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(en) Workers Solidarity #78 - Householders Against S ervice Charges meeting in Mayfield, Cork - Monday 20th October

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 17 Nov 2003 11:27:27 +0100 (CET)


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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 http://struggle.ws/other/ainriail.html list when
first written]

Much more on the Bin Tax http://struggle.ws/wsm/bins.html

Anarchism in Cork http://struggle.ws/wsm/cork.html


========================================

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'Workers Solidarity'. http://struggle.ws/wsm/paper.html
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