Confessions, defiance and Labour-bashing as the left comes together

Eamon Dunphy and Paul Murphy call for united left in wake of Jobstown trial

"First of all a confession: I was once a member of the PDs," Eamon Dunphy told a rally in Dublin's Tivoli Theatre on Sunday.

It was a strange opening to a crowd of left-wing activists celebrating the acquittal last week of six men accused of falsely imprisoning then tánaiste Joan Burton and her adviser in Jobstown in 2014.

“And I also worked for Fine Gael when Garret FitzGerald was leader,” the broadcaster continued.

The audience responded with lighthearted jeers. These turned to laughter and applause when he added: “The first thing you have to do is get rid of the Labour Party, because dumb as I am, I never went there, guys.”

Dunphy joined a diverse group of speakers including artist Robert Ballagh and Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six to celebrate the acquittal of the Jobstown protesters and to call for a united left movement that doesn't include Labour.

“People like me who strayed away looking for answers elsewhere can find them among their own people in their own working-class movement,” Dunphy said.

The remarks from Dunphy, who voted for Fianna Fáil in the last general election, summed up a hatred in the room for Labour, which was matched only by the ill-feeling expressed towards the media, particularly The Irish Times and RTÉ.

Solidarity County Councillor Brian Leech read a poem he wrote immortalising the moment when gardaí pulled Solidarity TD Paul Murphy's top off during the protest in an attempt to move him out of the way of the tánaiste's car.

"Joan Burton herself, and she such a prude, seeing Paul Murphy sitting there half in the nude."

Other verses had lines about Burton’s daughter Aoife (“appalled she was glaring, with a face as long as Bunreacht na hÉireann”) and Judge Melanie Greally (“all touchy and feely”).

There was more poetry and even some music, but this wasn’t just a celebration; it was an opportunity to recruit.

“We’re unapologetic about this: we want to build the left and we want to build Solidarity,” TD Ruth Coppinger told the packed room as sign-up sheets were passed around.

Back in their boxes

Gail O’Rorke, who was acquitted in 2015 of helping her chronically ill friend Bernadette Forde take her own life, told the audience that she signed up as a member of Solidarity only last week.

She had been at the Jobstown protests and compared her prosecution to last week’s trial, “which was an attempt to stop the working-class people in their tracks and put them back in their boxes” with the help of “their best friends in the mainstream media”.

Calls for left unity were echoed by Algeria Hawkins, a Black Lives Matter activist, who appeared via video link from New York. Hawkins told the audience that working people of the world need an alternative to “the Wall Street agenda” and “the parties of big business”.

The loudest cheers of the afternoon were reserved for Murphy who, after repeating the criticisms of the mainstream media and the establishment parties, ended on a militant note.

“I want to make them pay for what they did to us, the defendants, and to the people of Jobstown,” he said. “The best way to make them pay is to make their fears a reality. To build a left that is capable of challenging and ultimately ending their power.”