DPP may seek to change Paul Murphy’s bail conditions over protest rally

Concerns over TD and co-defendants making public comments prior to trial

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy said a “gag” would significantly impinge on their freedom  to speak and their right to protest. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy said a “gag” would significantly impinge on their freedom to speak and their right to protest. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Seven people, including Solidarity TD Paul Murphy, who are charged with the false imprisonment of former tánaiste Joan Burton, have been told their bail conditions may be changed to stop them taking part in a protest rally on Saturday.

The seven face charges alleging they falsely imprisoned Ms Burton and her assistant Karen O’Connell during a water charges protest in Jobstown, Dublin, nearly two years ago.

At a court hearing today the Director of Public Prosecutions may seek to extend the bail conditions to prevent Mr Murphy and his co-defendants from making further public comment ahead of the trial.

The rally has been organised by a collection of trade unionists, including Jimmy Kelly of Unite.

Some 120 have signed a letter arguing the false imprisonment charges will have a chilling effect on future public protests.

The individuals are drawn from a wide range of unions – albeit many of them are identifiably left-wing – and they have called on colleagues to attend the rally. Mr Murphy, who represents Dublin South West, is listed as one of the speakers as is Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six; Senator Frances Black; Eamon Dunphy (via video link); and Mr Murphy’s co-defendant, Scott Masterson.

Protest

As a press conference yesterday, Mr Kelly said the organisers of the rally were saying that “people should have to have the right to protest. [Politicians] should expect a protest about an issue that is relevant in the locality.”

Mr Kelly said the implications of the trial was what was really important as it would lead to a clampdown on public protests by “dragging people through the court”.

Is is understood the DPP has written to lawyers for the seven defendants raising concerns about their possible participation at the rally on Saturday, and at another rally planned for around the time of the trial in late April.

An application might be made to extend the terms of the bail conditions to prevent the defendants from making public comment, including on social media, ahead of the trial.

The DPP could argue that the sub judice rule is not being observed and that adverse public comments and claims of a “miscarriage of justice” might influence the public and a jury and impact on the integrity of the trial process.

Prosecution

Asked about the possible extension of the bail conditions at the press conference, Mr Murphy said it that their lawyers would say such a “gag” would significantly impinge on their freedom or right to speak and their right to protest.

“If the judge were to agree with the prosecution and expand the bail conditions to stop us speaking out about miscarriages of justice, the other defendants and I will not sign the bail conditions and will be put into prison,” he said.

Asked about the sub judice rule, Mr Murphy said the rally was not an attempt to interfere with the administration of justice but a public information campaign. He stated that everybody should have a right to protest.

Carmel Gates of Northern Ireland Public Sector Alliance said those who signed the letter were very clear that it is the beginning of the end of the right to protest.

“It is an attempt to silence those and to silence politicians who speak out against the Government,” she said.

The organisers also complained that The Irish Times had refused to publish a letter outlining its views.