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Vaccinated woman (85) still trapped in home by motor tax bill

News

NO WAY OUT? Pamela Stewart pictured with her Suzuki Liana at her home, close to Lough Conn.

Thirteen months of cocooning, but no freedom yet for Mayo motorist

Michael Gallagher

An 85-year-old motorist living in an isolated area says Government bureaucracy is forcing her off the road.
Pamela Stewart has been cocooning for more than 13 months, and she now faces a large arrears charge before she can tax her car and begin to socialise once again.
Mrs Stewart lives on the side of a hill over Lough Conn, and her 16-year-old Suzuki Liana has remained in the shed since March 13, 2020. Covid restrictions prevented her from driving since then, and now she wonders if she will ever get back behind the wheel.
“My tax ran out last April, and I rang the police to tell them I was cocooning and couldn’t tax the car. They told me to contact the County Council and tell them my story. I rang them, but they were closed down because of Covid and on three occasions over the course of the year I rang them again but got no answer.
“Now, after I’ve received my two vaccine jabs, I want to get out again, but I’m faced with this huge bill,” Mrs Stewart told The Mayo News.

‘Terribly unfair’
The former aviation-industry worker has been told she must pay €514 in arrears and the same amount to tax her vehicle, but she says this is impossible and unjust.
“My car is worth €400, but it is an absolute lifeline to me. I’m a very sociable person, but I haven’t gone outside my gate in 13 months and the car never moved. I did everything the Government and the health people advised me to do, and now, when I have my vaccines, I was so looking forward to getting out and about again. I think it’s terribly unfair, and I’m devastated,” she said.
Her case has been taken up by local county councillor Michael Kilcoyne, and he’s equally angry about the situation.
“This is bureaucracy gone mad. There was a time when one could go into the garda station, explain why your car was off the road and the guards would use their common sense and sign a paper to waive the tax. That was all changed by the last government, and now people like Pamela face a huge arrears bill despite following Government pandemic guidelines.
“I contacted the County Council about this, and they told me their hands are absolutely tied by legislation. They have no discretion whatsoever, and now I’ve written to Minister Eamon Ryan in the Department of Transport looking to try and make some sense of it,” Cllr Kilcoyne stated.
Meanwhile, Mrs Stewart’s car is sitting idle in her drive as the 85-year-old dreams of traveling the roads of Mayo after 13 months in isolation.