On this day, 21 March 1991, the abolition of the poll tax in the UK was announced, following a mass non-payment campaign and widespread rioting. The hated tax, introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government, charged the working class the same as the rich as there was a charge for every individual in a household.
Despite the defeat of the working class movement in Britain in the 1980s, people up and down the country self-organised an unprecedented campaign which resulted in over 17 million people refusing to pay, with thousands of people clogging the country’s court system. It was later replaced by the council tax, which charged rates based on house value.
This is a short history of the movement which defeated it:
Pictured: poll tax riot in Trafalgar Square



UK. Northern Ireland. Belfast. May 4 & 7, 1981. Riots in Catholic neighbourhoods just before and after the death of Bobby Sands.

Bobby Sands was 27 when he starved himself to death [on May 5] in a British prison in Northern Ireland after a 66-day hunger strike in 1981. His goal was to gain official recognition of Irish Republican Army inmates as political prisoners instead of common criminals. Jailed for possession of firearms, Mr. Sands led the strike during which 9 other IRA members died, bringing international attention to the Republican movement dedicated to reuniting all of Ireland.

The French photojournalist Yan Morvan was covering Northern Ireland during the hunger strike, photographing protests, skirmishes with British soldiers and the police, funerals, and the daily life of Catholics. Though Mr. Morvan, who was also 27 that year, never met Mr. Sands, the battle between a few hunger strikers and the government of Margaret Thatcher dominated Northern Ireland.

“It was like the biblical story of David and Goliath,” he said. [x]

Photographs: Yan Morvan