TD and councillor risk jail in bin tax protest
Published 18/09/2003 | 00:11
FINGAL County Council will ask the High Court tomorrow to imprison or fine bin tax protesters Joe Higgins, TD, and Councillor Clare Daly.
James Mahon, SC, told Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill yesterday that Mr Higgins and Ms Daly had been "intimately involved and actively participating in a blockade of collections, in blatant disregard" of a week-old High Court injunction prohibiting such activities.
When the council sought leave to serve the committal proceedings, Mr Higgins said he had to be honest with the court and stated he was not in a position to cease the democratic campaign against waste collection charges or refrain from assisting in the campaign of civil disobedience.
"The actions of Fingal County Council are seriously detrimental to the thousands of residents I represent," he told Judge O'Neill.
Ms Daly said that with no disrespect to the court she agreed with Mr Higgins's stance.
Judge O'Neill, when told Mr Higgins and Ms Daly would not give any undertaking to obey court injunctions restraining them from interfering with bin collections or the lawful passage of bin lorries, said he had no option but to grant the council's application for committal proceedings.
Mr Mahon, who appeared with Damian Keaney for Fingal County Council, was granted an interlocutory injunction restraining Mr Higgins and Ms Daly, and 13 other named defendants from interfering with bin collections or the movement of bin lorries.
Referring to evidence of breaches of an interim order made last week by Mrs Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan, Mr Macken said it would not be appropriate for a local authority to seek orders and then stand idly by while they were flagrantly disregarded.
Mr Mahon said the matter arose out of a decision by Fingal County Council to lawfully impose a charge for the collection of domestic waste. It had also decided not to empty bins that did not bear a tag indicating the charge had been paid.
He said Mrs Justice Finlay Geoghegan had granted the council an injunction restraining both defendants and 13 others, and anyone with knowledge of the order, from interfering with the council's bin collection service or blockading its bin lorries.
Despite this the protest had continued, with some bin lorries being blockaded for days. There was a danger of explosions as the compacted rubbish in them gave off methane gas.
Mr Higgins, in an affidavit, said there was massive opposition to the bin charges and massive resentment at the council's direction that those engaged in a boycott of the new charge should be denied a refuse collection service.
He said the council had alleged he and another councillor, Ruth Coppinger - also a named defendant - had encouraged householders and residents to intimidate neighbours who had paid the charges and placed tags on their bins.
"This is a scurrilous allegation and is entirely untrue," Mr Higgins said. "Any campaign in which I have been involved has been entirely peaceable," he said.
Judge O'Neill said the collection of bins had been grossly disrupted and would continue unless the court intervened by way of interlocutory relief. Waste would accumulate, creating a public health hazard.