Householders Against Service Charges meeting in Mayfield, Cork

Monday 20th October


About fifty people gathered in Mayfield GAA club in the first of a series of meetings re launching the campaign against the refuse charges in Cork city. The meeting was addressed by Paddy Mulcahy and Ted Tynan both jailed in 1991 for non-payment of the water charges. There was clear determination in the voices of people from the floor of the hall. The mood was defiant. Leaflets were distributed advising people on how to survive non-collection.

Just three years ago 7 people were jailed in Cork city as part of the campaign against the first attempt at non -collection. HASC members then brought their refuse to the City Hall when it was left uncollection. Fines led to imprisonment. The campaign succeeded with the corporation backing down. A few weeks later the High Court ruled that the council had to collect under the Health Acts, these were subsequently amended by the government to allow for non- collection. The first to suffer from this were in Dublin, but the plan was afoot for the rest of the country. Threatening letters have gone out in Cork city to all households. November 17th is the designated day for the beginning of non-collection in Cork and forces are being gathered for the showdown. The key issue now is to organise as many areas as possible, get people aware of the alternatives to Corporation collection and organise tactics to put the council on the defensive.

History of campaign in Cork

After the defeat of the water charges in Cork and throughout the country, the campaign against service charges in Cork became dormant. It was revived with the introduction of refuse charges. Because of the success of the anti-water charges campaign when imprisonment of members of the Householders Against Service Charges for non-payment had led to a public outcry and defeat for the council, the council decided not to go down this road again. They instead slowly whittled away at the non-payers with low-level intimidation (threatening to withhold grants, blocking house sales and other petty annoyances). The council wrote letters to people threatening court action. The campaign had unwisely contested a general election which left the members tired and the campaign in debt. The activism level in the campaign was low with no real local structures. All the fundraising efforts had been expended on the election and there was little activity. Consequently people were picked off.

Eventually the council felt they had defeated the campaign. They believed that resistance was dead. However they were concerned that a large enough number of non-payers remained. This core had not been scared by the threats and the numbers were remaining relatively static. The council settled on another tactic non-collection, simple in essence they would not collect form non-payers. By this stage most of the city had got wheely bins with numbers. The council began issuing stickers for the bins. No sticker no collection. The campaign was immediately kicked back into action.

The first tactic was to follow the lorries and throw in the rubbish uncollected. The workers were largely friendly but their unions had capitulated and they were defenceless. Collections were abandoned as safety officers declared collections unsafe with HASC activists throwing rubbish in. However the active campaign base was small and the tactic became unsustainable. The Gardai took the names and addresses of members involved and work pressures meant that the work was unsustainable. The non-collection had been implemented in a few areas first; the idea was to expand it as more people gave in. The campaign changed tactics and householders began taking their rubbish directly to city hall and dumping it on the steps. The corporation responded by prosecuting people under the Litter Act. Many were fined and refusing to pay were sent to gaol for 5 days at a time. This proved a huge embarrassment to the council and led to a backlash against the council. Faced with a resolute and growing campaign and outrage internationally (e-mails of protest from as far away as Australia and New Zealand) the council backtracked cancelled the fines and agreed to collect al rubbish. Two weeks after the de-escalation deal the Supreme Court ruled on a case taken by Cllr. Con O Connell stating that the council were obliged under the Health Acts to collect all rubbish. It was stalemate. Seven activists had been jailed and many more fined but non-collection had been defeated for the time being.

The next round came with the introduction of refuse charges in all Dublin city and county and the changing of the law to allow non-collection. The Dublin campaign was the anvil on which the water charges had been smashed. A campaign of mass non-payment and active opposition to attempts to cut water scuppered the efforts of the authorities to impose the tax. So not unexpectedly those councils were slow to introduce the bin charges. Whilst these were in place across the country for many years Dublin remained free of them. With their introduction a huge campaign of non-payment was organised along the lines of the anti-water tax one. Then in September of this year the councils began to introduce non-payment.

James


[A Personal report from a Workers Solidarity Movement member, these reports are posted to the Ainriail list when first written]

 Much more on the Bin Tax

Anarchism in Cork

 

To the News of Irish struggles Index