Anti-water charge protest at Mountjoy Prison after five jailed

Socialist Party TD Paul Murphy says sentences an ‘attack on right to protest’

Anti-water charge protesters are marching in Dublin after five people opposed to the charges were jailed after being found to be in contempt of court.

Up to 200 people marched from O’Connell Street to Mountjoy Prison at about 6pm in response to the jail sentences.

They chanted "Enda (Kenny) in your ivory tower, this is what we call people power"; "Free the five and the Labour, blue shirts, Fianna Fáil, jail them all" and "can't pay, won't pay".

Protest leaders said they wanted the prisoners to hear their support.

Sara O’Rourke from Dublin said she was taking part in the protest to show solidarity with the people who were jailed.

“Two of the five people jailed today are being jailed for 56 days, it seems extreme,” she said. “The gardaí and the Government want to scare people off protesting, it’s completely undemocratic.”

Terence Barry said he came to Dublin from Thurles in Co Tipperary to "show solidarity" with the people who were jailed today.

“Today’s judgement has opened the gates of hell. This will only intensify the movement,” he said. “The anti-water charge movement has spread like wild fire. You could say they have done us a favour today by locking them up.”

Socialist Party TD Paul Murphy said the jailing of the protesters was an "attack on the right of communities to protest against the imposition of austerity measures".

“The attacks from the state on the campaign against water charges needs to be met with a significant response by the campaign and communities, the protest which has been organised against political policing following the Jobstown arrests on Saturday can be a response in opposition to these attacks,” he said.

People Before Profit TD Joan Collins said the sentences imposed on the protesters were severe.

“These sentences, taken in conjunction with the arrests of 29 people in Tallaght subsequent to a protest there last November, would seem to indicate a new departure in the attempts to vilify water charges protesters and weaken the mass opposition to these charges,” she said.

“It is extremely important that the right to engage in peaceful but effective protest is not undermined.”

Protester Sean Wilson Patrick blocked the traffic on Bachelors Walk by lying down on the road.

He said: “I’m here because of the people who were arrested for wrongdoing. They didn’t do anything wrong.”

Fellow protester Laurence Bize said the treatment of the water protesters was very different to those who were found to have avoided tax by using HSBC bank accounts in Switzerland.

“There was not a single charge taken. There was hundreds of millions taken from the Irish people yet not a single charge.”

Bernie Hughes, of McKelvey Avenue, Finglas; Michael Batty of Edenmore Avenue, Raheny; and Derek Byrne of Streamville Road, Donaghmede, were given sentences of 28 days at the High Court on Thursday.

Damien O'Neill of Greenwood Park in Coolock, and Paul Moore of Mount Olive Grove in Kilbarrack were both given sentences of 56 days.

Lawyers for GMC Sierra, the company which has a contract to install water meters around the country, had already secured injunctions preventing a number of individuals or anyone who had notice of the order from assaulting, intimidating or interfering with workers installing the meters.

Mr Justice Gilligan said the protests were being carefully organised and carried out by persons "whom I have found to have been in contempt" and were "designed to provoke civil disobedience," the judge said.

He distinguished their actions from the “many people in the country” who have carried out peaceful protests to the imposition of water charges.

Following the sentencing, a group of protesters began marching slowly in front of traffic from the court towards the GPO in the city centre. A demonstration is also planned for later this evening in support of the jailed protesters.