, but this is the first sign that the public are not happy with what's going on," he says. "Irish people aren't revolutionary by nature, they don't go out on the streets like the French. By Irish standards this is like hundreds of thousands of farmers turning up in Paris."
* Additional reporting by Gerard Cunningham.
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