Friday 26 May 2017

Court finding in Joan Burton’s 'false imprisonment' case means the end of 'peaceful protest' – Dáil told

Deputy Paul Murphy is warned not to prejudice potential appeal

Joan Burton Photo: Tom Burke
Joan Burton Photo: Tom Burke
John Downing

John Downing

THE conviction of a 17-year-old man for false imprisonment risks undermining all citizens’ rights to peaceful protest, Anti Austerity Alliance TD, Paul Murphy, has told the Dáil.

Mr Murphy challenged the Taoiseach to explain how the right to protest can be maintained after the outcome of last week’s trial. He said farmers blocking meat factory gates in protest about cattle prices, and students engaged in sit-down protests, could now be deemed guilty of “false imprisonment.”

The Dáil’s Leas-Cheann Comhairle, Pat “The Cope” Gallagher, several times warned Deputy Murphy that it was long-standing practice not to impede court cases which could proceed to an appeal.

“You cannot unilaterally change the custom and practice of this House,” the deputy Dáil chairman warned. He urged Deputy Murphy to avoid the specifics of the case and confine remarks to general policy.

But Mr Murphy again referred to the case of the young man  convicted of false imprisonment of then-Tánaiste, Joan Burton, last Friday in relation to an anti-water charge demonstration in Tallaght in 2014. He said the youngster had not engaged in violence.

“He was protesting – not kidnapping,” Deputy Murphy insisted.

The Taoiseach said it was the judges’ job to independently interpret the law and the young man in question did not have a conviction recorded against him. “Peaceful protest in this country has always been permissible and will continue to be permissible,” Mr Kenny insisted.

But the Taoiseach said there was a difference between peaceful protest and impeding people, who are going about their lawful business, by blocking a road.

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