31 May 2001 Edition

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Recycling campaigner wins case

Drogheda Corporation took the amazing step of prosecuting a resident of the town for leaving separated waste on the steps of his local authority for the recycling he maintained the local authority was legally and democratically bound to implement. Matthew Coogan, along with some 40 residents, brought some bags of plastic bottles and a roll of newspapers tied up with a bow, addressed to the Mayor, Frank Godfrey. They had brought them to the Chambers of the Corporation for recycling, and as an exhibit to highlight the absence of recycling facilities in the area.

They were charged with littering. Matthew Coogan, who is chairman of the local Bobby Sands Sinn Féin Cumann, was singled out and fined £50. He refused to pay on the grounds that the people, who were anti-bin charges activists, were not littering. The Corporation brought him to court last week. The Town Clerk, Brendan Hoey, presented the Corporation's case. Judge Flann Brennan ruled in favour of Coogan and dismissed the case.

Some 15 months ago, Drogheda Corporation attempted by sleight of hand to privatise waste collection and pass the contract over to Wheelie Bins Ltd of Dundalk. The Corporation introduced waste charges amounting to £3 per collection from bins provided by the Corporation, under a lease agreement with Wheelie Bins.

Residents were enraged. They backed the trade union members in their opposition to the privatisation of waste collection in the city; they opposed the imposition of waste charges and the Corporation's complete failure to introduce waste recycling facilities. Now they oppose the threatened incinerator that Minister Dempsey is attempting, through new legislation, to impose on them just across the Louth border, at Carranstown, County Meath, to which some 25,000 people have already objected.

``The Corporation is intent upon the withdrawal of the bin service,'' says Coogan. ``The private operator's charges are already spiralling out of control in Meath. The same thing will happen in Drogheda. These charges are ultimately to pay for a very expensive incinerator that none of us want. The Corporation's attempt to prosecute us is just part of Minister Noel Dempsey's intent to hand waste management over to town clerks and county managers in place of the democratically elected councillors and to criminalise and jail those who question the government's waste management policy.''

``Two weeks ago we saw three activists, including the President of the Trades Council in Cork City, jailed at the behest of the City Manager because of their opposition to waste charges. Cork City and County Council are intent on extending their landfill site and there is now an application for a toxic waste incinerator at Ringaskiddy,'' says Joe Moore, president of Cork Trades Council.

``All over the country people are opposed to these waste charges, and the policy of incinerating waste which could be recycled or composted. This madness has to be stopped, and the power of democracy upheld.''


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