Sunday 20 May 2018

'Gardaí at Jobstown protest like Keystone Kops,' trial told

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy. Picture: Collins
Solidarity TD Paul Murphy. Picture: Collins

Jessica Magee

The trial of six men accused of falsely imprisoning former tánaiste Joan Burton has heard the root cause of an escalation in the protest had to be "laid firmly at the door of gardaí".

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy (34) and five other men have pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to falsely imprisoning Ms Burton and her adviser Karen O'Connell by restricting their personal liberty without consent at Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Tallaght, on November 15, 2014.

In his closing arguments, Raymond Comyn SC, defending Councillor Michael Murphy, questioned why gardaí had failed to try to engage and negotiate with the politicians and protesters earlier in order to defuse matters.

"Why was it left until everything had blown up? After that, the whole temperature increased exponentially, Aughrim was lost, any attempt to defuse matters was lost," he said.

Mr Comyn quoted an inspector at the scene who said he was "waiting for reinforcements to arrive" before making tactical decisions; he also described how gardaí ran in the wrong direction because they didn't know where they were needed.

"Gardaí were not briefed. What class of an operation is that?" he said. Every decision by gardaí on the day was "unwise and inappropriate", he added, comparing gardaí who attended to "the Keystone Kops".

Mr Comyn claimed there was "something rotten at the core of this investigation" because evidence given by gardaí was proved "demonstrably wrong" in court by video footage.

The video showed Cllr Murphy speaking through a loud hailer and warning against "argy-bargy", saying "this isn't what we came here for".

A woman in the video, who told the crowd she was from Killinarden in Tallaght, advocated keeping Ms Burton and her adviser there.

"The final irony...is that a man who promoted a solution to the problem is now before the court, while the lady who was promoting the problem hasn't even been identified or tracked down by gardaí," said Mr Comyn. He said Cllr Murphy had taken steps to restrain people from acting violently and had pulled some protesters back.

He said his client asked a man "hogging the megaphone" and chanting "shove your water meters up your a**" to desist.

Counsel for another of the accused, Cllr Kieran Mahon, also criticised what he described as "a series of misjudgments" and "tactical mistakes" by gardaí.

Kerida Naidoo SC said his client "didn't say boo to a goose all day" at the protest. He said he was a political representative and a political activist, he could not be described as a criminal.

"He didn't use force or threaten to use force on Ms Burton, her adviser, or any gardaí; he didn't use vile or threatening language; he didn't push or shove gardaí," he said.

"He didn't throw an egg, a balloon or any other missile."

Paul Murphy of Kingswood Heights, Tallaght; Kieran Mahon of Bolbrook Grove, Tallaght; Michael Murphy of Whitechurch Way, Ballyboden, Dublin; Frank Donaghy (71) of Alpine Rise, Tallaght; Michael Banks (46) of Brookview Green, Tallaght, and Scott Masterson (34) of Carrigmore Drive, Tallaght, all deny the charges.

The trial continues before Judge Melanie Greally.

Irish Independent

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