A 26 County police team led by the Garda Commissioner’s husband has been secretly spying on water charge protesters amid further allegations of political policing of left-wing TDs.
The special investigation unit - that operates under the codename ‘Operation Mizen’ - has spent six months monitoring the protesters, compiling profiles and gathering intelligence on their whereabouts, according to a leaked report in the Daily Mail.
Investigating officers are said to be closely monitoring social media and tracking the organising of the water charge protests and its leaders. Dossiers on many of the ‘ringleaders’ of the protests have been compiled.
Operation Mizen is currently just Dublin-focused but it is expected to be upgraded to a national operation.
Anti-Austerity Alliance TDs Paul Murphy, Joe Higgins and Ruth Coppinger have written a letter to Fitzgerald, calling on her to make an immediate public statement on the issue.
“This is a most serious development and raises fundamental questions as to the interference of the Garda in the political life of the State.”
In a related action, the small left-wing political party has been refused a permit to collect money by the Gardai, ostensibly because of its involvement in protests which led to public disorder.
In a letter to the party explaining the ban, Garda Chief Supt Orla McPartlin referred to a section of the Street and House to House Collection Act 1962.
“The collection permit has been refused because I believe that the proceeds of the collection or a portion thereof would be used to facilitate protests sponsored by the Anti Austerity Alliance.
“I believe any further protests within my division would see further public order offences being committed.”
Mr Murphy said it was further proof of “blatant political policing”.
He said the ban is related to one infamous anti-water charge protests in Jobstown, Dublin, in which Tanaiste Joan Burton claimed she was illegally detained in her car for more than two hours.
Mr Murphy said it had also been leaked to the media this week that 27 people would be charged over the Jobstown protest.
“Bear in mind that nobody has been charged yet over Jobstown, never mind convicted. Innocent until proven guilty - unless you’re trying to build an anti-austerity movement to end the rule of the 1 per cent?” he wrote.
“We will be appealing this blatant political policing all the way through the courts.”
SIT-DOWN PROTESTS ‘OUTLAWED’
Deputy Murphy said the reported charges are extremely serious.
“If anybody was found guilty of false imprisonment, it would likely result in a significant prison sentence,” he said.
“It would mean that a traditional form of non-violent civil disobedience, namely a sit-down protest, has somehow become defined as false imprisonment.
“That is an attack on everybody’s right to protest. I don’t believe that the sit-down protest and slow march that I participated in were false imprisonment and I will be pleading not guilty.”
Burton’s Labour Party are the ones in the wrong, he said.
“Jobstown is innocent - it is guilty only of protesting against Labour’s austerity. It is the Labour Party which is guilty of betraying working class communities like Jobstown across the country.”