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A Victory, Swelling Support & Begg's Sell Out - The Campaign Enters Week Four
bin tax / household tax / water tax |
Saturday September 27, 2003 01:19 by No Bin Tax
THE BIN Tax battle is heading into its fourth week in the Fingal area. Recent events have seen a huge rift erupt between the working class communities fighting the bin tax and the Council. Despite attempts to arrest and imprison yet more activists, the campaign has continued undaunted - much to the Council and Government's displeasure.
Mass meetings are being held in local areas to discuss tactics, and residents are gearing up for the widening of the campaign. Blockades have continued in Fingal and in other places in the city, such as today's blockades in Stoneybatter, Finglas and East Wall.
The past few days have seen the campaign being fought against the background of a Finna Fail party in crisis. With the drunken driving accident involving Dublin North TD G.V. Wright, the tax evasion of Limerick West TD Michael Collins and of the course the ongoning scandal of ex-Dublin West TD Liam Lawlor the tide is turning on the government. A poll today revealed that the government's support has dropped significantly. It appears that the irony of Lawlor, Collins and Wright walking the streets while Joe Higgins and Clare Daly are in jail has not been lost on the workers of Ireland. The double standards of the government, and the economic system they represent, have been clearly exposed for all to see.
In relation to the recent arrests of activists in Clonsilla and Huntstown, the charges have been dropped against all but one arrestees. Two of those arrested agrred to respect the injunction, the nine who appeared before the High Court the following day were cleared on a technicality. A fantastic victory for the campaign. Meanwhile, one prominent activist has been left in legal limbo, as he was arrested under the Public Order Act - a clear attempt to criminalise the campaign. The judge also refused to grant carte blanche for arrests in the Dublin City Council area (as was granted to Fingal Co Council). It it unclear at this stage what these rulings mean for the campaign to free Joe Higgins and Clare Daly.
Support has been widespread for the campaign, not only in Ireland but internationally. The past week has seen messages of support from Scottish Trade Unionists, the Scottish Socialist Party, one of the leaders of the Anti-Poll Tax movement in Britain and members of the Workers' Party (PT) in Brazil. There have also been small demonstrations at Irish Embassies in England, Sweden, Austria, Greece and Belgium. These demonstrations called for the immediate release of Clare and Joe, and the end to the double taxation of working class people. More protests are planned. For more on this click here
Begg's Knives Are Out
There has been growing support within the unions, despite a scandalous vocal attack by arch-partnershipite ICTU General Secretary David Begg. In a strongly worded condemnation of the campaign, Begg made the scaremongering remark that it "could lead to privatisation of the services and a loss of jobs". Begg's remarks have been dismissed by both the campaign and prominent trade unionist Mick O'Reilly of the ATGWU.
Campaign spokeswoman Cllr Ruth Coppinger criticised demanded that the trade union movement back up its "official position against the bin charges" with "appropriate action". She also urged trade unions to organise work stoppages to demand the release of Joe and Clare. From his prison cell, Joe Higgins criticised Begg's attempt to "stab the campaign in the back" and also said:
"Who is Mr. Begg representing? The big majority of the trade union membership affiliated to I.C.T.U. have through their National Conferences adopted a clear policy of opposition to double taxation in the form of local taxes. So Mr. Begg's attack is expressing his view and not that of the membership he is supposed to represent."
Meanwhile, Mick O'Reilly said: "[Contrary to what Mr Begg would have us believe] If these charges are introduced in Dublin, privatisation will surely follow and Mr. Begg is misleading workers to say otherwise. The failure of the ICTU leadership to call for support for demonstrations demanding the release of Cllr Clare Daly and Joe Higgins TD is a disgrace."
He also commented: "The picture painted of these people by David Begg, as marionettes who are being manipulated for political ends, is both patronising and insulting to the communities concerned."
TEEU shop stewards have demanded that Dublin Council of Trade Unions meet to discuss bin tax action. A number of Students' Unions have discussed the issue of the jailings of Joe and Clare, who is a former DCUSU President.
UCDSU passed a motion of support for bin tax protesters. The USI Officer Board, NUI and student unions in NUI Maynooth and IT Tallaght are aslo discussing the issue.
Today, a small delegation of TDs visited Joe and Clare in Mountjoy Prison. Those who went were John Gormley (Greens), Sean Crowe (SF), Tommy Broughan (Lab), Tony Gregory and Finian McGrath (Ind). Mr Crowe made it clear that "neither Joe or Clare would be in jail now if it were not for the cynical manipulation of the laws of this State and the obvious waste problems that exist by both the Minister for the Environment Martin Cullen and the County Managers of each local authority... There is no justification for the continued detention of Joe Higgins and Clare Daly and they should be immediately released." However, the Greens still refuse to support the campaign - sticking to their line that the bin tax is an 'environmental tax'.
Finally on Tuesday Ruth Coppinger, Secretary of the Fingal campaign appeared on RTE's Primetime program, and defended the campaign against attacks from Martin Cullen. The program can be seen here.