In March 2001 the first of a second round of bin charges hit homes all over the Dún Laoghaire - Rathdown area. Though the charges have not yet been beaten, the campaign here is in a very strong position.
Firstly the campaign is in a strong position with well over 1, 000 paid up members and a network proven capable of delivering over 30,000 leaflets in a shot. Non payment is about 50%; the council estimates allowed for £10 million to be raised through the charges - last year they got about £5 million. The politicians saw Dún Laoghaire - Rathdown as "the weakest link" in the anti-charges campaigns. They were wrong!
Secondly the council have extended their waiver scheme from 50% to a 100% waiver scheme. (Though this will only apply to those on social welfare or those unlucky enough to be on incredibly low pay). This major victory was won through the immense pressure placed on councillors through non-payment and protests. Elsewhere, Dublin South Council, remembering the anti-water charges campaign, unanimously rejected charges opting for the eminently sensible proposal of increasing commercial rates (e.g. hitting the real polluters).
For years councillors on the Corporation have steered clear of charges - the water charges were not bought in here. When bin charges were first proposed the council rejected them. Minister Noel Dempsey told them to vote for the charges or the council would be dissolved. This resulted in a spectacular U-Turn with 3 Labour councillors "losing the whip" and 2 Sinn Feiners mysteriously vanishing and charges finally went through (see Liars and Cheats in our last issue for more details)
The politicians in the city were very reluctant to bring in charges not through some re-surfacing of the dewy eyed idealism of youth (assuming it ever existed!) The real reason was a deep and craven fear that the voters of Dublin Corporation area will not wear these charges. They were right! Having failed in Dún Laoghaire they will be utterly humiliated in Dublin City. Meanwhile the government is taking the powers to levy charges away from councillors and giving them to City Managers. This is the first step to privatisation - they have no concern to solve the waste management crisis in Dublin - they simply want a nice little earner to turn over to their friends in the private waste management business. But it may not be so handy for them.
The emergence of a new campaign in the city is our final and greatest ground for optimism. Already campaigners are becoming active throughout the Corporation area and the Dublin and Dún Laoghaire campaigns are building links. A major Dublin demonstration is planned for the Summer, watch this space and get involved wherever you live.
Conor Mc Loughlin (Watson co-ordinator in the Campaign Against Service Charges in Dún Laoghaire)
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