Garda stops journalists photographing ‘Slab’ Murphy at polling station

Associate of Murphy’s tells photographers not to take pictures outside Co Louth school

Thomas “Slab” Murphy outside the Criminal Courts of Justice. File photograph: Reuters

Thomas “Slab” Murphy outside the Criminal Courts of Justice. File photograph: Reuters

 

Photographers were prevented from taking photographs of Thomas “Slab” Murphy leaving a polling station in Hackbalscross, Co Louth, by a garda who told them they were interfering with the voting process.

An Irish Times photographer, as well as a photographer and reporter from a different newspaper, were waiting in separate cars for Murphy to arrive to cast his vote.

At 9.08am a car with four occupants, including Murphy in the passenger seat, pulled up outside Shelagh National School. As Murphy went into the polling station, one of the other occupants got out and approached the car in which the photographer and reporter were sitting.

He leaned against the passenger door and told them they could not take photographs. When the journalists told him they were just doing their jobs, the man replied that he was “just following orders”.

One of the journalists then pushed against the door to get out of the car. The photographers, who did not get a shot of Slab entering the polling station, lined up with the intention of photographing him as he left.

As they waited, a garda and an election official came out. The garda told the journalists to leave the area and said they were interfering with the voting process. The journalists protested that the area was a public place but the garda again said she wanted them to leave.

While this was taking place, the associate of Murphy’s who told journalists not to take photos was himself photographing the journalists and their cars.

A spokesman for An Garda Síochána said it would not be commenting on the incident and that any complaints concerning the conduct of a member of the force should be directed to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) called on An Garda Siochána to investigate.

Irish secretary Séamus Dooley said intimidation of photographers and reporters by associates of Mr Murphy was “an affront to democracy”.

“The NUJ deplores this attempt to intimidate journalists in the course of their work in reporting on a significant event,” Mr Dooley said.

“If Mr Murphy felt his rights were being violated he should have reported the matter to An Garda Siochána. The use of private handlers to try and control the media is unacceptable in a democracy.”

Mr Dooley said the attitude of the gardaí and the officialwere “a matter of concern” and he noted the individual taking photographs of the media “was not prevented from doing so by the gardaí”.

“ There was no evidence of interference in the balloting process. It is worth noting that the media is regularly granted access to polling booths to photograph party leaders and other public figures casting their ballot. In contrast photographers assembled in a public space today were prevented from taking photographs.”