25 September 2003 Edition
Dublin bin tax protests grow
BY JOANNE CORCORAN
Dubliners are sending a strong message to the inhabitants of Leinster House this week - they're sick of being ripped off by the coalition government and they're prepared to go to jail to prove it. Protests against local authority bin charges have been gaining momentum throughout the city and last week, 13 people were arrested for preventing bin lorries from collecting waste in the north-west of the capital.
On Friday, two of those - elected representatives Joe Higgins TD and Cllr. Clare Daly of the Socialist Party - were sent to jail for their parts in the protest. Two more narrowly escaped jail on Tuesday by apologising to the court, with the remaining nine due to appear at time of writing, Wednesday.
On Saturday, multiple protests took place throughout the county, including a large one outside Fingal County Council's offices in Blanchardstown, which has been home to most of the protesting activity. Then on Monday, over 2,500 of the city's residents marched from Parnell Square to Mountjoy jail, where Higgins and Daly are currently serving their month-long sentence. Several trade union representatives, including Mick O'Reilly of the ATGWU, spoke on a platform outside the jail condemning the bin charges. O'Reilly called on trade unions to mobilise their members, saying it was not enough to condemn the jailing and that direct action was needed. He added that local authorities were being "intimidated and pressurised by management" not to lift the bins of residents who are refusing to pay the charge.
Other speakers contrasted the severe sentences with those handed down to former Fianna Fáil TD Liam Lawlor for willingly obstructing the Flood Tribunal, as it tries to get to the bottom of planning corruption in Ireland.
"Whatever steps are necessary..."
Also present at the march was a representative from the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union, (TEEU). The union was expecting to hold a special meeting on Wednesday night with ACRA, the national body for residents' associations, and NATO, the National Association of Tenants' Organisations. Eamonn Devoy, assistant general secretary of the TEEU, told An Phoblacht yesterday that he expected a resolution to be adopted at the meeting that would encompass three areas. Firstly, it would condemn the imposition of bin taxes as a double tax. Secondly, it would oppose the imprisonment of people involved in the campaign against the tax and thirdly, it would call on the Dublin Council of Trade Unions (DCTU) to hold a special meeting to discuss opposition to the charges.
Devoy said his union was prepared to take "whatever steps are found necessary" in protest against the charges.
However, while general president of SIPTU, Jack O'Connor, opposed the jailing of the two politicians, that union said it was not planning to call for industrial action.
Continuing in its unbroken record of opposition to the charges in Dublin City Council, Sinn Féin Councillor Christy Burke has put a motion calling for an emergency meeting to be held. He expects this meeting to be called in the next seven to ten days. Speaking to An Phoblacht, Christy said he would be using the meeting to ask the city manager, John Fitzgerald, why 13 people had had injunctions placed on them by the council and whether the manager was planning on continuing with this form of attack against the protestors.
"I will also be asking what plans are in place for the uncollected bins," said Christy. "I met with Matt Twomey, the council manager in charge of waste management, yesterday and asked him that question. His answer was that uncollected waste is the responsibility of the individual.
"That's all very well until it starts building up and becomes a disease risk. The council is refusing to seriously contemplate how much of a health hazard there will be for this city if these bins continue to build up. There are two weeks of uncollected rubbish in some areas already. In a city with supposedly five rats to every person, that can only mean bad news."
Christy added that he was completely opposed to the imprisonment of people engaged in civil disobedience in the city and that he had visited Joe Higgins in jail on Sunday morning to offer his support.
"We want to get the message out to people in Dublin that in the short-term we will continue to oppose these charges," he added. "In the long-term they should make sure that they think strategically and vote for the parties who consistently opposed the bin-charges in the local elections next June."
Working with the unions.
Dublin Sinn Féin has also revealed that it is engaged in ongoing meetings with representatives of the city's trade unions to discuss the crisis. Chairperson Daithí Doolan said that Dublin members of the party will continue to oppose the bin charges and will be working with the trade unions to have them abolished.
"The city council wants to collect all this money, which is a double tax and it doesn't even have proper recycling facilities in place. What is the money going to be used for?" asked Doolan.