‘I cannot abandon my people. I have to stand with them’

SOCIALIST Party TD Joe Higgins and his party colleague Councillor Clare Daly were sent to jail for a month each yesterday for contempt of the High Court arising out of anti-bin tax protests.

Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill told them they had put their political campaign above the fundamental obligation of every citizen to comply with the law and, in doing so, had struck at the very heart of democratic order.

He said it was quite clear that both intended to continue to breach court orders and what they were doing was a calculated contempt of the law and the authority of the court.

"It is most regrettable and reprehensible, particularly on the part of Mr Higgins, who is a member of Dáil Éireann," the judge said.

Judge O'Neill said the evidence presented by James Macken, SC, counsel for Fingal County Council, clearly established there were breaches of existing court orders.

Upon inquiry of both, it was equally clear they intended to continue to engage in acts which would undoubtedly create further breaches.

"I appreciate that while they are doing this as part of a political campaign and their motivation is sincere they both clearly understand the consequences of what they are doing," he said.

What they were doing was nevertheless a deliberate and calculated contempt of the law and the authority of the High Court. They placed the objectives of their political campaign above the fundamental obligation of every citizen to comply with the law and in so doing they were striking at the very heart of democratic order.

Judge O'Neill said that in the circumstances it was the duty of the court to uphold the law and vindicate the authority of the court.

"I do not intend to impose a sentence of imprisonment on an ongoing basis because to do so would fail to achieve the objective of compliance with the order of the court against a background where there is an ongoing campaign," he said.

It was necessary there would be a sentence of imprisonment on both and he would measure that as a term of one month to commence from yesterday.

Judge O'Neill also made an order directing the gardaí to arrest and bring before the court all those who, with knowledge of the existence of court orders, continued to breach them.

Earlier Mr Higgins was defiant in the face of the court. "I cannot abandon my people. I have to stand with them," he told Judge O'Neill. They were sentiments adopted by Councillor Daly, who, when asked by Judge O'Neill if she intended continuing to participate in a campaign where bin lorries were blockaded, replied: "I have no alternative."

Fingal County Council had sought their attachment and committal for breaching a temporary order made by Mrs Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan on September 11 restraining them from interfering with rubbish collections or blockading the passage of bin lorries an order made permanent by Judge O'Neill only last Wednesday.

Mr Higgins said he had to represent the people he represented and the court must act according to how it saw fit. He said he saw the tax as an unjust imposition with very serious consequences for working people down the line.

Mr Justice O'Neill told Councillor Daly there was evidence of a breach by her of both court orders. It was a serious situation. He had to uphold and vindicate the authority of the court with which she appeared to be on a collision course.

Councillor Daly said the people behind the campaign stood by their rights to oppose the bin tax and she could not abandon the people on this issue.

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day.

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day.