The decision, announced in the Supreme Court, on foot of an action taken by Cll. Con O'Connell, is a dramatic reversal for Cork Corporation, demolishing a key part of their plan to _criminalise_ the HASC campaign through the use of the Litter Act. HASC has always refused to accept that its protests outside City Hall on Monday evenings (at which uncollected household rubbish was deposited on City Hall's steps) were illegal and an offence under the Litter Act. Despite our logical argument to the Cork City Manager, we were nevertheless pursued through the courts (some 14 court cases were taken against us; ten activists were convicted and seven served sentences of 3 days or more). Cork Corporation have now, as a result of this decision, been left up the Lee with out the proverbial paddle. It is a _major_ set back for them and significant victory for us.
The Supreme Court verdict came on foot a another important step in our campaign that saw Cork Corporation agree to the quashing of all remaining court cases and prison terms in return to HASC ceasing its Monday evening protests at City Hall. HASC agreed to this _on the grounds_ that Cork Corporation accepts that it will collect all household rubbish in the Cork City Area irrespective of the whether a Bin Tax has been paid or not. The Supreme Court victory effectively copper fastens this deal and marks a successful conclusion to this phase of our campaign against the Bin Tax.
HASC is now beginning the next stage of its campaign and is once again seeking the wide support of as many people as possible. With the Corporation set to further increase the Bin Tax we have decided to undertake a huge publicity campaign in the area of Cork asking people 'Not To Pay For Refuse Collection' Posters and leaflets are being prepared with the aim of maximising the numbers of people that are not paying this unjust and discriminatory tax.
Since February of this year Cork Corporation have jailed seven activists with the HASC campaign. All seven - Joe Moore, James McBarron, Michael Joyce, Sandra Condon, Joe Power, Mick Barry and Antoin O hAnnrachain - had been fined by the Cork District Court under the Litter Act. They were ordered to pay the fined within 28 days or face jail. All the activists, as part of the ongoing campaign against the 'Bin Charges' (see below for further details), have pledged not to pay the fines.
In mid-March, Cork Corporation refused to pass a motion calling on the City Manager to terminate the prosecution of the HASC activists. Instead, throughout March and April, Cork Corporation proceeded with a further round of prosecutions. Now a total of 13 people face jail for periods ranging between 3 and 5 days. All have pledged not to the pay 'the Litter fine' and are committed to defying this unjust law and tax.
The above court fines under the Litter Pollution Act (1997) arise out of HASC's policy of dumping uncollected domestic rubbish outside Cork City Hall every Monday night at 7.30 pm. However HASC denies that it is engaged in any act of 'littering'. Since mid-August 2000, the Corporation has instituted a policy of not collecting the rubbish of any household in the Cork city area that is refusing to pay its yearly 'Bin Charge' (currently set at £140 per year.) This Bin Tax is a unilateral and NEW tax imposed on workers and their families, despite the fact that PAYE workers in Ireland already shoulder the biggest part of the country's tax bill. Irish workers already pay for the upkeep of water, refuse and general public services. They already pay the major share for the upkeep of hospitals, schools and roads. Why should they accept a further round of tax levies? THEY HAVE PAID FOR THE SERVICE ONCE ALREADY!
In recent years, Ireland has been riven with tax scandals and corruption. Only this past fortnight, the Government has introduced another 'amnesty' for major tax evasion - the THIRD MAJOR AMNESTY FOR THE RICH. Clearly the Govt is intent on looking after its own cronies in big business. Its seems that if your are a MAJOR tax cheat, you can expect to get away with a small rap on the knuckles. However if you are a worker and you stand by your right to pay only a 'fair share' of the tax burden, you get slapped in jail, right away.
Last Summer, Cork Corporation went on the offensive in its campaign to make Cork workers foot the bill for the collection of domestic rubbish. They refused to 'collect' the rubbish of any house where the bill for the Bin Tax was outstanding. They issued 'collection stickers' for those households who were 'paid up' and instructed Corporation workers not to collect the rubbish from any house 'that was not displaying a paid up sticker.' This action by Cork Corporation has been described as 'illegal and hazardous' by HASC and IT IS for this reason the campaign has taken the unusual step of organising for 'uncollected rubbish' to be left at Cork City Hall (where the Corporation offices are) so that the Corporation can see for itself the consequences of its unreasonable and hazardous behaviour. On foot of these weekly 'dumping protests' by HASC (now ongoing for nearly 11 months), the Corporation has issue multiply fines under the Litter Act to those participating in the protests. The court cases on Feb 15th arose out of the non-payment of these fines and were initiated and carried forward at the instigation of Cork Corporation, a publicly elected body!
Do the people of Cork, who elected the current Corporation, support these threatened jailing? No way! Have the people of Cork even been asked their opinions on the matter? Not on your life! In fact many of the councillors now sitting on the Corporation have been elected on an 'anti-service charges' ticket. Yet these councillors and the City Manager are now content to drag two activists through the courts and into prison, as part of their draconian plan to make the people of Cork pay for their own rubbish collection service.
FACING IMPRISIONMENT/ COURT NEWS
Antoin O hAnnrachain is an activist with HASC. His jailing was condemned by a wide number of grouping on the ground of his age - he is over 70s.
Mick Barry is an activist with HASC. He is also a member of the Socialist Party in Cork and a member of the ATGWU.
In August - Joe Power is an activist with HASC. He is part of the Parklands local area group and a member of SIPTU.
In June - Cork Corporation jailed Sandra Condon for 3 days to Limerick jail - however Sandra was released after only one night in prison.
In February - Joe Moore, James McBarron and Michael Joyce were jailed. Joe Moore is also President of The Cork Council of Trade Unions and is a member of the Communications Workers Union.
So called 'Service charges' were introduced throughout Ireland (South) in the 80s as a proposed means of funding some local Government services - primarily water and refuse provision. We were told that we could no longer 'expect' of have such services provided for free! In fact, as HASC and others have long argued, workers have always being paying for these services of local government through their normal tax take (the PAYE tax); the imposition of a further local 'levy' - the Service Charge - was, in other words, a form of double taxation. Many politicians have built their careers on 'opposing' Service Charges, only to change 'their' minds after being elected. It was the mass campaign, known as the Federation of Dublin Anti Water Charge Campaigns, that dealt the original Service Charges a fatal blow back in 1997/98. The FDAWCC was a mass campaign build in local areas that advocated non-payment and direct action. It was hugely successful and saw the withdrawal of the tax on the basis that it was 'uncollectable'. Beginning last year, Service Charges 'returned' this time under the guise of 'Bin' or 'Refuse' charges. Local authorities claim to be acting in the interests of the 'environment' by collecting this new tax, whereas in fact it's just a way of making you pay again for something you've already paid through the nose for once in your normal tax. Already In areas where there is no campaign opposing their presence, Bin Charges have already sky rocketed.
Cork Corporation has a history of dragging local activists from HASC into the courts and to prison. In 1991, Cork Corporation took similar measures when it tried to impose the 'Service Charges' on Cork workers. A number of activists from HASC went to prison but the move was a public relations disaster for the Corpo and they quickly backed down! The Service Charges as an entity were abolished in 1997.
[A Personal report from a Workers Solidarity Movement member, these reports are posted to the Ainriail list when first written]