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What We Have We Hold
The Dublin City campaign organises to protect the bin service
The Indymedia newswire has seen reports from anti-bin tax actions in Drimnagh, Finglas and Ringsend and next Monday evening the first city wide protest of 2006 has been called at City Hall. The councillors will be voting on an emergency motion regarding the non-collection of bins, announced by the city manager three weeks ago, against the vote of the council. Across the city as the council starts to leave rubbish behind, groups are being organised to clear this up in the cold January weather. GAA and Labour clubs, pubs and even the cold streets are seeing meetings taking place as lists of bin collections are drawn up and the Dublin City Anti Bin tax campaign starts to act.
When Dublin City Council entered the new year by announcing it would have implemented non-collection across the city within three to four weeks there was a flurry of media interest in the expectation of the long awaited showdown with the Dublin City Anti-Bin Tax campaign. But despite the almost military planning of the council as they moved the trucks out of the depots to secret locations and used their prepared litter bye laws to try and prevent the campaign from meeting, this, as so much else the council announces, was just bluff. Three weeks later a broad, grassroots campaign is moving into action. It is emerging slowly, since halls need to be filled and conversations had and decisions made and volunteers signed up and rotas arranged across a network of locally based campaign groups.
The slowness of the campaign to appear on the streets and take over the news agenda, either here or elsewhere has in many ways been a sign of strength. It is six years since the residents of Dublin City were told that they would have to pay a waste charge or their bins would be left in the streets. Since then the campaign has withstood debt collectors and the courts, seeing people give up their freedom but also proving that the charges were illegal and anti-environmental. They have beaten the charges in court and in the city council chambers and are confident of their power in their own estates. The council is in a rush - the campaign has held together for six years and is conscious of the trade union traditions that many of their activists still have: "What We Have We Hold". The council has to push non-collection through in cold weather - as was seen in Cork in 2003, bags of rubbish in the streets in summer make no sense to anyone. The local elections showed the potency of the bin tax vote in the city and rather than risk another rush to don anti-bin tax clothes by candidates the city management really needs to break the consistently high non-payment in the city before an election so next winter the stakes will be higher. More immediately, the council management begins the lengthy process of appealing the campaigns court victories to the Supreme Court on March 20th - 6 weeks from now.
If the last three weeks are anything to go by, the next six will see a ratcheting up of the confrontations between the will of the people and the will of Dublin City Management. When this started bin trucks were moved out of the depots in the expectation of a repeat of the tactics of three years ago - you just know the photocopiers were working late at night preparing the injunctions. But the campaign has had 2 and a bit years to rake over the leaves of late 2003 and it is obvious from the meetings that the local activists have been thinking about how to deal with this latest challenge. Concerns have been raised not to alienate those who have paid while at the same time opposing the council firmly, the environmental, democratic and legal arguments are now well researched and understood. They will not follow the councils gameplan - but mainly because they don't have to now. They have been preparing and are now responding in their own way.
In November last year the Council accepted that more people are still not paying their waste charges in the city than are fully paid up. By January when they announced the latest, desperate go at imposing this unwanted new system of dealing with waste they claimed 95% compliance, then 80% and then kept quiet. Hundreds of leafletters and activists. Thousands of households ignoring the idle threats and desperate gambits of a city management beaten at the polls and in the courts. Hundreds of thousands of people around the country who have rejected the imposed commercialisation of dirt and rubbish and pollution.
Next Monday gives an opportunity to meet up, link up with the local campaign and plan some early starts, cleaning up the streets of Dublin. For the next six weeks, the residents will be out side by side with the workers making sure our city is clean and habitable and run fairly. Whatever about the arguments in rooms in the centre of the city between people who spend a lot of time arguing in rooms around town, the people of Dublin are organising a waste management system. There's another union phrase that springs to mind:
Which side are you on?