KEVIN MACLOUGHLIN of the Socialist Party spoke to the socialist [the paper of the SP in Britain] on the escalating anti-bin tax struggle and the campaign to free Socialist Party representatives Joe Higgins TD (MP) and councillor Clare Daly, jailed for their part in the movement. this article was written BEFORE the latest jailing of 10 activists on Thursday 9th.
A decisive stage in the struggle"THE PROTESTS against the bin tax are now moving in a more decisive way in all the four local authority areas in Dublin. At present Fingal is where the battle is centred. This is because of a coordinated attempt by the government, we believe, - part of a waste management plan hatched in 1999. They thought that by attacking the Fingal campaign first and breaking resistance to the tax there it would enable the tax to be introduced throughout Dublin.
At the same time the authorities are trying to implement non-collection of untagged rubbish in the other areas but only in a very limited form, mainly in the more affluent areas where non-payment is very low. Obviously they are scared of implementing non-collection in working class communities. It's a policy of divide and rule.
Fingal council were hoping that the protest would fizzle out but that hasn't happened. Bin trucks are blockaded when they go out to collect rubbish. And now people are forcing their rubbish into the trucks.
The first county council meeting of Fingal will convene in a week. There will be a huge lobby for that meeting. Our tactics are to put the blame for uncollected rubbish squarely on the council and also to massively increase the pressure on the politicians at that meeting (see Motion calls on Fingal County Council to end its policy of non collection).
Using the courtsTHE OTHER approach of the councils is to overcome direct action protest by using the courts as a way of intimidating people. That's why in all the council areas they've got injunctions against any protests. And that's why Joe and Clare were jailed.
Either the campaign stands firm or they will intimidate people and succeed in imposing this unfair tax. So the example of Clare and Joe has inspired people to make a stand too.
The use of the courts and the injunctions against this type of campaign has not been seen for many years. It's a direct attack on the right to protest. But these measures haven't stopped the protests.
Significantly there are 25 residents from Finglas in the Dublin City council area who are due in court for committal proceedings - meaning that they will be fined or sent to prison or possibly have the cases against them dropped. But a number of them will not purge their contempt of court injunctions and will stand firm. This is an important trial of strength between the campaign and the authorities.
Also in South Dublin county council this week there will be a blockade of the bin trucks depot to halt the entire collection service, again in defiance of a High Court injunction. This action follows the near unanimous vote last Sunday evening at a campaign meeting of 250 people in South Dublin.
To resist the authorities' divide and rule tactic we're trying to organise co-ordinated action amongst all the four areas, even if in some of those areas the councils aren't organising generalised non-collection. If these blockades are widespread then it makes it far harder for the police and authorities to intervene.
Trade union supportIMPORTANTLY, FOR the first time, official action is being organised in the trade unions. A demo is planned for next Saturday (11 October) in Dublin city centre marching to Mountjoy prison where Joe and Clare are being held. This shows the growing pressure for action within the unions' ranks (see Fingal Anti Bin Tax Campaign press release)
If more people are committed to prison then we have to demand industrial action to counter this intimidation by the state.
The longer this campaign goes on then politicians will be reflecting on the prospects of next years' elections. Also the government are introducing cuts, possibly axing 5,000 civil service jobs in December's budget, and increasing charges for various services.
This is a defining struggle in Ireland coming as it does on the cusp of going into a period of recession and crisis. Our struggle has captured people's imagination of what is possible to bring about social change."
Fianna Fail double taxationTHE RULING Fianna Fail government is attempting to introduce the 'bin tax' through the four greater Dublin councils. The tax hits those on the lowest incomes the hardest and is a double form of taxation on top of high, centrally collected taxes.
Every household is expected to purchase a tag which is tied to their refuse sack for collection. Untagged rubbish is deemed non-collectable. Along with local residents the Socialist Party has been waging a campaign of direct action to defeat the tax, including blockading rubbish trucks on estates.
In the Fingal council area, where the campaign has been centred, Socialist Party TD (MP) Joe Higgins and councillor Clare Daly were imprisoned for defying a High Court injunction brought against them by the council. They are currently serving a one month sentence in Mountjoy prison.
Admiration for Joe and ClareA SAMPLE of the mood of working class people to the hated bin tax, particularly in Dublin West, is caught in a recent issue of the Irish Times (6/10/03). "The rubbish is an eyesore and a health hazard but I don't blame local people, they've got to get rid of their waste somehow. I blame the council and the government", says Mr O'Brien. "Even bins with tags weren't being collected so nobody around here buys tags anymore. The area is 100% anti-bin tax. The government are a joke, they're robbing the country of millions. I pay tax on my wages I shouldn't be taxed again. It's legalised robbery."
Mrs O'Toole who voted for Fianna Fail at the last election said she would never support the party again. "I admire Joe Higgins and Clare Daly. They've taken a principled stand. I'll vote for the Socialist Party at the next election."
Keep the support rolling inLETTERS OF protest to the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and messages of support and solidarity for Joe and Clare have flooded in from around the world. Many trade unions and union activists in the north and south of Ireland are supporting the campaign demanding the two's release, as are trade unions from as far as Brazil and Sri Lanka.
There has also been a tremendous number of messages from Scottish trade unionists and support from the Scottish Socialist Party. Other leftwing parties include the National Conscience Party Nigeria; councillors from the Netherlands Socialist Party; deputies of the Greek Left Progressive Party; Members of the European Parliament - Alain Krivine and Roseline Vachetta; left wing deputies of the Brazilian Workers' Party (PT) and of course public representatives of the various sections of the Committee for a Workers' International.
As well as protest letters, financial donations are urgently needed to pay for legal costs totalling tens of thousands of euros.