Sunday 23 October 2016

Far left pulling the strings on bin charge campaign

Published 19/10/2003 | 00:11

MAKE no mistake, the anti-bin-charge protest was never about local communities rising up spontaneously against an oppressive and unfair double tax. From the outset, the protest has been controlled, manipulated and orchestrated by the far left for political gain.

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As far back as March, 2001, Gregor Kerr, the former secretary of the Federation of Dublin Anti-Water Charge Campaigns which successfully agitated for its abolition in 1996, published a manifesto detailing similar direct actions to be used to defeat the bin charges.

The two-year-old document Bin Charges - a Strategy to Win detailed the same tactics used during the last three weeks.

Kerr demanded: "The key tactic which guaranteed success in the anti-water charge was the refusal to pay. In the initial stages of the campaign, activists in local communities went from door to door encouraging their neighbours to join the boycott campaign . . . anti-bin charges activists now face the same task. The campaign must be built slowly and steadily from the bottom up."

And even two years ago, Gregor Kerr, declared that the far-left parties were in control of the bin-protest campaign.

"With political parties and independent candidates all eyeing up the forthcoming general election, we can expect to see attempts by them to effectively carve up the areas among potential candidates. This is basically what happened with the anti-bin-charge campaign in the Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown area, with the Socialist Workers' Party controlling the campaign in Dun Laoghaire and Socialist Party in charge of Rathdown . . . activists who are not members of those two parties find it difficult to have an input other than simply as people who are available to deliver leaflets," Mr Kerr claimed.

On Thursday, the protesters lifted their blockade of the council depots to enable tens of thousands of tons of rubbish to be collected, but blockades of bin lorries on individual estates continued.

It was during one of these blockades that a council driver, John Clegg, was involved in an incident in which bin-charge protester Joe Mooney was carried on the bonnet of a truck for about 40 metres.

The picket at Fingal was lifted after a protest which halted bin collections at 16,500 homes in Malahide, Portmarnock and Swords. In South Dublin, two women were arrested at the Ballymount waste depot as drivers passed pickets and took lorries out of the depot.

Earlier last week, about 60 bin workers at the depot were docked pay for refusing to drive trucks out the gate, but a council spokesman said this money was likely to be restored. The spokesman said the men had been "in a very difficult situation and under a fair amount of intimidation because a lot of them live in the estates affected".

As Deputy Joe Higgins and Councillor Clare Daly emerged from prison yesterday relishing their status as bin-charge martyrs, they will feel there may be long-term electoral gains from their incarceration. Maybe.

When they were first locked up, it appeared Higgins could expect even better returns in a constituency where he received nearly 6,500 first preferences last time out while Clare Daly hoped to emerge with a profile enhanced by yesterday's carefully choreographed freedom rally, which would ensure she was ready to run for the Dail next time.

However, that electoral pay-off is no longer certain after last week's damaging developments.

The first clear indicator that public opinion had swung against the protesters was the Marian Finucane Show on Wednesday which carried out a nationwide phone poll.

Listeners were asked if we should pay to have our rubbish collected or not. Remarkably, three out of four people from a record 16,000 callers said that we should pay.

Then the Evening Herald revealed that Anna Doran, who is costing taxpayers ?3,220 by taking up a jail cell in Mountjoy for two weeks, has applied for and received a waiver which means she is now exempt from paying the bin charge. Karen Heffernan, another of the women jailed, has also applied for a waiver.

The third blow to the anti-bin charge campaign was teased out by Joe Duffy. Binman Benny Farren told how his home had been visited when he wasn't there by two men, one of them Michael Murphy, the prominent anti-bin charge campaigner and husband of Clare Daly.

They called back again later when Benny was at home. He wasn't pleased. He felt it was intimidating. He wanted to know how Mr Murphy and his companion found out where he lived.

In fairness, Mr Murphy's convoluted explanation had the ring of authenticity and he did apologise to Mr Farren when he realised his visit was not welcome.

On Saturday, as Deputy Higgins and Councillor Daly celebrated freedom, domestic refuse which has piled up as a result of the protests was being collected by Dublin Corporation staff.

The duo emerged from their prison cell into the sunlight yesterday with their campaign in a far weaker state than when they went to jail 28 days before.

Tanaiste Mary Harney said last week that the anti-bin charge protests which left rotting rubbish outside 50,000 homes in an already rat-infested city was a recipe for anarchy. Ms Harney was perhaps more accurate than she realised at the time.

The Irish anarchists' movement and its official newspaper Workers Solidarity believes its members have infiltrated the campaign in significant numbers. As Workers Solidarity put it, it is just another "battle" against global capitalism that must be won.

That is why some of the same faces who were at Shannon Airport protesting against American warplanes landing on Irish soil and who also battled with gardai in the infamous May Day protests in 2002 have also been seen at bin depots and outside Mountjoy prison.

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