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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Cieran Perry of Working Class Action Interviewed
Anthony McIntyre • 31.10.03

AM: 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 protests?

CP: 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 people’s minds the hypocrisy of the juridical system.

Since 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 hasn’t stopped ordinary working class people from protesting.

While 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 don’t 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.

Recently 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.

AM: 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?

CP: Mansergh’s 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.

AM: Working Class Action have been involved in the protests. Can you explain their role and what is their vision for the future?

CP: The WCA, as a loose alliance of community activists, republicans and socialists, has used it’s 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.

AM: 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?

CP: 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 Fein’s Christy Burke have actually gone to jail for their constituents.

AM: 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 area?

CP: 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.

Using 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!

AM: 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?

CP: Mark Daly’s 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 don’t 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.

While 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 suspicion.

AM: 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?

CP: 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 limited.

It 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.

AM: 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?

CP: Not in the least. I was involved in that hackling of Kane. My record on anti-racism/anti-fascism speaks for itself. I’ve being involved in Anti Fascist Action since it’s 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 years.

The content of Kane’s 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 Kane’s 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.

AM: What role has Pat Rabbitte and the Labour Party played in this?

CP: 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.

AM: Is there a sense of disappointment at the attitude of the Green Party?

CP: 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.

AM: 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?

CP: 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 hadn’t got a call from his ‘partners’ in Government insisting that he twist the knife in the back of the campaign.

AM: How do you view matters panning out?

CP: 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 doesn’t 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 hasn’t 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.

What 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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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.
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Index: Current Articles

31 October 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Cieran Perry of Working Class Action Interviewed
Anthony McIntyre


Republican Socialist Alternative Economic Strategy

Liam O Ruairc


The Ultimate Obscenity
Thomas Gore


The Chomskybot Code
Mary La Rosa


CAFTA Thumb Screws - The "Nuts and Bolts" of Free Trade Extortion
Toni Solo


27 October 2003


Pulling the Guns Over Their Eyes
Anthony McIntyre


Time for the Media to Take a Different Spin

Brendan O Neill


Die Hard. Die Harder!
Kathleen O Halloran


The Sound of Silence
Sean Smyth


The Raison d'Erte of 'Dissenting Republicans'
Liam O Comain


Figures of Dissent
Liam O Ruairc


The Occupation Runs Out of Gas
Stan Goff


The Letters Page has been updated.




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