Chants of “No way, we won’t pay!” echoed through Jobstown, Tallaght on the 15th of November 2014. On this cold winter evening, a community protest took place that saw hundreds of “fucking dregs” (according to Karen O’Connell) rally against years of cruel austerity. After several broken promises from the Labour Party, (ie; the vow to not introduce water-charges if elected in the next General Election three years prior. However, less than six months after Labour’s successful election to government, it was announced that water-charges would indeed be introduced.) the working class people of Jobstown had had enough. On this infamous day, the people of Jobstown participated in a peaceful protest against water-charges.
Remember remember the 15th of November
On the day in question, Joan Burton (of the Labour Party) was attending an event in the Jobstown community. Many residents, as well as Solidarity representatives, took part in the demonstration. The protesters engaged in a sit-down demonstration in front of Burton’s car. During this two hour long protest, roughly one hundred members of the Irish police force (Garda Síochána) accumulated. After Solidarity TD, Paul Murphy was roughly handled by police and stripped half naked, it was eventually decided by the protest organisers and the Gardaí that the protesters would slow-march Burton’s car out of the area. However, Gardaí decided this method was too time consuming and so Burton and her associate were transferred to another vehicle and whisked away.
In early 2015, several people who took part in this protest were arrested for false imprisonment (a kidnapping charge.) After two and a half years, the trial finally began in 2017. At the end of the eight week trial, the defendants of Jobstown were found not guilty by the jury. (However, a seventeen year old boy was previously found guilty and the fate of eleven other defendants is still at risk.)
It is no secret that the trial against the Jobstown defendants was a direct target on not only the working class community, but also the rising left. The attempts to vilify the defendants failed as the jury was shown video evidence which conflicted with witness statements from the Irish police force. Many members of the Gardaí gave their testimony of what happened on the day of the protest. A Garda Superintendent (the most senior on the day), a Garda Inspector, and the Garda Sergeant, all claimed in court that Paul Murphy asked, in relation to Joan Burton, “will we keep her here all night?” The severity of this allegation was vital in the attempt to smear the defendants, as the intent of this statement would have been to restrict Burton’s liberty, which qualifies as false imprisonment.
However, in consequence of video evidence, this statement was found to be untrue. So how was it, that 3 members of the Gardaí all claim to have heard the same sentence? A sentence that was never spoken? An innocent coincidence? Or a malicious conspiracy?
In the written statement of the Superintendent, he said that Murphy was leading the chants and as a result of these chants, the crowd was encouraged to become animated and aggressive as sticks and stones were thrown at the Gardaí. This was an attempt to present Murphy as criminally responsible for the actions of a few people, who were mostly standing at the side watching, and not directly involved in the protest.
But why would the Establishment engage in such a stitch-up, just to frame a few people? Fear. The Establishment is aware that the atmosphere in Ireland is changing. They are bitterly displeased with the fact that people power forced their hand to suspend the water charges. The ruling elite are used to the compliant nature of the Irish. Therefore, upon seeing mass nationwide demonstrations, organised by ordinary people, that oppose the cruel hardships of the Establishment, they knew that they could not allow Irish citizens to upset the status quo. Thus, the Establishment jumped at the opportunity to make an example out of Jobstown. They wanted to send a clear message to the rest of the country. They used scare tactics by attempting to convict members of a working class community. They tried to criminalise peaceful protests by twisting it as false imprisonment. And lastly, they attempted to silence the rising left, prominently Solidarity who represent everything the Establishment does not; working class people, women, migrants, travelers etc.
Not the first Garda Scandal
Do not be fooled. This is by no means the first time the Gardaí have come under fire for corrupt procedures. However, it may be the first time that you have heard of it, due to the impact the social media presence #JobstownNotGuilty has had.
Operation Mizen is a unit with the Garda Síochána, that exists to monitor protesters, compiling profiles and gathering intelligence on their whereabouts. Murphy is understood to be among those profiled. The existence of Operation Mizen was confirmed by Frances Fitzgerald in the Dáil. Furthermore, Nóirín O’Sullivan, current Commissioner of the Garda Síochána, claimed that she was “confident and satisfied the appropriate legislation is at all times enforced” when questioned on the issue of whether or not left-winged TDs’ phones have been tapped. This is not only highly likely, but a highly illegal invasion of privacy. This does not inspire confidence in the Irish police force.
A public inquiry
Paul Murphy has now called for a public inquiry into the false statements that were given in the trial. Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar expressed his concern about how Garda statements conflicted with video evidence in regards to the trial. However Varadkar does not see the need for a public inquiry. Instead he believes that people should trust the Gardaí. Varadkar believes that the police should investigate this matter. Of course, there is no logic in trusting the institution of the Garda Síochán to investigate themselves on such a serious matter.
We must demand not only a public inquiry, but for the charges that still hang over the remaining 11 defendants to be dropped, as well as the 17 year old boys sentence to be overturned. Sign the petition now.