With a large number of people hauled off to jail
this week amidst scenes of courtroom anger can you
tell us the state of play regarding the anti-bin tax
I think the jailings have added to the anger that
is already present in the local communities. People
were shocked and angry when Joe Higgins and Clare
Daly received a month in jail but the effect of jailing
10 ordinary people has really got people's back up.
Obviously, the backdrop to all of this, of Liam Lawlor
swanning around continuing to give the courts the
two fingers and remain free, crystalises in peoples
minds the hypocrisy of the juridical system.
the jailing of the 10 people from Finglas another
3 residents from Ballyfermot have been jailed. Over
30 people have had their names taken for being in
breach of the High Court injunction and will most
likely have their day in court as well. Two women
from South Dublin have been arrested for obstruction
and are due in court this week. As the above shows,
while the jailings have frightened people, the fear
hasnt stopped ordinary working class people
the media in all its forms has been almost exclusively
against the anti-bin tax campaign, what the people
who get their information from the same media dont
realise is the support within the communities for
this campaign. In working class areas such as Crumlin,
Ballyfermot, Cabra, Finglas etc. public meetings and
demonstrations have attracted over 600 people.
the campaign blocked the collection of waste from
over 100,000 householders over two days. This display
of strength really put it up to the Government and
Council and resulted in them dropping the threat of
non-collection on the northside of Dublin.
Martin Mansergh has argued that 'at one level only
does the anti-bin charge campaign make sense, as an
instrument of political mobilisation in advance of
local elections, particularly where the authorities
can be provoked into over-reaction.' How would you
respond to this type of criticism?
Manserghs criticism is typical of the line of
attack coming from the political establishment. Incidentally,
this establishment includes Fine Gael, the Labour
Party and even the leadership of the Trade Unions.
What the critics fail to explain is how the microscopic
Left could mobilize and influence the huge numbers
involved in the anti-bin tax campaign. This very same
Left has the grand total of one TD, Joe Higgins, and
one councillor, Clare Daly. To be fair, the Left have
done themselves no favours in this aspect. In the
rush to gain credit for the success of the anti-bin
tax campaign the Left has pushed themselves at the
expense of the community support for the campaign.
If you are unlucky enough to be a regular reader of
this issue on the Indymedia website you would think
that the microscopic Left were the only element involved
in the campaign. The fact that the campaign is made
up of 99% of ordinary working class people is ignored
in the squabble between the irrelevant Leftists.
Working Class Action have been involved in the
protests. Can you explain their role and what is their
vision for the future?
The WCA, as a loose alliance of community activists,
republicans and socialists, has used its influence
in the areas where we are active to organise and promote
the anti-bin tax campaign. Because we have a history
of activism within our areas we can give the campaign
a credibility it might not have due to the visibility
of the professional Left!! Unlike most
of the Left, we do not believe the working class needs
to be led. In general, in campaigns such as this the
Left is left running far behind the working class.
There have been a few good examples of this during
this campaign. Our role is confined to working with
our communities in whatever battle the community chooses.
In this case the community has chosen the double taxation
of the bin tax as the battlefield.
With Jackie Healey Rea now threatening to go to
jail before he will enforce a smoking ban in his pub
is there not a view that the state is perhaps growing
dysfunctional and is being increasingly defied by
a number of its elected representatives - this must
have a knock on effect in terms of politicial legitimacy?
Jackie Healey Rea and those around him are bullshitters.
The chance of any of them going to jail over a principle
is as unlikely as the juditual system being independent
of the political establishment. In the recent past
only principled politicians such as Independent TD
Tony Gregory and Sinn Feins Christy Burke have
actually gone to jail for their constituents.
There seems to be some confusion as to the extent
of the support for the campaign. Your group claims
that in working class communities throughout the city
up to 70% of people have peacefully refused to submit
to this double taxation, simply by not paying. But
despite the protest having spread to the South Dublin
County Council area, in the public mind there is an
image that the protests are centred on the Fingal
The reason Fingal is the centre of attention is because
the local Council began the process of non-collection
in the Fingal area first and this resulted in the
first blockades of bin trucks etc
This made it
newsworthy. The implementation of non-collection in
the Dublin area has been focused on two areas considered
soft targets by the Council. Even in one
of those areas, Ringsend, the Council has had to back
down due to the strength of local opposition. So in
fact, in Dublin, there is only non-collection on a
tiny scale and even at that, the local campaigns across
the city have begun to blockade the bin trucks in
their areas in protest at the non-collection in even
a small area of Dublin. On one day there were 10 trucks
blockaded across Dublin for a period of time. As I
have said above, the campaign has upped the ante signifintly
last week by blockading all seven depots in Dublin
for two days, resulting in disruption of waste collection
to over 100,000 households. This show of strength
has resulted in the leadership of the unions, the
Labour Party and even the Irish Times, calling for
a suspension of the protests to allow the Council
and the unions come to some compromise.
the Councils own figures, the last available, we can
see that over 50% of people across the city have refused
to pay this double tax. In some working class areas
over 80% of people had not paid at the last count.
The Council themselves admit that 39,000 people have
not paid a cent. This is a quarter of those eligible
to pay. This figure does not include those who paid
the first year but refused to pay since. Again, the
Councils own figures show that less people are paying
in the 3rd year than paid in the 1st year. And, these
figures do not include waivers!
Sinn Fein councillor Mark Daly has called for the
Bin Tax to be paid? Yet Sinn Fein is involved in supporting
the protestors and some of the most criticial commentary
has come from Paul O'Connor of Sinn Fein in the RM
news distribution service. Although in Dublin South
West it seems that Sinn Fein are very inactive on
the matter and even the Workers Party have taken up
a more radical position. In Sligo, prominent Sinn
Fein councillor, Don McManus voted for bin charges
as part of a pact, according to the Socialist Workers
Party, with Fianna Fail to attain the position of
Mayor. It has also been claimed that their refusal
to build a democratic campaign with activists in all
the estates in Drogheda was a crucial factor in the
defeat of the anti-refuse charges movement in the
town. What exactly is the party's role in the matter?
Mark Dalys comments about the Bin Tax are a
perfect example of how SF are all over the place on
this issue. The Sinn Fein position on the Bin Tax
is indicative of their politics. In areas like Finglas
and Ringsend, Sinn Fein have played a significant
part in the local campaign but in other areas they
have either being non-existent or worse still, been
divisive. Their problem is that they lack radicalism,
they dont believe that the campaign can be won
and they are being dragged along by popular sentiment
in working class areas. They are unique in working
class areas in that they are considered by local people
to be representive of those communities and yet they
refuse to provide leadership on issues such as the
Bin Tax. The problem is that the central control type
of politics adopted by the leadership of Sinn Fein
results in attitudes to particular issues being decided
on how they are viewed by the media rather than the
strength of feeling in the communities.
the suggestion of a pact in Sligo to gain Sinn Fein
the position of Mayor is accepted by most people,
accusations of a similar deal done on Dublin City
Council have been denied. Two Sinn Fein councilors
were absent when a crucial vote was taken on Dublin
City Council to accept the Bin Tax. A number of those
who voted against the tax accused Sinn Fein of being
part of a deal to ensure the acceptance of the Bin
Charges. While there is no proof that this took place
the fact that the Socialist Party predicted in print
that this would happen before the vote creates a certain
The Socialist Party seem to be bearing the brunt
of the campaign going to jail for the protest and
their party is certainly very active. There is a feeling
that without Joe Higgins in the Dail the Left there
look like a bit like Hamlet without the prince. One
former Fianna Fail voter said she would never support
the party again and because of her admiration for
the principled stand of Joe Higgins and Clare Daly
she will vote for the Socialist Party at the next
election. Is this an isolated incident or representative
of a changing trend?
Again, the news coverage you refer to is that from
Fingal. In Fingal the Socialist Party are the backbone
of the campaign and they have both suffered for and
gained from that position. While the jailing of Joe
Higgins and Clare Daly has resulted in personal sacrifice
the publicity gained will no doubt result in increased
support for their party. My personal opinion of the
effect of Joe Higgins' tenure in the Dail is that
he has managed to coalesce a group of diverse individuals
into something approaching a left opposition. Obviously,
the effect a single Leftist can have in the Dail is
has been very noticeable during the campaign that
lifelong Fianna Fail voters are willing to break with
tradition and vote against Fianna Fail because of
this issue. In my local area a Fianna Fail fundraiser
is one of the leading members of the local campaign.
Around the time that anti-bin tax protets were
being held at the Dail there were also protests staged
there against the immigration policy of the Dublin
government. Does the hackling of Rosie Kane, a member
of the Scottish Parliament by anti-bin tax supporters
when she raised the case of an African asylum-seeker
who was trying to return to Dublin from Scotland not
give you cause for concern?
Not in the least. I was involved in that hackling
of Kane. My record on anti-racism/anti-fascism speaks
for itself. Ive being involved in Anti Fascist
Action since its foundation 10 years ago. I
have always been upfront in my opinions on racism
even though it has not been popular in the last few
content of Kanes speech was typical of the left.
The huge turnout on the march was due to the anger
in working class communities against both the jailing
of Higgins and Daly, and the constant attacks on the
living conditions of working class people as typified
by the Bin Tax. Yet Kanes speech concentrated
on issues that were of concern to her and her like,
not the ordinary working class people who populated
the demonstration. The problem with the demonstration
that night was that it was effectively hijacked by
the Socialist Party, resulting in a load of irrelevant
leftist speakers rather than those that represented
the majority of people on the march, working class
community activists. Simply, people were there to
hear about the battle against the Bin Tax not to hear
about the chosen subjects of the leftists.
What role has Pat Rabbitte and the Labour Party
played in this?
Rabbitte and the Labour Party have been disgraceful
on this issue. On every occasion Labour have ensured
that the Bin Tax would be implemented. On the first
occasion three Labour councilors voted for the charges
and on the last occasion the Labour Lord Mayor, Dermot
Lacy, cast the deciding vote for the 30% increase
in the tax. While Rabbitte was no where to be seen
in the aftermath of the Lacy vote he has forced the
expulsion of Tommy Broughan from the National Executive
of the Labour Party for daring to criticise the charges.
Rabbitte has pulled the Labour Party even further
to the Right since his election as leader. From his
support of Public/Private Partnerships to his lack
of support for working class communities in their
fight against the drug pushers and the battle against
the Bin Tax. I believe the Labour Party will pay a
heavy price in working class areas in the local elections.
I see Sinn Fein and the Independents eating into their
support in those areas. I think Rabbitte has already
seen this and is gearing the Labour Party towards
the liberal middle classes, something Tony Blair has
already done in Britain.
Is there a sense of disappointment at the attitude
of the Green Party?
In one sense we expected no more from the Greens.
They do, after all, represent a middle class constituency
who have wooly notions of saving the environment
and have the money to pay for it. What is disappointing
is the fact that the charges are no more environmentally
friendly than any other scheme that the Government
has dreamed up to tax people even more. None of the
environmental arguments stand up to scrutiny yet the
Greens still vote for the tax.
How would you describe the role of the leadership
of the ICTU in this? David Beggs has hardly endeared
himself to the protestors by his attacks on Joe Higgins?
The role of the Unions has been even worse than that
of the Labour Party. SIPTU, the biggest union in the
country, has an official policy against the Bin Tax,
yet will not support those bin workers who are willing
to put this policy into effect. I have stood on blockades
on the depots and spoke to shop stewards who were
looking for instruction from the union only to find
that absolutely no support was forthcoming. Without
the support of the bin workers, there would be no
way that the campaign could have brought waste collection
in Dublin to a stand still. The bin workers understand
that the hidden agenda of the Bin Tax advocates is
the push for privatization and the negative impact
this will have on their terms and conditions of employment.
While rank and file trade unionists are totally opposed
to this tax, the leadership of the unions are so entwined
with the Government since the Social Partnerships
began that they are willing to back the Government
position and actually put pressure on the bin workers
to break the pickets on the depots. The support of
the bin workers for the campaign is such that if the
unions were supportive, the bin tax would be history.
At a crucial stage in the battle against this tax,
the jailing of Higgins and Daly, David Beggs came
out with a statement attacking the campaign. Only
the most naive would believe that he hadnt got
a call from his partners in Government
insisting that he twist the knife in the back of the
How do you view matters panning out?
Regardless of the outcome, the major forces of the
state have been exposed. The police, who constantly
complain that they are under-resourced, can produce
a large amount of Gardai to manhandle peaceful protestors.
They cannot provide enough Gardai to tackle the real
criminals in our areas like drug pushers or house
breakers. The Courts cannot process ordinary victims'
court cases quickly enough but when it comes to a
date in the High Court for a Bin Tax protesting grandfather
or grandmother, they appear to have no problem fitting
us in. The prison service informs us that they do
not have enough prison places to lock up drug pushers
or the local anti-social elements who terrorise their
communities, yet can incarcerate 15 ordinary working
class people almost instantly. The politicians, already
regarded with distain by most people, are seen to
simply change the law when a court case goes against
them, as they did with the Protection of the
Environment Bill. Ordinary people are allowed
to protest once it doesnt become effective.
Like the anti-drug protests, once the bin tax protests
became effective the full force of the state was unleashed
against us. It is very difficult to tell what will
be the outcome. To see the viciousness of the state
response to what is essentially a peaceful protest
is frightening. Police violence, High Court injunctions,
jailings etc. could have the desired effect of frightening
people away from the campaign. So far this hasnt
happened. People are still willing to block trucks,
block depots and go to jail. The state has upped the
ante again by using the Public Order Act against protesters,
which will lead to criminal charges as opposed to
the civil case of defying the injunctions. The Council
has hired debt collectors to harass people and they
are also pursuing non-payment through the courts.
we can be certain of, is that the majority of people
in working class areas are fed up being the ones constantly
hit with extra charges and an ever increasing cost
of living. They see the Bin Tax as only the start,
with water charges, extra local taxes etc. to follow.
This is the reason that people are willing to go to
extraordinary lengths to beat this double tax.
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