independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Outrage over jailed TD's 'grandstand' bin protest

Going to jail: Socialist TD Joe Higgins being led into the Bridewell garda station yesterday after he was sentenced, with councillor Clare Daly, to one month in prison. Picture: Graham Hughes/Collins

A NEW wave of protests over bin collection charges was threatened last night after the High Court jailed TD Joe Higgins and his colleague Cllr Clare Daly.

But an angry Environment Minister Martin Cullen accused the Socialist Party members of "political grandstanding" and claimed they had no alternative policies on waste disposal.

Mr Cullen rejected claims that the bin charges were "draconian" and said they were fair and reasonable and the vast majority of people were paying them.

He said the two were not jailed because of bin charges, but for contempt of the High Court and refusing to obey the law.

The Anti Bin Tax Campaign insisted the jailing of the two for a month would not break opposition to refuse charges and predicted the campaign would intensify.

Cllr Ruth Coppinger, a spokeswoman for the campaign, said it would not be lost on people that none of the Ansbacher tax cheats were taken to court, never mind imprisoned.

In a separate development last night, one trade union chief warned that the jailing could result in factories and services coming to a standstill with workers joining protests.

However, the jailing of Mr Higgins could result in some politicians advocating a Dail censure because of his refusal to comply with High Court orders.

One senior political source said there was a cross-party consensus in the Dail that elected members should comply fully with any orders of the High Court or a tribunal.

At the time of Liam Lawlor's first confrontation with the Flood Tribunal, the Dail passed a motion urging him to voluntarily resign for failing to comply with orders. "The issue may be different but the principle is still the same," said one source.

Eamon Devoy, assistant general secretary of the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU), has called a special meeting of hundreds of shop stewards on Wednesday to consider action in support of the jailed public representatives.

Mr Devoy condemned the jailing of Mr Higgins and Ms Daly and said the TEEU was committed to campaigning for the abolition of local charges.

As he was taken away to Mountjoy, Mr Higgins said his committal was an "absolute outrage" when there were "gangsters in Dublin in the pockets of speculators who will never be before the court".

Earlier, Mr Justice Iarlfhlaith O'Neill said while he appreciated they had breached court orders as part of a political campaign, they were engaged in a "deliberate and calculated" contempt of the law and the authority of the court.

He said this was regrettable and particularly reprehensible in Mr Higgins' case as he was a member of the Dail.

The judge had asked both if they would comply with a High Court order preventing them from obstructing waste collection in Fingal. In a clear reference to Mountjoy, he told Ms Daly that if she had no desire to be in court, there was a "much more unpleasant place not far North of here".

When neither would give an undertaking, the judge imposed sentence starting yesterday. He also ordered that gardai arrest anyone obstructing Fingal Council bin lorries and bring them before the court.

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