Jobstown trial: Garda says protest most hostile he had seen

Officer says demonstrators had been ‘deferring’ to Solidarity TD Paul Murphy

Deputy Paul Murphy  is one of seven people facing trial for the alleged  false imprisonment of then tanaiste Joan Burton. All seven have pleaded not guilty. Photograph: Collins

Deputy Paul Murphy is one of seven people facing trial for the alleged false imprisonment of then tanaiste Joan Burton. All seven have pleaded not guilty. Photograph: Collins

 

A member of the Garda public order unit has said the events in Jobstown in 2014 were the most hostile he had experienced in his then 12 years with the unit.

Giving evidence at the trial of Solidarity TD Paul Murphy and six others, Sergeant Brian Boland told the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that the protesters that day were, in his opinion, “deferring” to Mr Murphy and “looking to him for guidance.”

Mr Murphy and the other defendants have pleaded not guilty to the false imprisonment of former tánaiste Joan Burton and her then assistant, Karen O’Connell, during an anti-water charges protest in 2014.

Responding to Sean Guerin SC, for Mr Murphy, Sgt Boland said he had used his baton on another occasion while with the unit, but still held that the events at Jobstown were the most hostile he had experienced.

Mr Murphy, of Kingswood Heights, Tallaght, is accused of the false imprisonment of Ms Burton and Ms O’Connell by restricting their personal liberty without their consent on November 15th, 2014, at Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Co Dublin.

Charges denied

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.

Sgt Boland told Sean Gillane SC, for the prosecution, that an effort to remove protesters from blocking a Garda jeep containing the two women was unsuccessful. He looked down “and there at my feet was Mr Paul Murphy.”

He engaged with him and tried to build up some rapport. Mr Murphy said it was a peaceful protest and he had a right to engage in an act of civil disobedience.

Sgt Boland said he felt that at this stage the protest had been going on for two-and-a-half hours and the political point had been made. “Now it was getting dangerous.”

Situation aggravated

He said he asked the deputy how the matter could be resolved and Mr Murphy said his starting point was the public order unit would have to withdraw. The protest had been coming to an end but the arrival of the unit had aggravated the situation. The unit subsequently withdrew and the slow progress of the vehicle, towards a junction out of the area, resumed.

Sgt Boland said he later asked Mr Murphy if he would use his influence to get the protesters to let the vehicle, which was approaching the junction, go free.

Mr Murphy said he felt he could not do that as he had “lost control of the crowd”. He said he felt the people were very angry and that it wasn’t his mandate to get the protesters off the road. “He washed his hands of it at that stage.”

Garda Brian O’Connor told Michael O’Higgins SC, for Mr Purcell, that after the events of that day there was a “giving out session” back in a room in the Plaza hotel hired by the Garda.

Asked if there was criticism of how gardaí had handled the situation, he said there was.

“I wasn’t very impressed myself. I felt we weren’t protected enough up there.” Asked if there had been criticism of how the situation had been managed, the witness said there was. “There would have been giving out about that.”

The trial, before Judge Melanie Greally and a jury, continues.