People of Jobstown ‘demonised’ for protesting, trial hears

Paul Murphy and fellow accused being ‘denounced as criminals,’ counsel tells jury

 

Colm Keena

The people of Jobstown were being “demonised” for protesting against the failure of the Labour Party to keep its promise in relation to water charges, counsel for Solidarity TD Paul Murphy has told the Jobstown trial.

The community and “its political leaders” had taken to the streets to protest but now Mr Murphy and the other accused were being “denounced as criminals,” Sean Guerin SC told the jury.

He was making the first speech for an accused in a case where six men are facing charges that they falsely imprisoned the then Labour Party leader, Joan Burton, and her then advisor, Karen O’Connell, on Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Dublin, on November 15th, 2014.

The accused, who have all pleaded not guilty, are: Mr Murphy, of Kingswood Heights, Tallaght; Solidarity councillors Michael Murphy, of Whitechurch Way, Ballyboden, and Kieran Mahon, Bolbrook Grove, Tallaght; courier Scott Masterson, of Carrigmmore Drive, Tallaght; Frank Donaghy, a retired construction worker of Alpine Rise, Belgard Heights, Tallaght; and Michael Banks, of Brookview Green, Tallaght.

Mr Guerin said the economic collapse and the austerity that followed it had led to great hardship.

“What the working poor in areas such as Jobstown have endured is not austerity but affliction”, he said, referring to the word used in the Book of Job.

Austerity had caused some people to have to watch their children emigrate, while others had seen their children “surrender their lives in despair.”

He said the Dáil can only be made answerable to the people periodically. Often the period is five to seven years.

“What his case is about is what happens in the interim.”

The Labour Party had said in its manifesto that it was opposed to water charges.

Labour had run an election campaign offering “Labour’s way not Frankfurt’s way” and had committed to protecting the Irish people from measures that were recognised as being “hurtful”.

But by 2014 the Government of which Labour was a part was going to oversee the introduction of a €278 water charge that was bigger than the figure envisaged when the party had committed in its manifesto to protect people from it.

A lot of people just couldn’t afford the charge and that was why they had voted for a party that had said it would oppose the charge.

Corrosive cynicism

Mr Guerin said there was a “deep pool of corrosive cynicism” that held the view that it didn’t matter what was promised during an election campaign because in five years time no-one would remember or care.

But there were those who did care.

The people of Jobstown “and their political leaders” came out onto the streets to say “I gave you my vote for a reason and we want you to honour the pledge you made”.

But for this they were “demonised” and the accused who were in court were “denounced as criminals”.

The fear of violence and fears for the safety of Ms Burton were the only basis for any charge of the false imprisonment.

It was because of fear for her safety that she had been kept in the Garda car.

His client Paul Murphy had been engaged in acts of protest but not of violence.

Other people who were not before the court had been charged with violent disorder, Mr Guerin said.

Sitting behind the car and “slow-marching” the Jeep out of Jobstown, as Mr Murphy had done, did not put Ms Burton in any danger.

It was being said that his client was guilty not because of what he did but because he stood by and didn’t restrain others from what they were doing. But that was not the law.

Mr Guerin opened his remarks by quoting from the Book of Job. He said Job had undergone hardship and his faith in God was tested.

The message was clear to those who had endured the hardships of austerity. The economic crisis had tested people’s faith in the democratic system.

Not only here but in democracies such as the United States and France events had shown how “shocking” the blow to faith in democracy had been, he said, referring to support for President Donald Trump, and National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

The trial, which began on April 24th, continues before Judge Melanie Greally.