Friday 21 October 2016

Philip Ryan: Water protest trial will make 'Posh Trot' a hero

Published 14/08/2015 | 02:30

Paul Murphy
Paul Murphy

The siege of Jobstown has become a pivotal event in the Coalition's lifetime in office. Tánaiste Joan Burton attended an adult education graduation ceremony at An Cosán College, based in Tallaght, Dublin, in November.

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It was an event centred on Labour's values of making society fairer and helping people make the most of their lives by bettering themselves through education.

Labour's press office should have put out a statement highlighting the achievements of those involved in the college. Perhaps a photo of Ms Burton with some of the students could have accompanied the press release.

But instead the lasting image of that day was a picture of Ms Burton's car surrounded by protesters while gardaí sought to defuse a situation that grew increasingly ugly as the day progressed. The anti-water charge protesters, who included Socialist TD Paul Murphy, stopped Ms Burton leaving the area for more than two hours.

Video footage later emerged of demonstrators tussling with gardaí and of Burton being pelted with a water balloon.

There were a couple of arrests on the day and plenty of commentary in the following weeks and months over whether it was a peaceful protest.

The Tánaiste did not think it was peaceful and gave a statement to gardaí at their request. Mr Murphy and more than 20 others were arrested and are now expected to be charged with false imprisonment and violent conduct.

No matter the outcome of the trial, Mr Murphy has all but guaranteed his return to parliament after the next General Election.

In Dublin South West - a constituency that takes in the largely working-class community of Tallaght - the well-spoken 'Trot' has become somewhat of a hero.

Until now, Labour shared this vote with Sinn Féin but as the recent by-election showed, support for the former is all but depleted and the latter's popularity has waned. To make matters worse Pat Rabbitte, Labour's only hope of a seat in the constituency, has quit.

Labour councillors Pamela Kearns and Mick Duff have been selected but face an uphill challenge.

There is also the prospect of Mr Murphy's trial taking place in the throes of the election. Ms Burton will be a key State witness and be forced to face her political opponent's legal team.

It is hard to imagine how this would play out well for the Tánaiste during an election campaign.

However, Mr Murphy will be on the national airwaves for days to come.

And, as other Trotskyites have proved, going before a judge and jury will do Mr Murphy no harm before he goes to the polls.

Irish Independent

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