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(en) Ireland, Bin tax and RTS protests link up in Dublin

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 23 Sep 2003 17:24:28 +0200 (CEST)

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> From: Andrew <andy-A-dojo.tao.ca> To: ainriail@struggle.ws
Monday evening in Dublin saw a Reclaim the Streets
demonstration joining up with an anti-bin tax march
demanding the release of two imprisoned activists. Below a
WSM member who attended both events gives his observations.
The Reclaim the Streets was taking place at 5pm on European
'Car Free' day because the organisers wanted to break a
mould they felt was developing where they were organising
parties for others to turn up to. This event aimed to
require more involvement and rather then a party was to be
based around painting a new pedestrian crossing on
O'Connell st Bridge, a very busy but also very dangerous
crossing point right in the city centre.

Pics: Part of the Reclaim the Streets, see the pics at

En route from work I missed the initial form up, around 200
people must have been there. However right at the start the
Gardai swooped on those carrying the paint and confiscated
paints and brushes. One activist demanded, and got a
receipt for, the paint he was carrying. Quite whether he'll
actually go to Store Street Gardai station to recover them
is another question.

As I was missing the start I was a bit concerned it might
take a while to locate Reclaim the Streets. I need not have
worried as from a long way off I could see a police
helicopter hovering over what I correctly assumed was the
RTS. I caught up with it as it turned the triangle at
College green onto Westmoreland st.

Pics: bin tax march in Dublin

It was immediately obvious that there were a very heavy
police presence for this RTS complete with a camera laden
surveillance van, cops mounted on horses, motor bikes and
bicycles and lots and lots of foot cops. Dotted around town
were vans full of re-enforcements. And (badly) hidden in
with the crowd were secret police trying to look like
protesters. Just after I joined I saw a couple of them and
some uniformed cops swoop on a young couple at the back of
the demonstration and go through their rucksack with great
fascination. Indymedia.ie has carried reports of up to 10
more secret police with cameras filming the demonstration
and pictures of two of them on the roof of the GPO.

The RTS went down Westmoreland Street and then turned left
along the Quays. It lost me briefly when I cycled ahead to
get some pictures at Butt Bridge only to turn and see it
had vanished into Temple bar. I found it again at the
intersection of Dame Street and Georges street. Here the
RTS lingered for quite a while, maybe because Dame Street
was the site of the anti-RTS police riot of May 6th 2002. A
rap was performed in the middle of the street outside the
Central Bank. It then headed onto O'Connell st.

Pic: The (empty) south Quays around 5.45pm, you can just
make out the RTS in the distance

It's worth noting the although the Gardai were not making
arrests it was obvious that they were treating the event as
an intelligence gathering operation in advance of the
European summits. An activist who peered through the
windows of the surveillance van said that there were two
Gardai inside in front of flat screen TV's happily zooming
in on peoples faces while jiggling joysticks. One hilarious
secret police man was drifting from group to group
listening in on people's conversations. His idea of a
disguise was a rugby top and a beanie pulled down over his
ears (and the headphone in them). Best of all when
challenged he first snuck off and then returned to insult
one of the people who had pointed him out.

Pic: RTS on quays

A number of people involved in RTS are also involved in the
anti-bin tax campaign so it was natural that we would seek
to link up the two. As we headed up O'Connell Street others
joined us en route to the anti-bin tax demonstration which
was to start from Parnell Square. Near the top of O'Connell
Street we stopped to announce the fact that we intended to
go part in this demonstration and to say we hoped that
everyone else there would join us in doing so. Most did.

Pic: RTS during the rap on Dame st

The 'Homes not Jails' banner was unfurled and around 150
RTSers headed up to the entrance of the Garden of
Remembrance. As we arrived we got a good cheer though I
could see some of the bin-tax protesters already there were
made a bit nervous, probably because some of the RTS crowd
were wearing masks. Mind you if they'd spent the last
couple of hours being filmed by the cops they might have
understood. It's worth noting that the surveillance van
followed us but turned its camera to the wall once we
reached the bin-tax protest. An attempt to maintain (for
now) a rather odd 'good protester, bad protester'

At the Garden of Remembrance there were already around
1,000 people, this would rise to 3,000* by the time the
march departed. The sun was setting and it was getting
chilly but we were in for the usual round of speeches
explaining why we there before departing for Mountjoy. Ruth
Coppinger spoke first and chaired followed by Mick O'Reilly
of the ATGWU. His was the most useful contribution focusing
on the need for the unions to take action in support of the
protests, something that unfortunately the leaders of the
main bin workers unions SIPTU and MANDATE have already been
ruling out. He was followed by a speaker from the SP's
sister party in Britain, Dave Nellis who went on for a
little too long about socialism and international
solidarity. When he finished and it was announced we were
moving off a cheer went up from a section of the crowd!

Pic: Bin tax protest in Parnell Square

The march started a little oddly by heading down towards
O'Connell st (in the opposite direction to the jail) but I
guess we were just following the traffic flows for some
reason. We then turned left onto Parnell Street which is
fast becoming one of the most multi ethnic areas of Dublin.
Quite a few Chinese and African people came out onto
apartment balconies or from shops to look and wave as we
went by. Few joined in but the gesture of solidarity was

We then turned left up Gardener Street before heading down
Dorset Street for the bottom of the North Circular road. At
this point I went ahead on my bicycle as people from my
area had marched straight to the jail rather then heading
to the main meeting up spot (which was on the other side of
the jail). Around 400 people were there, mostly from Cabra.
They had been waiting for something like an hour both for
the speeches to finish at Parnell square and for the march
to make its way up so it's possible some had left at this

There was real enthusiasm when the main march came into
view and lots of cheering and chanting as the two met up
outside the gates of the Joy. The noise should have been
clearly heard by all those inside, in particular Joy
Higgins and Clare Daly, the two bin tax protesters jailed
there for one month.

Pic: The Cabra crowd at Mountjoy greet the arriving

Outside Mountjoy jail there were more speeches. These
included Rosie Kane of the Scottish Socialist Party. Brid
Smith of the SWP (and also the Dublin city campaigns PRO)
spoke at Mountjoy, as did Kevin MacLoughlin of the SP,
Denis Keane of SP (but speaking for the CPSU), and Tom Ryan
of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions. There was some
murmuring afterwards about 3 of the 8 speakers being Irish
SP members and one being from the CWI, the international
the SP is part of. I guess SP members feel that this was
justified because both bin-tax activists currently in
Mountjoy are leaders of their party.

Organisational bickering has always been a major problem
within the campaign, in particular the rivalry between the
two main Leninist groups. As usual in these situations
these are the two groups with the closest politics to each
other fighting it out to prove they alone are the
'authentic vanguard of the Irish working class'. This crass
behaviour is already damaging the campaign, lets hope it
does not end up wrecking it altogether.

That said nothing can take away from the popular nature of
the movement against the bin taxes. Paper sellers and
'professional' activists were a tiny minority in last
night's crowd even if they were allowed to dominate the
platform. The vast bulk was made up of ordinary working
class people outraged by the treatment they have received
at the hands of the government. The activists have played a
vital role in building the movement however we badly need
to recognise that real power of decision making has to come
from the base, the local groups, and not from the various
party HQ's.

Pic: Listening to the speeches

More then one speaker eluded to the different treatments
the rich con men and tax dodgers have received in
comparison with Joe and Clare. Liam Lawlor may have finally
received some time in prison but all the rest of the land
speculators and Ansbacher account holders will never see
the inside of Mountjoy. The Gardai have been giving
sweeping powers to arrest and detain protesters across
Fingal for engaging in the sorts of forms of protest that
wealthy farmers have carried out for decades. As I write
this news is coming in that over a dozen further arrests
have been made with the activists to be dragged before the
High Court in the next hours.

The next couple of weeks are a key time for the campaign.
Internal decision making structures are in disarray, in
part because of their abuse by one of the Leninist parties
involved in the campaign. The answer to this cannot be to
pass decision-making power to a tiny existing leadership
(drawn almost entirely from the ranks of far left
organisations). Instead what are needed are meetings of
mandated delegates from local groups, answerable to local
groups and not to one or the other Leninist party. This
should help create citywide meetings that are both accurate
and useful in terms of decision making.

There is not much time to achieve this. The latest arrests
confirm that the gloves are off for the state and they are
trying to break the spirit of the movement. If Fingal
stands alone they may well be able to do this. There is
also little purpose in just one or two city areas acting in
isolation, I know out of frustration some are already
preparing to do this. We need a decisions making structure
everyone can have confidence in.

What is needed is for all the campaigns to launch co-
ordinated blockades facing the state with the issue of
arresting hundreds at a time rather then handfuls. And we
should make it clear that such mass arrests will be greeted
not with passive acceptance but with mass civil
disobedience aimed at bring the city to a halt. Strumpet
city is currently been shown on RTE. We must act as they
did in 1913, if they target some we must all step into the
gap, if they try to limit the struggle to one area we must
widen the struggle to all areas. They want to box us off
and wear us down one by one, area by area; we must not
allow them to do this.


Pics and links at

Pic: TEEU banner at start and Cabra protesters at Mountjoy

* - discussions of the number present can be found at

[A Personal report from a Workers Solidarity Movement
members of an event they took part in or attended, these
reports are posted to the Ainriail list when first written]
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