Anger remains in Jobstown over how area was ‘criminalised’

Trials of 18 people charged with false imprisonment of Joan Burton start in April

 

Two years after water charges protesters surrounded the car of then tánaiste Joan Burton in Jobstown, the name of the west Dublin suburb remains synonymous with the infamous incident.

Burton, who was also minister for social protection at the time, was reportedly unable to leave her car for more than two hours and was said to have been badly shaken by the experience.

Though she and the Labour Party are now out of government, the event remains fresh in the minds of the people in the area, while the legal and political fallout continues.

The trials of 18 people charged with false imprisonment of Burton, including Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy, begin next April. A schoolboy who was convicted last October for his involvement in the protest is appealing against his conviction.

In November 2014, protesters surrounded Burton’s car following a graduation ceremony at the An Cosán education centre, banging on the car with their fists, shouting slogans and refusing Garda requests to step back.

Widespread criticism of the protesters saw them described them as “violent” and their behaviour as “unacceptable”, though such opinions are not shared by many locally.

“The whole of Jobstown has been criminalised by the media since that protest,” says Paul Keane (60) on his way into the Centra shop on Kiltalown Way.

His wife was at the protest, says the former printer. “It was blown out of all proportion after. She [Burton] was what, delayed a few hours? It wasn’t just people from Jobstown at the protest. A lot of people were angry with the Labour Party for the broken promises.”

Working-class people

A woman in her 30s who does not want to be named says it was a “toss-up” about what happened. “I understand people were very angry but I think they went too far. But then Joan Burton did a lot of harm cutting lone parent’s allowance, and the gardaí I think made the situation worse on the day.”

A shop-owner also does not want to be named as, he says, he has to be “neutral”.

“A lot of people around here are upset about what happened, but in my own opinion the protest was justified. The Labour Party took the votes of working-class people around here for granted. That backfired on them. They left the way wide open for the far left and Sinn Féin.”

Tricolours fly from several of the houses in the area while some kerb-stones in the Cloonmore estate are painted green, white and orange.

Jobstown, which is 20km west of Dublin city centre, is classified as “very disadvantaged” by State agency Pobal. According to its data, 61 per cent of families are headed by lone parents, just 4.7 per cent of adults have third-level education, 33 per cent have only primary education and the male unemployment rate is 49.3 per cent.

‘Better life’

Tanya Felloni (27), a single mother of two children under nine, was not on the protest, but heard it and came out to see what was happening. “Everyone came out. The whole of Jobstown was there by the end. People weren’t just protesting about water. They were protesting because they want a better life.”

Having completed a journalism course this year, she had hoped it would be “the beginning of something great”, but financial struggles make planning difficult.

“I have a pay-as-you-go electricity meter. Most Wednesdays we have no electricity because I’m out of money. My little boy is used to no electricity on Wednesdays. He shouldn’t have to live like this,” she says.

“My landlady wants us out of the house in January. I can’t think beyond next week most of the time.”

Linda Gorman describes as “poxy” the way Jobstown was portrayed. “It’s made out that Jobstown is full of criminals and gurriers, when people living here are very decent. It’s not easy. There’s nothing for teenagers, no jobs for young people. You make what you can of it.”