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29 November 2001 Edition

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Labour's bin charges betrayal

Dubliners again face the apalling double taxation of bin charges, and they have the Labour Party to thank for it. A u-turn by three Labour members secured the acceptance of the controversial charges at the council's meeting on Monday evening.

Angry protesters had gathered outside of Dublin's City Hall in protest and Dublin councillors entered the meeting set to defeat the waste charges, set at £95 for the year. But after the speeches, and just before the vote, Fianna Fáil looked for a 15-minute adjournment. "We understood that party discipline was to be maintained and the Labour Party was to impose a whip to keep its councillors in line against the charges," said Sinn Féin Councillor Nicky Kehoe.

However, when the vote was taken, the Estimates passed by 24 to 21, with three Labour councillors, who have made much play of opposing the waste charges, abstaining; Eamonn O'Brien, Anthony McCreevey and Sean Kenny. The ex-mayor of Dublin, Labour's Mary Freehill, did come to vote at all. So the hated bin charges are back in the capital. "We needed those four votes to defeat bin charges," said Kehoe.

Party colleague Dessie Ellis said he was "disgusted that the party that claims to represent the working class people of Dublin should have so betrayed them when it came to the crucial vote on this additional tax on the people. Could it be that the promise of the mayoralty next year gave them a particular incentive to make sure the estimates passed, tax and all?"

Cllr Ellis added: "People in Dublin realise that the water charges in the 1980s were defeated by people power. I would encourage residents not to be frightened by Dublin Corporation threats and remember that those who held out against the equally unfair water charges did not have to pay, while those who paid early lost their money."

Meanwhile, in Mayo, the battle has turned into a major issue over privatisation of waste collection. Mayo County Council voted through their waste charges, but the councillors demurred at the charge of £250, saying it was too high, and it was reduced to £220 per bin for the year. Mayo is the only county in the Connaught region where the council itself still collects the waste in all of the major towns.

Two private companies, who collect rural waste outside of the town, claimed they couldn't compete with the lower charge, but the councillors decided that the bin charges could be put at the lower figure. If the charges remain at the level the councillors have determined, and the council implements its undertaking to have recycling facilities in place, by 2003, for separated waste at source, then clearly Mayo county is strongly set to meet the EU requirements to recycle 35% waste, without any need whatsoever for an incinerator.

Meanwhile the private collectors in Mayo, unhappy with what they claim to be an uncompetitive price for bin collection, are threatening to withdraw services in protest.
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