Jobstown protesters held ‘democratic vote’ on letting Burton go

Garda says TD Paul Murphy tried to calm crowd down but was told to mind own business

Paul Murphy TD  at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. Photograph: Collins

Paul Murphy TD at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. Photograph: Collins

 

The crowd at the Jobstown protest in 2014 held a “democratic vote” on whether to let then Tánaiste Joan Burton go, the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court has been told.

Video was shown in which Paul Murphy suggested and oversaw the vote. A senior garda officer, who was there on the day, said the deputy seemed to have an influence on the crowd and appeared to be “orchestrating” what was happening.

In another video shown to the jury, a man was heard to tell Mr Murphy, who was at this stage trying to calm the crowd, that “this is not your protest. Mind your own business.”

Insp Derek Maguire was crossed-examined by Seán Guerin SC, for Mr Murphy, in the trial in which the Solidarity TD and six others are facing charges of the false imprisonment of Ms Burton and her then assistant Karen O’Connell.

Insp Maguire was the most senior garda officer present for the first two hours of the events on November 15th, when Ms Burton and Ms O’Connell were trapped, inside first an unmarked garda car and then a garda jeep, when the vehicles were surrounded by anti-water charges protesters.

At one stage, Insp Maguire said, he asked Mr Murphy, who had a loudhailer, to tell the protesters to leave the area, but he didn’t do it. “He said they were going to march as far as Jobstown, which I took to mean the pub.”

At this stage, the two women were in the jeep, which was moving forward slowly while being surrounded by the protesters.

Insp Maguire said he heard Paul Murphy say “they were going to take a democratic vote whether to let her go or hold on to her for the night”.

‘Hold on to her’

When this was said to the crowd, in relation to Ms Burton, there was general cheering, he said. “Hold on to her is what I heard.”

Asked if he recalled any democratic vote being taken, Inspector Maguire said: “It was just a shout to the crowd and a shout back from the crowd.”

Video footage was shown of Paul Murphy suggesting the vote, and asking for speakers on what should be done. A woman argued that Ms Burton should not be allowed leave, while defendant Michael Murphy argued that the jeep be walked to a bypass and then be allowed leave.

Michael Murphy said there were a lot of young people around and there might be an “argy bargy” if the crowd sought to continue to detain the two women. “That’s not really why we came here.”

When the vote was proposed by Paul Murphy, both he and Michael Murphy could be seen voting in favour of the latter’s proposal by raising their hands. They appeared to be in a minority. When Paul Murphy asked who supported not letting Ms Burton leave, there was a large cheer.

At one stage the garda public order unit arrived but soon afterwards the slow progress of the jeep came to a halt. Insp Maguire rejected the suggestion that an agreement had been brokered with Paul Murphy that if the unit withdrew, the slow movement of the jeep would be allowed resume.

An agreement requires both sides, he said. “We wanted them to move completely away and let the two ladies in the car go.”

He said the decision to have the public order unit move away was taken by him and two other officers, because the introduction of the unit had not worked.

He said he heard Paul Murphy say over the loudhailer: “If the public order unit withdraws, will we let her go?”

Restricting liberty

The deputy, with an address in Kingswood Heights, Tallaght, is accused of the false imprisonment of Ms Burton by restricting her personal liberty without her consent on November 15th, 2014, at Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Co Dublin. He is also accused of a second charge in relation to the same offence against Ms O’Connell.

Also facing the same charges are: Kieran Mahon, Bolbrook Grove, Tallaght, and Michael Murphy, Whitechurch Way, Ballyboden, both of whom are Solidarity councillors with South Dublin County Council; Scott Masterson, a self-employed courier, of Carrigmore Drive, Tallaght; Ken Purcell, a precision operative, of Kiltalown Green, Tallaght; Frank Donaghy, a retired construction worker, of Alpine Rise, Belgard Heights, Tallaght, and Michael Banks, of Brookview Green, Tallaght, whom the court was told does not have an occupation that brings him into contact with the public.

All of the defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

On the day in question, Ms Burton attended a graduation ceremony for people attending the An Cosán continuing education centre and had addressed the graduates in the local church while protesters gathered outside. Inspector Maguire said he took the decision that the Tánaiste should leave as “the situation was very dangerous and we wanted to get her out of there”.

Ms Burton and Ms O’Connell were moved to an unmarked Avensis which had been parked, facing the wall, close to a side door to the church. When Mr Guerin put it to the witness that it must have been obvious the protesters would react to this effort to stop them making their protest, Inspector Maguire said he never expected that the protesters would surround the car and “refuse to let her go”.

Insp Maguire acknowledged that people had a right to protest and that people had the rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. Taking Ms Burton out of the area would deprive the protesters of their right to express their views on water charges to her, Mr Guerin said.

‘Right to protest’

Insp Maguire said he believed there was a serious risk to the Tánaiste’s safety. People had “a right to protest but not to surround her car and stop her leaving”.

He rejected the suggestion that a video clip played to the trial showed Paul Murphy being “half-strangled” by his own top when it was being pulled by gardaí trying to move him from where he was sitting behind the Avensis.

The video showed a woman leaning in and opening the zip on his top, following which it was pulled over his head. The clip, taken from Youtube, was titled Paul Murphy was stripped half naked, the court heard.

During questioning of Insp Maguire by Raymond Comyn SC, for Michael Murphy, a video was shown where Paul Murphy was holding out his arms and shouting at the crowd, which was shouting back at him. Insp Maguire agreed that it was obvious that the deputy was trying to calm some people down.

One man was heard telling Paul Murphy that he should mind his own business. However, Insp Maguire said he did not believe comments from another man, who said “Paul, if you go on with any of that propaganda, I’ll break you,” was directed at Mr Murphy.

Karida Naidoo SC, for Mr Mahon, said that a total of 19 people, including the seven before the court, were charged with offences arising from the events at Jobstown.

The trial before Judge Melanie Greally, continues on Tuesday.