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(en) Ireland, Householders Against Service Charges meeting in Mayfield, Cork

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 22 Oct 2003 13:58:25 +0200 (CEST)

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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.


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

Coppied from: http://www.struggle.ws/new.html

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