By Patrick Brogan
There are numerous themes and subplots that came together before, during and after the Paul Murphy and the rest of the Jobstown 7, later dropped to 6, trial. We all now know the outcome. People have also made up their minds up about whether it was a peaceful protest or if it was more violent than that. I’m not a barrister and I’m not going to try to convince you one way or the other because it’s irrelevant what I think and the matter has already been decided. However, there are a number of issues that I would like to bring your attention to that need to be addressed.
Firstly, everybody, regardless of who they are, should be entitled to a fair trial. Is this possible if the police force in a country are perjuring themselves? The judge in this case, Judge Melanie Greally, instructed the jury to ignore the evidence given by Gardaí under oath. She blamed human flaws for the bad memory. Was there something more going on here, though? Accusations of a witch hunt and a political stitch-up have been mentioned. It is certainly only natural to ask the question when we look at the over the top manner they were arrested and the other news involving the Gardaí doing the rounds at the moment.
The Disclosures Tribunal is looking at the possibility Sgt Maurice McCabe was accused of sexual assault to tarnish his reputation and kill off any complaints he had against the Gardaí. He is not the only whistleblower of course. Then there is the issue of Templemore’s troubling accounting situation and even the EU is looking into the funding that was spent on entertainment rather than educational purposes. Also, Eve Doherty, a garda based in Dublin, is on trial charged with harassing a State solicitor. Either it is very unlucky at the moment or we have a corrupt police force in dire need of reform in this country.
Another important issue not being addressed, and the media are especially guilty of this, is why people were protesting in the first place. Let’s say you take the Leo Varadkar line on this and think the protest was an act of thuggery, surely you would have to question why these people were so angry in the first place. Labour is supposed to be the party of the working class. They have gone very far away from this. People were angry over austerity measures that, let’s be frank about this, put peoples’ lives at risk. There is a lack democratic process in this country, too. We elect politicians to the Dáil and no have no say over what they do, apparently on our behalf, for five years. Combine these two and you get some sort of the frustration felt by people. Does this justify throwing water balloons at people? No, of course not.
There does appear to be a class issue going on here. Politicians don’t understand people from Jobstown. Nor Crumlin, Finglas, Tallaght, Ballymun or Inchicore. Not that there is a lot to understand. They don’t want, nor do they have the ability, to pay for bankers’ mistakes. It’s as simple as that. Sections of Leinster House just don’t care. Karen O’ Connell’s comment that these were “fucking dregs” may give us a brief insight into how the political class view people from working class areas. Although, this could easily put in the heat of the moment category. Look at how the media portray this compared to a movement made up primarily of pretty, white middle-class, young women. If only there was such a group to draw on to make that comparison.
Regardless of what side you fall on, there are a number of inconsistencies that need to be addressed. The credibility of the Gardaí is in tatters and gets worse by the day. Whether they are acting out of malice or not will eventually be revealed, but their numerous errors in how they handle things mean we should question all their actions and possible motives. Then there is the media role. If they honestly feel the protest was aggressive then surely they must explain where this aggression comes from.
Personally, I feel this issue is more complex than is reported on. The protest was chaotic, to say the least. Was this because it was of a feral nature or more down to its sporadic gathering? Certainly, some elements of this protest, and other anti-Irish Water protests, acted in a rough manner. But, this is only a tiny fraction of those that took to the streets. This is should not tarnish the entire movement. People have a right to protest and if some sinister elements abuse this, should it be taken away from everyone else? Obviously not. Governments all over the world have abused power to quash movements and people they are uncomfortable with, this has happened in Ireland, too. We should at the very least not rule out it happened in this scenario and have an inquiry. Political ideology, left or right, should not prevent us questioning those in power.
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