Jailed politicians 'grandstanding', says Cullen

Friday 19 September 2003 19.39

The Minister for the Environment, Martin Cullen, has accused jailed politicians Joe Higgins and Clare Daly of 'political grandstanding of the highest scale'.

Dublin West TD Mr Higgins and Socialist Party councillor Ms Daly were each jailed for a month today for their part in the waste charge protests in Fingal County Council's area.

Mr Cullen accused Mr Higgins of having no proposals on the environment or waste issues.

The minister said the length of the sentences were a matter for the judge and the courts, and said the jail terms had nothing to do with bin charges but contempt of court issues.

Unions angered by jailings

Unions have reacted angrily to the imprisonment of the two politicians.

SIPTU Vice President Jack O'Connor described the situation as both ironic and deplorable.

The country's largest craft union, the TEEU, has called a meeting of its local authority shop stewards next week to consider what action to take in support of the two public representatives.

Before jailing the politicians, Mr Justice Iarlfhlaith O'Neill said he appreciated that Joe Higgins and Clare Daly breached court orders as part of a political campaign and that their motivation was sincere.

But he said they had been engaged in a deliberate and calculated contempt of the law and the authority of the court. He said this was regrettable and reprehensible in Mr Higgins' case as he was a member of the Dáil.

As he was taken away, Mr Higgins said his committal to prison was an outrage.

Before lunch, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill asked Deputy Higgins and Councillor Daly whether or not they would comply with a High Court order preventing them from obstructing waste collection in Fingal.

The Dublin West TD said he could not abandon the communities he represented and Councillor Daly said she had no alternative but to continue the protests.

Arrest anyone obstructing lorries, Court orders

The High Court also ordered that Gardaí arrest anyone obstructing Fingal County Council bin lorries and bring them before the court.

Lawyers for Dublin City Council have also gone to the High Court and will ask the judge for an injunction preventing named individuals from obstructing there waste collection services.

The protests began more than a week ago and have continued despite two High Court injunctions preventing the protesters from obstructing the council's waste collection services.