Jobstown trial involves ‘cracking a nut with a sledgehammer’

Defence counsel says for evil to thrive, it is necessary for good men to do nothing

Clockwise from top left: Kieran Mahon, Michael Banks, Paul Murphy, Michael Murphy, Scott Masterson, Frank Donaghy.

Clockwise from top left: Kieran Mahon, Michael Banks, Paul Murphy, Michael Murphy, Scott Masterson, Frank Donaghy.

 

The Jobstown trial involves “cracking a nut with a sledgehammer” and is “over the top”, a defence counsel has told the jury in a closing address.

One of the accused, Scott Masterson, was handcuffed before his two young girls when arrested by a “posse of gardaí”, when he could have been asked to come to the station by arrangement, said Róisín Lacey SC. She said the way her client had been arrested was unnecessary, and frightening for his four-year old and nine-year old girls.

Mr Masterson was “unjustly treated as a violent criminal” while at the time he was at home making school lunches for his children at 6.55 am on February 9th, 2015.

How his arrest was carried out was “indicative of why we are here today,” she said. The trial involved the cracking of a nut with a sledgehammer and was over the top. What was “just obstruction” during a political protest had led to charges of false imprisonment.

Mr Masterson, of Carrigmmore Drive, Tallaght, is one of six men who have pleaded not guilty to charges that they falsely imprisoned the then Labour Party leader Joan Burton and her then adviser Karen O’Connell on Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Dublin, on November 15th, 2014, during a water charges protest.

The other accused are Solidarity TD Paul Murphy, of Kingswood Heights, Tallaght; Solidarity councillors Michael Murphy, of Whitechurch Way, Ballyboden, and Kieran Mahon, Bolbrook Grove, Tallaght; Frank Donaghy, a retired construction worker of Alpine Rise, Belgard Heights, Tallaght; and Michael Banks, of Brookview Green, Tallaght.

Ms Lacey said she was reminded of the quote from Edmund Burke that for evil to thrive, it is necessary for good men to do nothing. In this case, it was not evil but “political treachery”, and people like the members of the jury who exercise their franchise based on election promises, that were at issue.

The trial has heard extensive evidence of the Labour Party’s policies on water charges prior to the 2011 general election and the subsequent widespread political protests over the introduction of water charges.

“Scott Masterson did not sit back and let political treachery go unchecked,” she said. “We should all be grateful to Scott Masterson and the others here.”

She said she liked to think that when Mr Masterson’s little girls grew up, they would be able to look back at the legacy of someone with political principles that he was prepared to voice in a legitimate fashion. Mr Masterson was not prepared to do nothing in the face of empty political rhetoric. “Is he to be condemned for that?”

There was nothing unlawful about any of Mr Masterson’s acts on the day in question and the High Court has already ruled that legitimate peaceful protests do not become unlawful when they are infiltrated by others who engage in violence, she said.

Ms Lacey criticised how the events of the day in question in Jobstown were managed by the gardaí and said there was a complete lack of planning.

She said people planning a bank robbery would have put more planning into where to park the “getaway car” than had been with case with the car that was parked facing a church wall and which was to have taken Ms Burton and Ms O’Connell from Jobstown. She told the jury that the constitution protects the right of assembly and of expression and the State in all of its forms has to vigorously protect those rights.

“You the jury are now part of this,” she said.

Ms Lacey has completed her address.

The trial continues before Judge Melanie Greally in the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.