News Gene Kerrigan

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Snatched from his people, he stood against oppression

Future historians will view the Day They Jailed John Waters as an event on a par with the 1916 Rising, says Gene Kerrigan

Published 08/09/2013 | 05:00

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Freedom fighter: Journalist John Waters, prior to his arrest, outside Dun Laoghaire garda station

These are, indeed, stirring times. We're marking the centenaries of the great events of the early 20th Century – the Lockout, the Rising, the War of Independence, the First Dail. But we're also fashioning the stirring moments that will define our own time. And we can be assured that a hundred years from now our descendants will be commemorating the historic hours of last Tuesday, September 3, 2013 – the Day They Jailed John Waters.

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Snatched from amongst his own people, cast into what he called "frightening" circumstances in Wheatfield Prison – John stood alone in defence of liberty. Let us lay down the historic facts, so that the revisionist historians of future generations will not be able to blur the reality of these seminal events.

Back in 2010, John went to the Dun Laoghaire branch of Marks & Spencer, to purchase some tasty goods. On parking his car, John duly paid €2 for one hour's parking. He returned to his car at some unspecified time, with his tasty goods, to find that a ticket had been slapped on the car a mere 16 minutes after John's paid-for hour expired.

John ignored the ticket. He went to court and was fined €40, with a day in jail in lieu of payment. Seventeen followers picketed the court that day. One of them carried a placard that said, "Sixteen Minute Hits Not On".

As John wrote on Friday: "We are all of us, all the time, oppressed by the kind of power exercised, ostensibly at least, in the name of organising society and holding it together." Parking regulations and the like.

John, taking a stand against oppression, told the judge he wouldn't pay the fine. "She ignored me", he told Morning Ireland last Wednesday.

He told The Sunday Independent in February 2011 he was ready to go to jail to protest against this "tyranny". He said the parking regulations were, "destroying social life. If I meet someone I can't start a conversation for fear of being fined. It is destroying social interaction".

John's rejection of the right of the State to curb our freedom to park where we like, when we like and for as long as we like, is founded in the right-wing distrust of State power, the State's urge to meddle in the life of the individual – what some call "the nanny state". This is complicated by John's belief that liberals and feminists have degraded the morality and freedoms our ancestors took for granted.

He insists on "the freedom of individuals to live their lives". If someone is "having a coffee with a friend they shouldn't be stressed by the idea that the State is going to be plundering them", via parking fines.

Eventually, the cops came looking for John. This is where I must confess to some disappointment. I looked forward to the day when John would hole up in his home, doors and windows nailed shut, shouting defiance: "Come and get me, copper!" According to The Irish Times, John "presented himself to Dun Laoghaire garda station in south Co Dublin this morning after going to the station by arrangement with gardai."

After two hours in the pokey, John was on his way home, via the radio studio of another right-wing advocate of freedom, George Hook, who concluded that "the draconian regime of parking... it's outrageous!"

John told George: "Dun Laoghaire has been crucified." He told Morning Ireland the next day that the Marks & Spencer shop has since closed "thanks to the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown county council's aggressive parking policies".

If those parking policies closed the shop, they must indeed be extremely aggressive, given that on the same day they also closed M&S branches as far away as Tallaght, Naas and Mullingar. Others might think that six years of austerity policies have something to do with the condition of the retail trade. But that's left-wing bias.

We may have bigger class sizes, fewer hospital resources; countless extra levies and charges; safety nets cut loose; cancer patients without medical cards; special needs cuts; carer respite cuts; disability cuts; students and pensioners hit; home help cutbacks; autistic kids deprived; threats to steal €8m from the wages of Dublin Bus drivers – but, thank God, the fightback begins here, with John and George and their followers, insisting on the right not to hurry back to your car.

Sunday Independent

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