|SocialismToday Socialist Party magazine|
Ireland – back the bin-tax protesters
IRELAND’S RIGHT-WING political establishment has dramatically raised the stakes in the anti-bin tax struggle. Socialist Party TD, Joe Higgins, and Socialist Party councillor, Clare Daly, two leaders of the campaign, have been jailed for a month each. On 19 September, Joe and Clare were found in breach of a High Court injunction when they said they would continue to fight this double burden of taxation levied on those least able to pay. Court costs, which could be up to €30,000, were awarded against them.
This is a gamble by the government and council. The immediate response by working-class people was anger and disgust. Hundreds of people joined a series of protests outside the court and Mountjoy Prison. Five thousand marched through Dublin demanding their release. Pickets have been organised outside Ireland’s embassies in Belgium, Germany, Nigeria, Austria, Sweden, the US, Greece and Britain.
The situation had been brought to a head by the right-wing coalition government, made up of Fianna Fail and Progressive Democrats. They pushed through the so-called Protection of the Environment Act 2003 just before the summer break. This allows councils to refuse to collect bins from those not paying their bin tax. It overturned a previous court ruling that legally obligated councils to collect all waste.
Having got the legislation in place, the first council to attempt to implement it was Fingal County Council, in the north and west of Dublin. This area includes the constituencies of Joe, Clare, and Ruth Coppinger, another Socialist Party councillor and leader of the anti-bin tax campaign. It is an attack where the campaign is at its strongest, maybe in the belief that, if they are successful, the campaign nationally would collapse soon after.
The Socialist Party has been organising against the bin tax for three years. Over that time it has been helping set up community-based action groups. The campaign opposes the idea that working-class people should pay twice for public services. Workers contribute 80% of tax revenue in Ireland. And over the last few years they have been paying for health service cuts, stealth taxes and price rises.
Hundreds of residents have been blocking refuse trucks on working class estates. Spontaneous public meetings around this activity, typically involve 100-200 people. The campaign groups have provided food and drink for protesters and bin workers alike. On at least one occasion, the gardai (police) conducted a brutal raid to ‘liberate’ a truck after several days of ‘capture’.
The government and courts have shown their readiness to jail working-class activists. But criminals responsible for the theft of millions of euros through tax ‘evasion’ go free. The recent Ansbacher tax dodgers, where millions were stashed away in off-shore bank accounts, are a case in point. To fulfil their own selfish and greedy desires they stole money which could have been spent on hospitals, education, social security, health and safety at work… No ‘Ansbacher Man’ saw the inside of a courtroom, let alone a prison cell.
Government and council representatives argue that the tax is environmentally friendly, on the basis that the ‘polluter pays’. Some in the environmental movement have also been seduced by this argument. But a few years ago Ireland’s total waste was calculated at 80 million tonnes. Household waste accounted for 1.2 million. Corporation tax is the lowest in the EU.
The capitalist ruling class – including the establishment politicians, the courts and police – are clearly trying to offload Ireland’s economic problems on to the working class. They are expecting workers to foot the bill. If the anti-bin tax campaign is defeated, the government is planning to reintroduce water charges, implement wide scale privatisation and move towards local services taxes of up to €1,000. Unfortunately for them, they have come across a resolute and determined campaign to stop them. We must do all we can in Ireland and internationally to ensure it wins.
Send letters of protest to:
William Soffe, County Manager, Fingal County Council, County Hall, Main Street, Swords, Co Dublin. Tel: + 1 890 5000; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
An Taoiseach, Mr Bertie Ahern TD, Dept of the Taoiseach, Government Buildings, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2. Tel: + 1 619 4020; email: email@example.com
Mr Micheal McDowell TD, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, 72-76 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2. Tel: + 1 602 8202
Letters of support to:
Joe Higgins TD, Mountjoy Prison, North Circular Road, Dublin 7
Clare Daly, Mountjoy Prison, North Circular Road, Dublin 7
Fingal Anti-Bin Tax Campaign, 21 Elmwood Drive, Swords, Co Dublin
Send donations to:
Free Clare and Joe Campaign, Allied Irish Bank, Dame Street, Dublin 2
Sort code: 931209; Account number: 00208087; Swift code: AIB KIE2D