Jobstown trial: Paul Murphy praises ‘really good’ jury
Solidarity TD says Joan Burton tried to ‘criminalise a working class community’
Defendants in the Jobstown trial (left to right) Michael Banks, Ken Purcell, Paul Murphy TD and Scott Masterson leave the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court after being found not guilty on charges of the false imprisonment. Photograph: Collins Courts
Solidarity TD Paul Murphy said former Labour leader Joan Burton had attempted to “criminalise a working class community” when he addressed media and supporters outside court after the not guilty verdict.
He and five others had faced charges of the false imprisonment of Ms Burton and her then assistant Karen O’Connell, during a water charges protest on November 15th, 2014, on the Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Tallaght, Dublin.
Mr Murphy said what had happened in court had been “disgusting” and he estimated millions of euro had been spent trying to “criminalise sit down protest”.
The charges were an attempt to “cut across” the resurgence of the left and to pre-emptively “strike off at the legs” a broad section of the left and the working class people who were getting organised. It was an attempt to “put people back in their box”.
He said the accused had “won this because of the campaign we had outside of court as well as inside of court”, and because they had had “a really good jury”.
Another of the accused, Michael Banks, said the unanimous verdicts meant that they were “one hundred per cent not guilty”. The verdicts were a “victory for the Jobstown Not Guilty campaign”.
He said the men walked free from the court proven to be protesters and not criminals after a case that had tried to portray protesters as “kidnappers”. It was an attempt to “criminalise the largest movement of people power in decades.”
Meanwhile, the Labour party released a statement noting the verdict of the jury.
“The investigation of any criminal matter, and the conduct of any associated prosecution, is decided by An Garda Síochána and the law officers of the State who operate with complete independence from the political system,” the statement said.
“As we have been all along, the Labour Party remains resolutely focussed on our central tasks of holding the Government to account, and campaigning for decency, justice and equality in society,” it continued.
Independent4Change TD Joan Collins hailed the verdict as “a victory for the ability to peacefully protest”.
She said it would come as a great relief to those who were accused and to their families and friends. She described the charges as “ridiculous”.
Ms Collins said the role of the gardaí should come under scrutiny “ given their actions in the policing on the day, investigation and trial”.
She called on Ms Burton and Independent Minister Katherine Zappone, who also gave evidence in the trial, to “retire from public life and office immediately”.
The Workers’ Party welcomed the verdict, saying the case should never have gone to trial. Party representative Seamus McDonagh said the verdict exposed the “intense vitriol which was unleashed” on anti-water charge activists across the country.
“In a sense it was the entire anti-water charge and anti-austerity movement which was on trial and that...has blown back in the face of the Government and the establishment today. The verdict is a victory of democracy and a massive defeat for the establishment as a whole”.