Sinn Féin TD says there should be an amnesty for TV licence-fee dodgers

Sinn Féin Td Says There Should Be An Amnesty For Tv Licence-Fee Dodgers
Thomas Gould denied that Sinn Féin was encouraging people not to pay their TV licence fee. Photo: PA
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Vivienne Clarke

A Sinn Féin TD has claimed an amnesty could be introduced for people who have not paid for the TV licence in the same way an amnesty was given for people who failed to pay water charges.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Thomas Gould pointed out that last year 13,000 people went through the courts for TV licence evasion. The lost revenue from those TV licence fees was “just over €2 million”, he said, which was the same amount RTÉ lost on Toy Show The Musical.


“So what we have is ordinary people being dragged through the courts, facing a thousand euro fine, short term imprisonment and a charge against on them. While at the same time, executives at RTÉ are squandering millions with no accountability.”

Mr Gould denied that Sinn Féin was encouraging people not to pay their TV licence. “I'm saying at this moment in time, the licence fee is a legal requirement. We're telling people to make sure to pay the licence fee, as long as it's a legal requirement.”

The amnesty for those who have not paid their TV licence was just one of a number of issues the party was proposing, he added.

“In 2017, the Government gave an amnesty for people who didn't pay the water charges. So look, this has been done before.”


Under a model proposed by Sinn Féin, RTÉ would be funded under a dual system with direct exchequer funding along with commercial funding through advertising.

“Our new model will ensure that public sector broadcasting going into the future will be on a much better, sustainable footing.

“What we are proposing in our Bill today is a triple lock, and that will ensure independence. And what we mean by that is we would have Coimisiún na Meán on that. They would outline and review the amount of funding that would be needed, that would be sustainable over a four-year period, so that it couldn't be interfered by ministers. And if a minister tried to interfere, they would have to come before the Dáil to explain why.”

Mr Gould said the Taoiseach was being hypocritical about the TV licence because he had been prepared to abolish water charges and there had been an amnesty. “So is he saying there’s one rule for the water charges and then the other one, if we abolish the TV licence.”


However, Independent Kerry TD Michael Healy Rae said Sinn Féin was “a little behind the curve” with their proposal for a change to the way in which RTÉ is funded.

Mr Healy Rae told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny show that last June he had questioned the validity of having inspectors pursue people who had not paid their TV licence because there was “an appetite” around the country for a change to the whole structure of how the national broadcaster was financed.

"Many believed there was a need for a national broadcaster, but there was a need to trim the fat.

“Because one thing that has come out during the Oireachtas committee meetings is that there is an awful lot of what I would call mismanagement. There's an awful lot of questions that need to be answered, and that we have proper responsibility and proper accounting.


“People don't mind paying a bit of cash if they feel they are getting value, and if they feel that there's not wastage. But at present, nobody can say that about RTÉ and they do need to pull up their socks.

“I'm dubious of Sinn Féin at the moment because these are the people who are shouting about housing and at the same time they're objecting to a lot more houses. If every house that they object to had been built, we actually wouldn't have any homeless people in Ireland.

“So when I hear them coming up now before the local elections and saying this, I'm a small bit sceptical. But I do agree that we have to have an overhaul of the licensing system. We have to give confidence back to people that they will be happy in paying.”

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