A SOCIALIST member of Ireland's parliament and a local councillor were both jailed last week for standing alongside the working class people they represent. Until now the essential public service of collecting rubbish has been provided free in Ireland, and funded by general taxation. The right wing government wants to impose local charges for rubbish collection-a bin tax.
Joe Higgins, a member of the Irish parliament, and councillor Clare Daly were jailed for a month last week. Their crime was to refuse to accept a court injunction banning them from joining blockades of bin lorries taking place in some areas of Dublin as part of the resistance to the tax.
Thousands marched on Dublin's Mountjoy prison on Saturday in solidarity with Joe and Clare. More protests were taking place against the jailings on Monday and Tuesday as Socialist Worker went to press. The stakes in the bin tax battle are high.
Socialist Worker's Irish sister paper argued in a special leaflet on Monday, 'The fight over bin charges is one of the most serious battles in recent years. If campaigners are defeated Ireland will enter a new intensive wave of Thatcherism. If the government is defeated, they will fall before the next general election.'
The bin tax is not only an attack on working class people, by forcing them to pay extra for a service they already pay for through income tax. The plan is also intended to pave the way for the privatisation of waste collection, and even higher charges to fund the profits of the waste corporations like those who have taken over most rubbish collection in Britain.
The key battle is taking place in the capital Dublin, where some local councils have started refusing to collect bins of those who have not paid the tax. The campaign has seen a large level of non-payment, with up to 75 percent of people not paying, and big local meetings in some areas. To try and break the resistance councils in some parts of Dublin started refusing to collect bins of non-payers.
This produced angry protest blockades of bin lorries, with local people saying that unless all bins were collected then none would be. Joe Higgins and Clare Daly joined and helped build the campaign and the blockades, and their jailing is now a massive upping of the stakes in the battle.
For more details and how to send messages of solidarity go to www.stopthebintax.com