Bin Tax Supplement: Bin Tax Jailings: Unions must act

Bin tax protesters, their relatives and fellow campaigners were visibly shocked by the imprisonment of ten residents by the High Court on 9 October. This shock quickly turned to anger and determination to continue the blockades of bin trucks and opposition to this government and their hated bin tax.

Articles from a special edition of the Voice, paper of the Socialist Party, the cwi in Ireland. cwi online.

Bin Tax Jailings: Unions must act

A speaker at the protest outside Mountjoy read out the names of the ten bin tax protesters who were spending their first night in prison to huge cheers. Declan Mahon, Anna Doran, Kay Conlon, Noreen Bradley, Bernie Hughes, Noel Kelly, Lisa Carroll, all Finglas residents; Dermot Connolly member of the Socialist Party, John O’Neill and Colm Breathnach of the Irish Socialist Network, joined Socialist Party TD and Councillor, Joe Higgins and Clare Daly in Mountjoy. The heroic stand taken by the jailed bin tax protesters in the face of this intimidation is an inspiration to all and encapsulates the anger and hatred felt by many towards Bertie Ahern’s government. Two more anti-bin tax protesters face jail on 13 October at the hands of Dublin City Council.

The depth of anger against the bin tax is clearly seen by the scale of non-payment and the fact that people are prepared to go to jail. But this opposition is about more than just the bin tax. Its also about the health and education cuts, the increases in the cost of living, the threat to reintroduce the water charges and the recent revelations of corruption and tax fraud involving Fianna Fail politicians.The bin tax is seen as just the latest attack on working class people by this right wing government.

The introduction of non-collection has brought the hatred of this unpopular government to the fore. The battle against the bin tax is a turning point and a defining moment for the government. People are incensed. An anti-bin tax spokesperson summed up this feeling when commenting on the plan to sell off the Victorian and overcrowded Mountjoy prison, saying that it would make more sense and be more profitable if they instead moved all of the politicians into Mountjoy and sold off Leinster House!

The heroism of the jailed bin tax protesters must now be matched by the leaders of the trade unions. The Socialist Party is calling on the union leaders to organise a City-wide work stoppage to force the government to release the bin tax protesters and to immediately end their policy of non-collection. The Socialist Party, along with many others is continuing to organise community based direct action to blockade bin trucks and bin depots. Collect all bins or collect none is a demand which the anti-bin tax campaign’s tactics and actions must be built around.

Declan Mahon, now imprisoned in Mountjoy, summed up the determination of the residents who are to the forefront of this battle, when he said a few hours before his incarceration, “When I get out of prison, the first thing I’m going to do is stand in front of another bin truck.” Follow Declan’s example, join in the blockading of bin trucks in your community, shut down the bin collection service, defeat non-collection and the bin tax.

“All bins or no bins!”

They thought it couldn’t be done, but on Wednesday 10 September the bin collection service was brought to a standstill by residents throughout Fingal. Since then residents have been blockading bin trucks. This is in response to the decision by Fingal County Council to refuse to collect the bins of residents boycotting the hated bin tax.

By Michael Murphy

Under the slogan of “all bins or no bins” non-paying residents refused to let the bin trucks through their areas unless they collected all bins. Trucks were blockaded across Portmarnock and Malahide. This demonstrated the resolve of residents and the campaign to take on the government and the council and threw down the gauntlet for the next five weeks.

Over the following days massive disruption of the bin service continued throughout Dublin North despite council officials and some local politicians attacking the campaign and the residents involved.

There was also considerable harassment and heavy-handed tactics from guards in a number of areas. In some cases bin trucks in Balbriggan and Rush were escorted on their daily route by police vans which was a blatant attempt to intimidate residents to stop protesting.

In reality it had the opposite effect and the highlight of the campaign to date must be the residents who not only managed to stop trucks but keep them for sustained periods in their community.

Residents in Rivervalley, Swords “captured” a truck for seven days, in Melrose Park in Kinsealy a truck was held for eight days when a rally of over 250 residents from the estate voted to keep the truck and in Royal Oak in Santry a truck was held for an incredible 12 days! 24-hour rotas were organised by residents to ensure the Council and gardai didn’t seize the trucks.

The decision of the Council to initiate high court proceedings against residents and the campaign shows how fearful they were of a ground swell of opposition against the bin tax. They thought by imprisoning Clare Daly and Joe Higgins that the campaign would collapse.

Instead Clare Daly and Joe Higgins’s imprisonment shocked but also angered residents throughout North Dublin even residents who were not necessarily in support of the campaign were disgusted by the decision of the judge.

The campaign continues across North Dublin in the form of continued non-payment, protests and a campaign of political pressure.

The latter involves phone calls to Councillors and TDs who support the Bin Tax, picketting of public representatives surgeries and most importantly a demonstration outside the next Council meeting on Monday 13 October (Fingal County Council offices, Main Street, Swords 3 – 7 pm).

None of the councillors who support the Bin Tax and non-collection, campaigned on that basis in the last local elections. We say to these so-called representatives: “You are up for re-election in nine months – local communities will remember what you did and how you voted on this issue come election day.”

Fingal County Council needs to be shaken up and control of the council taken from Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

The Socialist Party will stand in most of the wards in Fingal to ensure that, instead of two representatives on the Council, we can increase our representation and form an opposition block to the right wing agenda of uncontrolled rezoning and more servic charges.

You don’t intimidate us

On day one, by 8.08 am all four of the trucks in Dublin 15 were grounded. The bin service in the whole of Fingal was stopped.

By Fiona O’Loughlin

In the Dublin 15 area some estates have not had a bin collection for four weeks as Fingal county council refuses to send in the bin trucks. Residents are now blockading trucks and disposing of the waste of non-payers into the trucks themselves, which is entirely legal.

This is really annoying the council as it is stopping the waste building up in working class areas and giving people an alternative to buying a tag out of desperation. As an inevitable result of Fingal’s policy of non-collection and bin charges rubbish has been placed on roundabouts or public areas which then has to be cleared by the Council.

Fingal County Council has gone all out to break this campaign. They got an injunction that is so broad that you could nearly be accused of breaking it by looking too closely at a Fingal bin truck or bin man. They have had Clare and Joe jailed. They have intimidated residents with the police, courts etc. In September they had nine people arrested and brought before the courts for breaking the injunction.

They believed people would be terrified and back off due to the fear of imprisonment. The nine residents stood firm, they all turned up in court with their bags packed ready and willing to join Clare and Joe in Mountjoy. Amid scenes of relief and jubilation in the court the judge dismissed the case and refused to award costs.

Good result for the campaign bad day for the council.

Give them their rubbish back

The Fingal Anti Bin Tax Campaign always makes the point that householders are waste receivers not waster producers. We believe that people should bring their packaging back to the place they bought it. The local supermarkets or shops are legally obliged to take back any packaging purchased on their premises.


Dublin South

Determined action gets results

Monday 29 Sept. saw the start of non collection in Dublin South County Council area with a few dozen bins left behind in Rathfarnham, in a sneak raid by the Council. They sent out men with red stickers to mark the bins of people who hadn’t paid.

By Mick Murphy,

The Council tried the same trick on Tuesday but they were caught in the act. A truck was stopped until the end of its shift. On Wednesday they were caught again in Palmerstown and thanks to a magnificent response locally the truck was held in the estate for 36 hours and all the bins were collected on the Friday.

In response, the campaign organised an emergency meeting in Tallaght to discuss what action to take with local activists from around the Council area. The meeting, although organised at short notice, was attended by 233 people.

The mood was very angry and determined action was taken. Rather than waiting in our estates for the Council to attack us with their salami-style non-collection tactic, picking us off area by area, it was decided to bring the struggle back to the Council and block the Council’s only bin truck depot, which provides the service for the entire Council area.

At 7 am on Wednesday morning 8 October, over 60 people succesfully stopped any bin trucks from leaving the depot for over two hours.

When the large number of Gardai present threatened to move us for obstructing the trucks the bin workers pulled back the trucks from the gate and refused to attempt to drive out while we were there.

Further meetings are now planned in Tallaght to organise similar actions that send a clear and firm warning to the Council: the campaign is growing and gaining more support by the day, and the more they provoke people, the more people will be willing to continue with determined action.


Dublin City

Stepping up the battle

AFTER THREE years of work in the communities a number of local anti-bin tax campaigns are able to mobilise strong local support for protests and blockades, as a result of having a network of activists in the areas. This is particularly vital as the City campaign moves into its most important stage.

Finglas has, through the jailings of nine local residents, become a focus of the anti-bin tax campaign in the City area. The Voice interviewed John McCamley, local activist and Socialist Party member, on the day of the jailings.

“People in Finglas are absolutely outraged, seeing their neighbours, family and friends sent to jail for participating in a peaceful local protest. There is a very strong mood to continue and step up the protests.”

“The campaign has through numerous meetings and door-to-door activities built up a considerable membership throughout Finglas. At the last few meetings, the mood for action was clearly growing. People were very annoyed with the bullying letters of the Council and with the threats of non-collection. Also, a small part of Finglas is in the Fingal County Council area, and in that part non-collection was being implemented.”

“When the Council tried to drag people before the courts over non-collection of the bin tax in October 2001, it was in Finglas that they started. The recent High Court injunction granted to the Council was again taken against people from Finglas, although we know similar solidarity blockades were organised around the city.”

“People decided to organise blockades in solidarity with people in Fingal and to send a warning to Dublin City Council that non-collection will be met with strong resistance. To date, seven blockades have been organised in different estates by local residents. At the blockade in Fairlawn Road, names were taken by the gardai. That’s how nine residents from the estate ended up in jail.”

“The mood for action is hardening now. More people have stepped forward to take part in further blockades. The Council has managed to get our backs up, and we’re not planning on backing down. We hope people around the city will take actions like ours and join us in this struggle.”


Depot blockaded on Davitt Road

A story of solidarity

AFTER THREE weeks of chasing bin trucks, organising local solidarity actions and attending marches in support of the jailed bin tax protesters, activists from the Liberties area organised a blockade of Dublin City’s bin truck depot on Davitt Road.

By Katia Hancke

Early in the morning on Wednesday 8 October, a group of anti bin tax protesters put a picket on the depot. Bin workers came and pledged their support for the protest. They agreed with us on two things. Firstly, this tax is only the thin end of the wedge and is a preparation for privatisation of the service. Secondly, the High Court injunction against the campaign is outrageous and sets a very dangerous precedent, effectively threatening the right to protest.

The gardai were called by Council management. Threatening to arrest the protesters (under the traffic act – for walking in a circle on the foot path?!), eight gardai moved in heavy handedly and made way for the bin trucks. Outraged by the behaviour of the gardai, the bin workers refused to move any trucks. As a result of their stance, nobody was arrested and the gardai were forced to leave with their tail between their legs. The blockade continued.

The solidarity between anti bin tax activists and bin workers showed how the council AND the law can be defeated – the more people are willing to participate, the stronger the blockade is. A powerful statement was sent out: this campaign will continue until the Council is forced to listen – we’ll be back and there will be even more of us! Stop non-collection, scrap the bin tax and invest in our public services!


Community Direct Action

How we can beat the bin tax

No working class struggle in recent decades has faced such repression as the anti bin tax movement. This is a very serious clash between the ruling class and working class communities in Dublin. The result – but also how the battle is fought – will have a big impact for years to come. Already the last month has had a profound impact on the attitudes of thousands of people. All forces and parties have been put to the test.

By Kevin McLoughlin

It is essential to have flexible tactics adapted for each stage of a battle. However, now that the anti bin tax battle is in full flow, it is crucial that non-collection and the jailing and intimidation of protesters is met by a determined and militant response.

To cut across non-collection, to disrupt the council and to build up political pressure has been the approach of Socialist Party members who are to the fore in all four campaigns in Dublin. The blockading of bin trucks with a view to getting all bins collected or to cause disruption to the council was implemented within minutes of Fingal County Council imposing non-collection. These tactics which have now been used in all areas have proved controversial for some.

Without these tactics the bin charges would not be the number one issue in Irish society nor would the Dublin Trades Council be calling a demonstration. Those who have opposed the widespread use of such blockades either on tactical or legal grounds have failed to provide any other means of protesting effectively. The choice was between a militant campaign that attempted from the word go to put the councils and the government under real pressure or a more passive campaign which for some was a tokenistic stepping stone to a challenge in next years local elections.

That the state has intervened with the jailing of twelve protestors shows their determination to smash this movement but it also shows that they fear the movement’s potential. It is essential that the movement now goes on the offensive. To step back now with the jailing of ten activists would have disastrous consequences. It is a tribute to the movement that the people on the ground are prepared, if necessary, to replace the ten with another hundred, just as the ten replaced Clare and Joe.

It is vital that workers force their unions decisively into this battle. Strike action of a significant sort within the next week must be fought for in all unions. All the parties and the leading politicians must be made feel the anger of the communities at every turn. Preparations must be made to fully reflect peoples’ opposition at the local elections next year. Most importantly, the campaigns in Dublin and in Cork where the council is re-introducing non-collection next week, must strike together and blockade the bin depots. Such action is in no way an attack on the bin workers but is designed to cause massive disruption with a view to ending non-collection. The state and the politicians must be confronted with the prospect that if they are to defeat this movement then they will have to jail hundreds. Such determined action would also send a deafening message to the trade union leaders – act now or be exposed forever!

Organise stoppage now!

On the eve of his imprisonment Declan Mahon, SIPTU shop steward and Finglas resident told a demonstration outside Mountjoy that the trade unions must organise opposition to the bin tax and the jailing of protestors. Declan’s imprisonment has been condemned by SIPTU, as was the jailing of Joe Higgins and Clare Daly and the other nine residents. But as Declan stated condemnation is not enough, action is needed.

By Stephen Boyd

This City must be brought to a halt by a work stoppage organised by the trade unions, which demands the immediate release of the bin tax protestors and the ending of non-collection.

A City-wide work stoppage could be the spark for a mass movement that would ultimately lead to the defeat of the bin tax.

There is widespread anger and outrage at the draconian imprisonment of bin tax protestors. This outrage can be utilised by the trade union movement, through a work stoppage to put immense political pressure on this rotten government and the Councils to end non-collection, and stop the jailings.

Mick O’Reilly, Senior Industrial Organiser, ATGWU, and Socialist Party Councillor Ruth Coppinger have called on the Dublin Council of Trade Unions to follow up their demonstration of the 10 October by organising a City wide work stoppage.

David Begg, General Secretary of ICTU, issued a treacherous statement that condemned blockading of bin trucks and accused Joe Higgins and Clare Daly of manipulating working class people and leading them up a blind alley. But Begg’s statement is completely out of step with the attitude of the majority of trade unionists. It is also out of step with the position of the majority of trade unions who oppose the bin tax.

Trade unionists opposed to the bin tax and the jailings should immediately organise to get emergency motions from their union branches, and letters sent to their general secretaries and executive committees calling for a work stoppage. Trade unionists in the ATGWU, TEEU and SIPTU are calling for an emergency meeting of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions with the aim of having a work stoppage called in Dublin. The battle against the bin tax is a major test for the leaders of the trade union movement; they have the power to stop the jailings, end non-collection and to force the government to scrap the bin tax.


Join the real opposition

Join the Socialist Party

“We call on everyone who wants to fight this corrupt capitalist government to join the real opposition and join the Socialist Party today”

Joe Higgins TD and Cllr. Clare Daly, imprisoned for campaigning against the bin tax, Sept. 03

The decision of a High Court judge to jail another 10 anti-bin tax campaigners represents the most serious attack on the right to protest seen in this state in a generation.

By Mick Barry

Five of the ten people jailed are mothers. Two of these women are grandmothers. In times like these not being “political” is a luxury you can’t afford.

The Government, the councils, the laws and the judges are all part of one political system which is stacked against working class people. If we are going to fight this system we need to be “political” – and the best political banner for working class people to fight under is the banner of the Socialist Party. It is no accident that the one political party which is clearly on the rise as a result of the bin tax struggle is the Socialist Party.

The interests of the Socialist Party and the interests of the working class are totally and utterly entwined. When the working class people rise up to fight back the Socialist Party is lifted up.

The role of the Socialist Party in the anti-bin tax campaign is clearly shown by the Fingal campaign, where the Socialist Party influence is strongest. Here, the militant tactics of truck blockades and defiance of court intimidation as shown by our reps Joe Higgins TD and Cllr Clare Daly, has provided an example for the entire movement.

The Socialist Party is not a one-issue party. We want the bin tax campaign to be just the start of a fightback on all the issues that affect working class people – cuts, rising prices, jobs, union rights, housing, etc.

Not only do we want an end to this right-wing Fianna Fail/PD Government , we want an end to the whole system which puts profit before people in the interests of big business and the rich.

We want to replace it with a socialist society where all the major wealth and industry is publicly owned and democratically controlled by the working class and used to end poverty, hospital waiting lists, housing lists and all the other crimes of capitalism.

If you agree with the gist of what we’re saying, you should seriously consider joining our Party. Can you afford not to be “political” in days like these?

Huge international support for Joe and Clare

Amongst activists, trade unionists and young people across the world, there has been universal condmnation of the jailings of Clare Daly and Joe Higgins. Letters of protest have flooded in from most countries in Europe, Brazil, Nigeria, North America and Sri Lanka. Dock workers on strike in Israel have protested to the Irish embassy there.

In the week after the jailings, protests were held outside Irish embassies in most of the capitals in Europe, Australia and in New York and Boston in the US.

The reason is clear: these jailings are seen as a fundamental attack on the democratic right to protest.

But the international protests also show something else. Across the world governments are implementing policies of privatisation, increased taxation and attacks on working class living standards. The example of Joe and Clare (and now ten more residents and anti-bin tax campaigners in Dublin City) who stood up to attacks on working class communities has inspired solidarity and support because people across the world identify with such a stand and hope to see similar developments in their own countries. The example of public representatives who are not corrupt careerists and keep their promises is also an example which motivates international support.

The Free Clare and Joe Campaign was set up by Fingal Anti Bin Tax Campaign to mobilise protests against the jailings and put pressure on the Fianna Fail government to stop the attacks on the right to protest.

In Ireland at least 14 TDs have supported the campaign for Clare and Joe’s release. Artists and entertainers like Dolores Keane and Frances Black have also added their names to the list.

Internationally hundreds of trade unionists have backed the campaign including over fifty in Scotland. 15 National Executive members of trade unions in Britain have supported the Free Clare and Joe Campaign. Two TDs in the Brazilian parliament, two French members of the European Parliament and three Portuguese Members of Parliament have also come out in support of the campaign.

The Fianna Fail government’s attacks on the right to peaceful protest have been publicised around the world. The international campaign of protest will continue until all those jailed are released, so Bertie beware!

Free Clare and Joe Campaign, AIB, Dame Street, Dublin 2. Sort Code: 93-12-09; Account number: 00208087. Please make sure you fill your name and address on the lodgement form

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