Anti-Bin Charges March in Cork

February 12th


About 300 people marched on Saturday afternoon in protest at the ongoing stand-off over the bin tax and the non-collection of domestic rubbish in Cork City. The noisy and lively march was harassed throughout by motorcycle cops who insisted on running normal traffic though the streets at the same time as the march was in progress. The march finished in Daunt Square where it was addressed by an Sandra Condon, an activist with Householders Against Service Charges (HASC) who was jailed in 2001 for opposing Cork City Councils' policies. A number of recently elected city-councillors also spoke.

Cork Bin Tax Poster

Despite the positive signs in the march, the campaign against the bin tax in Cork is at an impasse. Cork City Council has been implementing its policy of 'non-collection' of domestic waste since last year and the move has seriously weakened the core of non-payers who make up the opposition to the bin tax in the Cork area. Many people, faced with no other alternative and unable to find a way around non-collection, have accepted their fate and paid the tax under protest. Others have found means of disposal that including the widespread dumping of rubbish throughout the city at cross roads and available spaces. The situation in some areas is chronic with a clear danger to public health. However, Cork City Council have ignored this situation and instead have allowed a public health problem to develop. More recently it has collected publicly dumped rubbish and issued a series of litter fines.

Despite the anger and desperation, anarchists are of the view that HASC has failed to build the campaign and support for non-payment at a critical time. This is not for want of effort by the numerous activists in the campaign, but reflects the long-standing inability of the campaign to breakout of its core membership and build strong local and democratic groups through the Cork City area. Anarchists have argued that the only hope of winning against the determined Thatcherite policies of Cork City Council lay with a strong grassroots based campaign built around local area activism. But HASC has been unable to move significantly in this direction. Support has been there for the campaign in the past and peaked during the protracted dispute with City Hall in 2000 and 2001 when a large number of HASC activists were jailed, but despite this it has not translated into a city-wide and vibrant anti-bin tax movement. As a result the City Council is now in the driving seat.

At the rally at the end of Saturday's march, the Socialist Party councillor, Mick Barry, encouraged those who support the campaign to phone their local Fianna Fail councillors to complain about the state of the city and ongoing problem with the bin tax. This, in many ways, reflects the cul de sac that some in the campaign are moving HASC towards. HASC's strength always lay in the mass non-payment of the bin-tax that existed throughout Cork, but with this in decline a section of HASC, and in particular the Socialist Party, are looking towards building an electoral opposition around the issue with an eye to the next elections. For their part, anarchists are determined to maintain the focus on the possibilities for rebuilding mass non-payment. It is important to note that the City Manager, Gavin, will not be stopping with the bin tax. Already there is talk of water charges, and in a more general sense the City Council and its management structure is committed in the long terms to the neo-liberal policy of 'pay per use'. From the bin-tax campaign valuable lessons can be learned. The important next step is to look at these lessons and not get tied up in City Hall electioneering.

WSM Cork

This article was first posted to indymedia.ie where you can comment on it.


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