Sunday 24 September 2017

Former Tánaiste denies hearing many political slogans at Jobstown protest

Former Tanaiste, Joan Burton TD, arrives at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court this morning to give evidence in the trial of 7 men charged with the false imprisonment of her and her adviser at a water protest in Jobstown. Pic Collins Courts
Former Tanaiste, Joan Burton TD, arrives at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court this morning to give evidence in the trial of 7 men charged with the false imprisonment of her and her adviser at a water protest in Jobstown. Pic Collins Courts
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Former Tánaiste Joan Burton has said she did not hear many political slogans being shouted during the anti-water charges protest in which she and an advisor were trapped in garda vehicles.

Ms Burton told a court it was difficult to hear much of what was being said apart from abusive comments being directed towards her during the incident in Jobstown, Tallaght, Dublin on November 15, 2014.

The Dublin West TD said that when people were shouting and roaring it was the curses and bad language that tended to stand out.

“You wonder at times like this where the hate is coming from,” said Ms Burton.

She described being cold, hungry and thirsty in the back of a garda car and of wondering what would happen if she needed to go to the toilet.

Ms Burton was being cross examined during her second day in the stand at the trial of Solidarity TD Paul Murphy and six other men for the false imprisonment of her and Ms O’Connell.

Defendant in the Jobstown trial, Paul Murphy TD (34) of Kingswood Heights, Tallaght, arrives at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court this morning. Pic Collins Courts
Defendant in the Jobstown trial, Paul Murphy TD (34) of Kingswood Heights, Tallaght, arrives at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court this morning. Pic Collins Courts

All seven defendants deny the charges.

Responding to questioning from Padraig Dwyer SC, for one of the accused, Frank Donaghy, as to what political slogans she had heard, Ms Burton said she heard the words “peaceful protest” being shouted through a megaphone while she and advisor Karen O’Connell were trapped in a car.

The former Labour Party also heard people saying “shame on you” during an earlier flashpoint when she said she was struck on the head by something like a ball and “a water bomb”.

Much of Mr Dwyer’s questioning focused on political issues and the attitude of many people to the Labour Party following its period in coalition government with Fine Gael, which involved in the implementation of severe austerity measures.

Asked by Mr Dwyer if she accepted large sections of Irish society were angry at what they perceived as treachery by Labour, Ms Burton said: “Not exactly”.

She went on to say a large number of people were positive towards her at the time because the country was in recovery.

Pressed further, she admitted: “The response to me was mixed”.

She said Labour’s support fell in the polls and that the party had been targeted by people trying to destroy it and social democracy.

“There was a worldwide phenomenon among populist politicians to destroy social democracy,” she said.

Ms Burton accepted Labour was badly damaged, but said this had occurred while it was “trying to rescue the country”.

Mr Dwyer put it to her that Labour had suffered its greatest defeat in 104 years in the 2016 General Election, going from 37 TDs to just seven.

He said the reason for this was the public perception that Labour had broken the promises the party made ahead of the previous election.

Ms Burton denied the party had broken promises.

“We were in a very difficult position,” she said.

“No party could promise to reverse what happened in the collapse.

“The Labour Party wasn’t in a position to promise that.

“The Labour Party promised it would be able to mitigate anything that happened in future.”

She said the first two budgets of the coalition government were “very difficult because we were fully in the Troika programme”.

She said the two budgets which followed were “expansionary” and certain cutbacks, such as the abolition of the social welfare Christmas bonus, were reversed.

The case continues at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

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