Irish Republican News · February 21, 2015
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
More protests as activists are jailed


The jailing of five anti-austerity protestors has marked a further escalation in the 26 County government’s crackdown on political demonstrations against the water tax.

The imprisonments came after a series of raids last week in which teams of Gardai arrested dozens of Dubliners, including politicians, activists, youths and children.

On Thursday, Bernie Hughes, Derek Byrne and Michael Batty were each sentenced to 28 days in prison for contempt of court, while Paul Moore and Damien O’Neill were given 56 days each, also for contempt of court. The judgements related to charges that the five had breached court orders to protest at the installation of water meters.

Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy blamed the developments on Irish billionaire businessman Denis O’Brien, who has strong links to the current government and whose company was awarded the lucrative contract to install water meters.

As a direct result of the protests, installation of water meters has now drawn to a halt in areas of Dublin such as Donaghmede, Edenmore, Coolock, Crumlin and Rialto.

“The court has jailed these protestors at the behest of the Denis O’Brien... so that they can continue to try to impose water meters on communities which have risen up in peaceful protest against their installation,” Mr Murphy said.

“Once again, the courts have been used to attack the right of people to engage in peaceful protest. The attacks from the state on the campaign against water charges needs to be met with a significant response by the campaign and communities.”

The decision to jail the five, widely condemned by left-wing and republican groups, led to a spontaneous protest in Dublin city centre. A crowd estimated at 300 was involved in a march along Dublin’s northern quays and later from O’Connell Street to Mountjoy Prison. Protesters blocked traffic for some twenty minutes on O’Connell Bridge.

Quintin Radford, a father-of-four from Coolock, said he was acting in solidarity with the five people who were jailed.

“As far as I’m concerned, I believe the court ruling goes against the public’s right to protest peacefully,” he said.

“Some people would try and make the people who protest against water charges into some kind of villains. But we are not villains. I’m an engineer working to support by four children,” he said.

At Mountjoy there was chanting and singing as protest leaders said they wanted the prisoners to hear their support. Sara O’Rourke from Dublin said she was taking part in the protest to show solidarity with the people who were jailed.

“Two of the five people jailed today are being jailed for 56 days, it seems extreme,” she said. “The gardai and the Government want to scare people off protesting, it’s completely undemocratic.”

Terence Barry said he came to Dublin from Thurles in County Tipperary to show solidarity with the people who were jailed.

“This will only intensify the movement,” he said.

While criticising the court’s decision, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said the sit-down protest at O’Connell Bridge was “counterproductive and plays into the hands of the establishment”.

“No one should have to spend one night in jail because of their opposition to water charges. The resources dedicated to these arrests and the swiftness of the prosecutions stands in contrast to the failure to take legal proceedings against those who bankrupted the state,” he said.

But there were a small number of groups and individuals “whose actions have narrowed the appeal” of the anti-water-charges campaign.

“If the protests are to succeed, they must continue to include all of those opposed to water charging, must respect the rights of workers and must not inconvenience people. It must be about building support and not alienating citizens.”

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