Jobstown political show trial opens in Dublin
Jobstown political show trial opens in Dublin


The trial of water-charge protestors accused of ‘falsely imprisoning’ former Labour leader and Tanaiste Joan Burton began this week as hundreds of supporters gathered near the court.

A rally at Smithfield Square heard from Brian Leeson from Eirigi, TDs Ruth Coppinger and Brid Smith, Cllr Pat Dunne and MEP Lidia Senra.

The trial of socialist TD Paul Murphy and six other water protesters got underway with the seven defendants having their charges read to them, of falsely imprisoning Joan Burton and her assistant by ‘denying her personal liberty without her consent’. The charges stem from a political demonstration in 2014, when a heavily policed sit-down protest blocked Ms Burton’s car. All seven responded to the charges by pleading not guilty.

The main issue of the first day in court was the issue of jury selection, as prosecutors incredibly sought to ban people from Jobstown and Tallaght, people connected to Tallaght, people who had been involved in water charges groups or campaigns, and people who had commented on social media about water charges.

The former Labour leader, whose actions precipitated a collapse in support for her party, was questioned on the impact of the austerity policies which were implemented by her Fine Gael/Labour coalition government. The court heard in detail about the level of public anger at Ms Burton and her involvement in the introduction of water charges.

The defence put it to Burton that her party had been ‘wiped out’ and ‘destroyed’ because they had betrayed people. She replied by defending their record and her own record personally, but accepted only that there was a ‘perception’ that they had broken promises.

There was disbelief in the courtroom as she told the court “I’m one of the people who succeed James Connolly as leader of the Labour Party..and I carry on his ideas”. The former Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton added that “you wonder in times like that where this hate is coming from”.

A response posted on the eirigi Facebook page said: “If Connolly’s ideas of a just society included thousands of homeless, both children and adults, people going hungry, housing crises, casualisation of work, vilification of trade unionism, police corruption, the giveaway of our natural resources, the exportation of Irish people like cattle, then the Labour Party and Joan Burton have hit the nail on the head.”

Sinn Fein TD Dessie Ellis has said that it was ridiculous that the trial has reached this stage and that people are being prosecuted for engaging in legitimate protest.

Speaking after attending the court, the Dublin North West TD said: “I cannot believe that it has come to this where people are being tried for legitimate protest and the state now seeks to brand them as criminals and possibly imprison them.

“To trump up the charge to false imprisonment seems ludicrous and diminishes that very serious charge. Strict controls on who was eligible for jury selection only further demonstrate the level of paranoia with which the state views the anti-water charges movement. To say that having expressed an opinion on water charges on social media would impact on the ability of a juror to impartially determine the guilt or innocence of someone accused of the crime of false imprisonment goes against the essence of a fair trial.

“The seven defendants deserve, first and foremost, a trial before a jury of their peers and they most certainly do not deserve a charge of false imprisonment, one which in this case carries a possible life sentence is too far a step entirely.”

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