Mr. J. Higgins: The courts are not in a position to call alleged murderers to account but the High Court this morning could send six innocent residents from south Dublin to jail for three weeks and fine them very heavily. Their crime was to participate in a two hour, entirely peaceful protest against the decision of South Dublin County Council to leave uncollected the refuse bins of thousands of householders boycotting the bin tax. The Taoiseach might as well have worn the grey wig and banged the door of Mountjoy behind those decent taxpayers because he is responsible for those jailings. A few months ago his Government brought in this draconian change in legislation allowing county mangers to set out on a scandalous campaign of blackmailing compliant taxpayers and entire communities by withdrawing a crucial service for which they have paid over a century through their central and indirect taxation. The Taoiseach’s gutless backbenchers did not utter a peep when this legislation was going through the House. They do not even bother to come into this Dáil any more but it is the Taoiseach who is responsible for the system that has honest taxpayers banged up in jail within days of a peaceful protest while years after being found out, corrupt councillors from his own party, Ansbacher thieves, strut around with absolute impunity.
Transcript of exchange in the Dail between Joe Higgins and Bertie Ahern (the Taoiseach). cwi online.
Joe Higgins condemns latest bin tax jailing
Leaders’ Questions, Dáil Éireann, 4th November 2003.
If the Taoiseach wants to retrieve even a shred of credibility for the flawed and ailing political system over which he presides, it is in his hands to take some action to defuse the current situation. Will he call off the attack on the communities of working people by instructing his Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to suspend the bin non-collection order and allow the debate on the bin tax and his local taxation policies to proceed at pace but without thousands of decent men and women being forced to use their peaceful people power in opposition to his draconian policies?
The Taoiseach: I dealt with this issue previously. Nobody is in jail today for peaceful protesting. They are in breach of a court order. They defied the court.
Mr. J. Higgins: They are in jail for peaceful protest but not for murder.
The Taoiseach: That is the reason they are in jail. On the wider issue, I have said previously that direct user charges for household waste collection are widely applied throughout Europe. The polluter pays principle is a requirement of the Waste Management Act. The vast bulk of householders pay the charge for waste collection and disposal. It is the law of the land. It has been passed through the democratic process and it should be respected by all citizens equally. I have no comment to make about the courts but if people do not comply with the order of the courts, the law is handed out to everybody equally.
Mr. J. Higgins: As usual the Taoiseach completely ignored the stark double standards over which his Government presides. Is it not incredible that gardaí say they cannot muster sufficient resources and personnel to prevent the abandonment of a murder trial through naked and brutal intimidation? Working class communities wait hours, if not days, before gardaí respond to their calls but the county and city managers in Dublin can at any time muster endless numbers of gardaí to push and pull at peaceful protesters against their policy of bin non-collection. The gardaí can be freely used to brow-beat and frighten communities into giving up their opposition. Within the suburbs, incredibly, Garda stations are closing down to deal with entirely peaceful protests.
The Taoiseach’s Government has turned the standards of a civilised society on its head. The innocent and compliant taxpayers, the lifelong taxpayers who are now contributory pensioners, are being hounded, harassed and jailed because the Taoiseach wants to use the courts and the paraphernalia of the State to force new taxation policies upon them but the millionaire bankers who have organised massive fraud, and now knife-wielding gangsters, are out of reach.