Almost a month has passed since the national conference of the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes (CAHWT). While on the surface things look pretty quiet, this is a critical juncture for the campaign. The momentum that has been lost by the attachment of the CAHWT to the unsuccessful No referendum campaign will only be rebuilt when the government make their next move, but those active in the campaign need to use the coming weeks to prepare for that eventuality.
I approached this film with a lot of trepidation, putting off watching it for weeks. Much of this was down to my being uncomfortable with boxing and fist-fighting of any kind - I just don’t enjoy watching people knocking the shit out of each other - but I was also uncomfortable about colluding with a project in which a settled film-maker would bring a settled audience to leer into Travellers’ lives. Such fears are not unfounded by any means. The media is full of such ‘Big Fat Racist’ selective framings of Travellers’ lives, served up weekly for the titillation of scoffing settled audiences. Will Ian Palmer’s 12 year labour of love prove to be different? Will he champion his subjects by turning his camera angle to break with our society’s pervasive and racist framing of Travellers as a problematic, and ultimately inferior culture? Or will he take the easy and well-worn path in the way that Channel 4’s “Gypsy Blood” did and grotesquely reframe Travellers (and Romanies, whom it doesn’t bother to differentiate from Travellers) as uncultured monsters?
It was as if our streets were paved in gold as the Olympic torch made its way across this bright new shiny Northern Ireland. We listened to our local business leaders and political class lining up to praise this symbol of hope and reconciliation, but beneath this spectacle of spin and ‘regeneration’ smokescreen is a showcase of corporate class privilege and profiteering.
In a new twist to the decade long struggle against Shell Rossport Solidarity Camp has revealed that Mayo County Council (MCC) has issued an eviction notice to the landowner of the field where the Rossport Solidarity Camp is located. Mayo farmer Gerry Burke has been threatened with fines of over €12,000 and two years in prison. Despite these theats the annual June Bank Holiday solidarity gathering will go ahead in a couple of weeks.
The Campaign Against Household and Water Charges (CAHWT) has been hugely successful so far in several ways: in encouraging mass non-payment; in making the taxes a big political issue, even in the mainstream media; in getting tens of thousands of people involved in protests and public meetings.
Dan Hayden and Colin Scott (‘Why People Avoided Paying Household Charge’ 16th April) should get out of their academic ivory tower and talk to some real people if they want to answer the question as to why almost a million households have decided to put themselves in conflict with the government by refusing to register for and pay the household tax. Instead of presenting any real analysis of what is by any stretch of the imagination a massive rejection of government policy they start off by insulting those who decided not to register and go on to present a hotch-potch of half-baked theories which seem designed to do anything other than admit the truth – people made a conscious political decision not to pay.
Thousands of people marched from Eyre Square in Galway to the Labour Party conference at NUIG on Saturday. People had travelled from all over the country to show their opposition to the household tax and other attacks on people’s living standards. The story that made the evening news however, was one of the several hundred strong breakaway protest that reached the doors of the conference centre.
Two recent surveys have shed a little light on the levels of poverty and financial distress being experienced in Ireland. A survey by the "What's left" found 47% of households (over 1.5million people) with €100 or less in hand monthly after essential bills have paid. The other survey by Social Justice Ireland calculated over 700,000 people now live impoverished lives in the state. The increasing cost of essentials, declining wages and rising unemployment are all contributing to this.
Saturdays Household tax demonstration in Galway at the Labour Party conference saw angry scenes after Garda attempted to keep the protesters out of sight and sound from the conference venue. Students who were being kept off their own campus were particularly annoyed and led a push against the Garda barriers during which several of them were attacked with pepper spray. They did however succeed in removing the barriers with the result that around 1,000 of the 4,000 or so Household tax demonstrators were able to march to the door of the conference center to protest in full sight of the Labour party delegates inside.
A number of WSM members were present at the protest, either with their various local Household tax delegations or with FEE, the student group. One of them was among the people pepper sprayed. We asked them to give us their accounts of what happened on the day.
Comments by newly elected Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt that “I’d actually like to live in an area of social deprivation for a day because I think it’s important to get a feel for what it’s like,” is what you would expect from someone who was born with a sliverspoon in their mouth. Mike was privately educated at Campbell college and Oxford university.