MP jailed for leading bin lorries protest

A member of the Irish Republic's parliament was jailed today for contempt of court after leading a protest against refuse collection charges in Dublin.

Joe Higgins, the sole representative in the Dail for the Socialist Party he founded before being elected six years ago, was imprisoned for a month by the Irish High Court after refusing to declare that he would halt action which has prevented a number of waste lorries making collections over the past week.

Mr Higgins and Socialist Party councillor Clare Daly were summoned to the court to explain why they should not be sent to prison.

Ms Daly was also given a month`s sentence.

Both were served with court orders earlier this week after heading a campaign against waste charges imposed by Dublin`s Fingal County Council.

Protesters have prevented council employees from carrying out bin collections by blocking streets after attempts to clamp down on householders who have refused to pay up.

The protests began more than a week ago and have continued despite two High Court injunctions preventing those involved from obstructing the council`s waste collection services.

Mr Higgins, from the Dublin West Dail constituency, said he did not take going to jail lightly but insisted that he would not allow his support for the protests to be curtailed by the threat of imprisonment.

Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O`Neill told Mr Higgins and Ms Daly there would be ``very serious consequences`` if they did not comply with the court order, as upholding the law was at issue.

Mr Higgins said he did not want to be disrespectful, but he could not abandon the communities he represented, and claimed Fingal County Council were ``holding a gun to my head``.

Around 60 supporters staged a noisy demonstration outside the court as the proceedings went on and warned of an escalation of the protests after hearing of the jail sentences.

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