The 3-year old campaign in the Southern Irish capital, Dublin, against double taxation for workers in the form of a bin tax has reached a decisive stage.
Blockades of bin trucks, mass community protests and meetings, and the threat to jail anti-bin tax campaigners, including Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins, have featured in the last week. The Irish media openly state that the Socialist Party wield a key influence in the campaign.
The Irish Government is a coalition government comprised of Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats. It is an unpopular right-wing government which lied to the electorate to win last years’ General Election and has introduced harsh neo-liberal policies such as health cuts, stealth taxes and price hikes.
Under this Government, more than 80% of all income tax is collected from the working class under the PAYE (Pay As You Earn) system. Service charges such as bin tax represent double taxation. PAYE workers do not object to paying for the service but certainly do object to paying twice.
The agenda of the capitalist establishment is to defeat resistance to the bin tax, make the tax collectible, reintroduce the hated water charges and bring local taxation up to the 1000 euro a year mark. Already in towns such as Sligo local charges cost up to 520 euro per year.
In cities such as Limerick, where the Anti Bin Tax Campaign was defeated, a profitable refuse service was hived off to profiteers with job cuts, etc.. This too is part of the establishment agenda.
The Government and the Councils try to portray the tax as an environmentally friendly measure based on the principle that “the polluter pays”.
However, the point is that the polluter manifestly does not pay in this State. A couple of years ago total national waste came to 80 million tonnes. Of this, a mere 1.2 million tonnes was accounted for by household waste. Most of the rest was accounted for by big business and agriculture. Yet ordinary householders were hit with service charges and big business was rewarded with the lowest corporate tax rates in Europe.
The Anti Bin Tax Campaigns have spent three years patiently building a strong non-payment campaign. Before the Dail (Irish Parliament) broke up for their long Summer break the Government rail-roaded the Protection of the Environment Act 2003 through, overturning a previous court ruling that Councils were legally obliged to collect all waste and paving the way for non collection of non payers waste.
The first Council to implement the non-collection policy was Fingal County Council in North and West Dublin. The Fingal area includes the area which elected Socialist Party TD (MP) Joe Higgins to the Dail and Fingal Council includes two Socialist Party Councilors, Clare Daly and Ruth Coppinger.
In the Fingal area the Bin Tax is paid through a 5 euro a week tagging system. From Wednesday 10th September Fingal ordered that untagged bins where to be left uncollected.
The Fingal Anti Bin Tax Campaign raised the slogan “Collect all bins or none” and decided to try and blockade trucks that refused to collect all bins. Blockades on Day One saw hundreds of residents blocking trucks, organising food and drink for protestors (and bin workers) and attending community meetings. In one estate a street meeting of more than two hundred people was held.
In order to intimidate the protestors, the Gardai (police) took names and addresses and threatened to use the far reaching Public Order Act.
Action was stepped up in Fingal when residents of the Royal Oak Estate in Santry decided to blockade a bin truck and hold it indefinately. We are now on Day Six of that blockade. The Santry example was followed in other areas and at one stage three trucks had been seized undoubtedly others would have been confiscated but for the fact that the Council abandoned bin collection in working class estates knowing full well the consequences should they have done so. Currently two trucks are being held after a brutal Garda raid resulted in a truck being taken back in the Corduff area.
As other Councils tentatively start or plan to start non-collection a wave of mass protest meetings have been held across the City, some attended by more than six hundred people.
The Council have replied to the blockades by obtaining a High Court injunction and serving it on fifteen campaigners, ten of them members of the Socialist Party (including Joe Higgins TD and Councillors Clare Daly and Ruth Coppinger). The fifteen are due in front of the High Court on Wednesday, September 17th. The injunction will not stop people participating in the protests so arrests and jailings are on the cards if not on September 17th then perhaps shortly afterwards.
This is at the same time that millionaire tax dodgers have been found to have cheated the tax man of a small fortune by hiding money in offshore Ansbacher bank accounts. Not a single Ansbacher Man has seen the inside of a prison cell.
Jailings would represent a serious escalation of the bin tax battle as will the spread of non-collection and protests to the other Council areas in the days ahead.
In the event of Jailings emails and protest letters should be sent to:
Fingal County Council at firstname.lastname@example.org and copies to email@example.com
Socialist Party, CWI in Ireland