The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Nothing But Contempt For The Court Of The Rich
There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. When there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws - Ayn Rand
Anthony McIntyre • September 28, 2003

The Bin Tax was introduced almost four years ago in Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council and thereafter in the other Dublin Councils. Since then campaigns against the tax have sprung up throughout the capital. According to an article in Socialist Voice in May this year the tax ‘is the battering ram of a strategy to reintroduce some form of local tax of up to €1,000 a year! It is also part of the commitment of this government to privatisation of essential services.’

In 2001, the two Socialist Party elected representatives Joe Higgins and Clare Daly, won a court case which compelled the councils to collect household rubbish whether or not the tax had been paid. It was a significant victory but this summer the government managed to get its way, shifting control over waste management from elected councillors to bureaucratic appointees – county managers. For their part councils now can refuse to collect bins from those homes where the tax has not been paid.

Now both Joe Higgins and Clare Daly are subject to the whim of those other managers – prison governors, both having obtained the status of political prisoners, courtesy of the wealthy. Their political offence has been to lead protests against the bin charge in Dublin from a fortnight ago in response to the council deciding to stop collecting bins from householders who had refused to cough up the money. Those refusing to part with their badly needed income may feel that enough of their taxes has went to pay for the most expensive waste carrier of them all - the government jet which ferries the country’s political rubbish from junket to banquet across the globe. As Gerry Murray, who was arrested after obstructing a Fingal County Council refuse collection lorry, stated, we have been kicked around for too long. In Dublin 15 there are no shops, no doctors, no post offices, and Fingal have the cheek to charge us for refuse.’

Joe Higgins made the point that it was not lost on people that the council was jailing him while none of the Ansbacher tax-cheats were even taken to court. 'It's an outrage that we're being sent to Mountjoy for standing up for the community when gangsters in the pockets of speculators will never come before the courts.' An Irish Times editorial, while not sympathetic, nevertheless felt sufficiently shamed to opine ‘many will question whether it is too severe, compared, for example, to the sentences imposed on Mr Liam Lawlor for not co-operating with the Flood/Mahon Tribunal.’ And as Pat Rabbitte, leader of the Labour Party, argued in response to a government hypocrite urging labour to condemn the protests, the jailing of Higgins and Daly stood in sharp contrast with the failure to jail industrialists for the illegal dumping that had taken place in Co Wicklow. ‘Corporates have been dumping indiscriminately and, as yet, nobody has been arraigned before the courts for the disgraceful dumping in a beautiful county like Wicklow.’ Nor did the prison sentences square with the failure to prosecute those ‘who have obstructed justice, lied to tribunals and evaded tax.’

Even for those who are not fans of Trotskyites, having over the decades witnessed enough Trotskyites against Trotskyism thriving on their endless sectarianism and wallowing in their semi-theological correctness, it is hard not to be impressed by Joe Higgins and Clare Daly. They are bringing back into vogue a phrase long since abandoned elsewhere - the voice of principled leadership.

And it is leadership that may have a better appreciation of the mood in Dublin than the political establishment. After a sizeable march to Mountjoy Jail last Friday evening Socialist Party councillor, Ruth Coppinger, said the attendance had given the lie to media claims that the anti-bin-charge campaign had little support. Sinn Fein Dublin chair, Daithi Doolan, said that the city manager John Fitzgerald is wholly out of touch with public opinion there:

He has already sent out over 40,000 letters and now he is sending out 40,000 more and they are all extremely confrontational. We have no idea if he has even considered the health and safety implications of his decision. He's talking about not collecting from streets that can afford to pay their taxes now, but how soon will it be before he starts going into other areas? And who decides who can afford to pay and who can't? We are looking at a potential massive build-up of rubbish in Dublin and a great deal of anger from its residents. The council policy seems to be one of divide and conquer.

In defence of refusing to pay the bin tax Socialist Voice maintained that the campaign is not the result of some local scam but:

is based on the principled opposition to unfair double taxation. PAYE workers still pay more than 80% of all tax in this country and the rich and big business don’t pay enough. Until there is a fair and progressive tax system, there will be organised opposition to any double taxation like bin charges or water charges.

In spite of this not all of those who would claim to defend communities against gangster capitalism have rallied behind the Socialist Party’s political prisoners or the protest. While Mick O'Reilly of the ATGWU attended the picket of Mountjoy Jail to express his outrage at the imprisonment of his fellow socialists, other trade unionists were eager to demonstrate to authority that they were, in the words of one anti-bin tax activist ‘management by another name.’ General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Mr David Begg, urged the jailed Socialist Party politicians to purge their contempt of the High Court. In this he was joined by Fine Gael who, singing from the same hymn sheet, rhymed, ‘Joe Higgins should immediately desist from encouraging others to protest in this fashion and purge his own contempt.’

This is the sort of logic that ultimately leads to trade union leaders becoming so absorbed by the system that they begin to see judges as comrades - workers with wigs. Contempt for a court that punishes the poor and rewards the rich is a honourable thing. If the bench wants our respect rather than disdain let it direct that the government increase commercial rates and get the taxes from those who do most of the polluting and have the wealth to pay for it.

Meanwhile, Joe Higgins and Clare Daly continue to provide inspiration from their prison cells. Higgins’ robust dismissal of the Roy Link-type David Begg, has illustrated that while handcuffs have sharp fangs they can’t shackle minds that refuse to give in.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

28 September 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Edward Said, 1935-2003
Liam O Ruairc


Civil Rights Anniversary
Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh


Nothing But Contempt for the Court of the Rich
Anthony McIntyre


Ireland and Post Colonial Theory
Liam O Ruairc


2 Statements on the death of Edward Said


The Letters Page has been updated.


26 September 2003


Over the Hills and Far Away
Anthony McIntyre


Glory O Glory O
Kathleen O Halloran


Beware the Trap Door
Eamon Sweeney


Massacre at the Monbar
Anthony McIntyre


The Night de Valera Replied to Churchill
Mick Hall


Junk Science? The Courts, the Media and the MMR Vaccine
John Harrington


Conscience or Complicity
Mary La Rosa




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