Irish Republican News · February 9, 2015
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Protests spread following arrest of anti-austerity TD


The arrest of anti-austerity TD Paul Murphy and three other left-wing activists in early morning raids has led to angry protests at Garda police stations across Dublin.

Mr Murphy and the three others have been accused of “imprisoning” Labour Party leader Joan Burton when they held a sit-down protest in front of the Tanaiste’s car in Jobstown, Dublin in November.

The manner of the arrests, in which the four activists were handled as serious criminals, has shocked the anti-water-charge campaign in Ireland. The timing of the operation also appeared designed to gain maximum publicity.

Fellow Socialist TDs have accused the Gardai of engaging in “political policing” with an arrest operation that was “way over the top”.

Socialist TD Ruth Coppinger says the arrests would mobilise more people against the water charge, while colleague Joe Higgins said the arrest is a clear attempt to smear the anti-water charges movement.

“It’s quite outrageous. Six gardai called to Paul’s house this morning at 7 o’clock and arrested him without warning,” Mr Higgins said.

Speaking immediately after the arrests, Mr Higgins said the action had been “an orchestrated attempt to damage the anti-water charges campaign. It won’t succeed. It’s complete overkill and it’s in contrast to how some other luminaries have been treated.”

He warned that Mr Murphy had been singled out for special attention following his recent by-election success in Dublin South-West. Speaking at a press conference later, Mr Higgins said numerous activists and local people had been interviewed and investigating gardai had “constantly inquired” about Mr Murphy’s connection with the Jobstown events.

“Paul Murphy in particular told me he has never been approached by the gardai, asked for a statement, questioned, interviewed in any way whatsoever since the protests in Tallaght three months ago,” Mr Higgins said.

“So the question for me that the Labour Party has to answer in particular is why this type of heavy-handed political policing, how outrageous that is, at the same time that Labour Party TDs and Ministers routinely break the solemn promises they made to the electorate.”

Mr Higgins said it was “outrageous” that anti-water charges activists should be “taken from their beds” by gardai early this morning. Mr Murphy continues to be held at Terenure Garda station, although the three others are now understood to have been released.

“This is completely over the top political policing,” Mr Higgins said. “The government should answer for it. The Labour Party should answer for it.”

He said the anti-water charges campaign would be renewed and intensified. He described water charges as an “odious and hated tax” that people would not accept.

Mr Higgins also said a section of the press had an agenda to try to “smear” the entire anti-water charges movement. Recent headlines in the Sunday Independent and other news media referred to an “attack on democracy”, and related the Jobstown protest to another at which 26-County President Michael D. Higgins was controversially branded a “midget” by shouting protestors.

At the same press conference in Dublin city centre today, Socialist Party TD Ruth Coppinger warned at the aggressive policing of the anti-water charges movement in general. She said people were “dismayed” that “hordes of gardai” could be found to attend water charges protests.

Ms Coppinger said people were peacefully protesting against water charges. She said her reading of events after viewing social media was that the arrests had “rebounded completely”.

“Where is this investigation coming from? Direct orders from the Government via the Department of Justice may or may not be the case but it is more likely that the Garda have decided to exaggerate and trump up the events of November 15 last year to help the government who are on the back foot on the water charges.

“On November 15 a small protest in Jobstown was swelled spontaneously when word went round that Tanaiste Joan Burton was in the area.

“This resulted in the delaying of the Tanaiste for a couple of hours as people made clear to her their opposition to water charges and her attacks on the community as Minister for Social Welfare.

“This was a strong but peaceful protest. The AAA people arrested today did not organise the protest but participated in it and helped ensure that the community could make their point but also that it remained peaceful.

“It is ironic that on the day, at the time, on the ground, the local police recognised the role that they played and even thanked Paul Murphy.”

Agriculture and Defence Minister Simon Coveney rejected the claims of political policing.

“If someone is trapped in their car for a few hours because people are banging on the windows and kicking the doors, well then the guards will take action and I think that is what is happening here,” he said.

Sinn Fein TD Sean Crowe said he was disturbed at media reports of the arrest of Mr Murphy and others.

He said the people involved were “clearly no flight risk” and argued Garda interviews could have been arranged at “any reasonable and mutually convenient time”.

Mr Crowe said Garda resources had to be directed at tackling burglaries, the intimidation of vulnerable residents and drug crime.

“In my opinion the timing and manner of these arrests are designed to get maximum negative media coverage.”

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