Jobstown case: a Garda own goal
A more fruitful course for Paul Murphy would have been to immediately make a complaint to GSOC
Paul Murphy TD said the decision by the DPP to abandon the trials would strengthen calls for an inquiry into the Garda investigation of the protest in Jobstown. Photograph: Dave Meehan
The dropping of criminal action against the remaining Jobstown water charge protesters represents a pragmatic response by the Director of Public Prosecutions to altered circumstances. Last July, a trial judge told a jury to accept video evidence over that given by senior gardaí about what happened during the protest. So, when verdicts of “not guilty” were returned against the six defendants on charges of false imprisonment and violent disorder, the remaining cases were fatally undermined.
Garda handling of the water charge protest at Jobstown was inept. At the same time, former tánaiste Joan Burton and her assistant were treated abominably
The episode raises numerous questions. Why was the “nuclear option” chosen – and by whom – in preferring criminal charges that carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, when a range of public order offences were more appropriate? Did Garda witnesses come under pressure to embellish their recollections of what happened? And what was the outcome of the later Garda review?
The case has attracted and held media attention because of the involvement of Solidarity TD Paul Murphy. Having won a Dáil seat because of his opposition to water charges, he treated the court case as useful ammunition in developing a political base. Following acquittal, he complained in the Dáil about a Garda conspiracy to commit perjury and demanded a public inquiry. A more fruitful course would have been to immediately make a complaint to the Garda Ombudsman Commission, which has the power to seize documents and question police officers.
It should never have come to this. Garda handling of the water charge protest at Jobstown was inept. At the same time, former tánaiste Joan Burton and her assistant were treated abominably: threatened, abused and spat at by some within an angry crowd and prevented from leaving. Garda reinforcements had such little effect in securing her freedom that an internal review of organisational practices, policies and other issues was ordered. That loss of face may go some way towards explaining the subsequent dawn raids at the homes of defendants. It represents another own goal: confidence in Garda impartiality has been damaged.