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Case against Westport man for failure to pay household charge adjourned

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Westport man challenges validity of household charge to the High Court


Edwin McGreal

A Westport man who is the first person to be prosecuted in the district court for failure to pay the controversial household charge is challenging the validity of the charge in the High Court.
Peter Anthony (Tony) Keegan (70) of Belclare, Westport, appeared before Westport District Court on Thursday last in relation to the matter, which first appeared in court on November 1 last.
Then, Ward McEllin, solicitor for Mayo County Council, told Judge Mary Devins that the cases against Mr Keegan, in respect of six properties at Crannog House, Westport Quay and against husband and wife Liam and Barbara O’Malley, in respect of fifteen properties in Westport, were the first prosecutions for non-declaration and non-payment of the household charge.
Mr McEllin informed Judge Conal Gibbons on Thursday last that the cases against Liam and Barbara O’Malley had been resolved but that Mr Keegan has a challenge against the charge before the High Court.
Tony Keegan, who was accompanied in court by family and supporters, has issued summonses against three government ministers - Phil Hogan, Alan Shatter and Michael Noonan - in his High Court challenge. Summonses have also been issued against Mayo County Council Secretary John Condon and Mayo County Council solicitor Ward McEllin, and others.
Mr Keegan issued proceedings on December 5 last and in an affidavit he says the defendants are in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights.
He claims the defendants wilfully neglected and disregarded his demand for information and answers about what he says is an unlawful and unconstitutional charge.
Mr Keegan says he has been given no recourse to a defence on the matter, which he claims is unlawful, unconstitutional and a human rights violation.
In Westport District Court on Thursday last, Ward McEllin described the challenge as ‘vexatious and frivolous’.
Judge Conal Gibbons said it was ‘the right of everyone’ to challenge matters like this and said the prosecution at district court level would have to be adjourned, pending the High Court challenge.
He adjourned it to March 7 for mention and asked Mr Keegan, who was representing himself, if that was okay and Mr Keegan said it was.
Similar prosecutions for non-payment of the household charge against John Joe Duffy of Cornaroya, Ballinrobe and Desmond Horan of Abbey Street, Ballina were also adjourned to March 7.
Mr McEllin said the charges against Liam and Barbara O’Malley could be struck out as ‘matters have been regularised’.