It is now past time that the charade called “peaceful protest” was described for what it really is: an anarchic campaign being fomented by extreme left-wing factions across the country to undermine democratic politics.
Preventing ordinary workers from doing their lawful work of installing water meters in the public water system on public roads and public footpaths is not peaceful protest. Barricading the same workers in their vans is not peaceful protest.
Setting fire to water department vehicles is not peaceful protest. Seeking to prevent various Government Ministers from going about their routine political business up and down the land is not peaceful protest.
And barricading the Tánaiste in her car for two hours, and striking her with a water-filled balloon, is not peaceful protest.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines anarchy as "a state of disorder due to absence or non-recognition of authority". It's an accurate description of what lies behind these activities, and of the deliberate and sustained defiance of the law of the land, the physical harassment and barracking of Ministers, and the ongoing attempts to undermine the Garda force by taunting and aggressive behaviour.
Many thousands of people opposed to water charges have engaged in peaceful protest – participating in marches, carrying banners and shouting their slogans. And with good reason, bearing in mind the total shambles that was
Mark 1. But, as Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has made clear, the Government has listened, and clearly Irish Water Mark 2 will be a very different proposition, which can rightly be claimed by the thousands of genuinely peaceful demonstrators to be their victory.
However, it is already clear that the usual suspects in the personages of extreme left- wing TDs and some trade union leaders have no intention of calling off their militant campaign and will seek to continue blocking public roads and footpaths, confronting Government politicians, and challenging the Garda as it seeks to keep law and order.
Once the full terms of the new water charges regime are unveiled this week, a line has to be drawn between upholding the law of the land of this country and the creeping anarchy being fomented by a tiny minority. Furthermore, the weasel bluff and bluster of the campaign leaders around the country needs to be robustly challenged and illegal activities stopped.
It is also time that some broadcasters moved beyond their ping-pong presentation of these events, and stopped according a moral and political equivalence to both sides in this national confrontation.
Given the rampant law- breaking and thuggery many of these “peaceful protesters” are engaged in, why are some broadcasters so readily accepting of their Pontius Pilate-like reaction to last Saturday’s events in west Tallaght? Why are politicians and trade union leaders who pretend to see nothing wrong with those events, and to characterise them as a legitimate expression of local community anger, allowed to get away with such specious arguments?
They have also made arguments that Joan Burton had no right to be in west Tallaght last Saturday, although she is the deputy prime minister of this country and was responding to an invitation to participate in a degree-awarding ceremony.
And there have been claims that the Garda Síochána “could have got her out of there”, implying – unbelievably – that the two-hour blockade was their fault!
Already the hypocritical shibboleth of “police brutality” has been raised, as the protest leaders around the country, armed with their iPhones and iPads, meticulously record any possible mis-step by the same harassed gardaí who are holding the line between thuggery and lawfulness.
And what happens if somebody is seriously injured, or worse, on one of these “peaceful protests”? Well we know the well-rehearsed lines from the campaign leaders will be that the Government and the Garda are to blame, blah, blah. It is also worth stating, in the wake of serious criticism of various Garda procedures by the Garda Inspectorate, that we should acknowledge the heroic work done by gardaí up and down the country managing and containing the various law-breaking campaigns.
Before some tragedy does happen, it is important that the genesis of this ongoing campaign of unlawful behaviour is spelled out by Government, supported by all our politicians. The silent majority of citizens of this State are entitled to reassurance from Government that once Irish Water Mark 2 is unveiled, the ongoing anarchy being perpetrated by the leadership of the protest campaign will not be tolerated further.
Stephen O’Byrnes is a communications and political consultant