Monday 19 March 2018

Gardaí made 'unwise and inappropriate' decisions at water charges protest, trial hears

Paul Murphy TD, arriving at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. Photo: Collins Courts.
Paul Murphy TD, arriving at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. Photo: Collins Courts.

Jessica Magee

The trial of six men accused of falsely imprisoning the former Tánaiste Joan Burton has heard that 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 to the jury Raymond Comyn SC, defending Councillor Michael Murphy, questioned why gardaí had failed to try engage and negotiate with the politicians and protestors earlier in order to diffuse matters, before the anger of the crowd increased rapidly.

“Why was it left until everything had blown up? After that, the whole temperature increased exponentially, Aughrim was lost, any attempt to diffuse 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.

“The gardaí were not briefed. What class of an operation is that?” he said. He said every decision made by gardaí on the day was “unwise and inappropriate”, comparing gardaí who attended the protest to “the Keystone Cops”.

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. He said he was “very critical” of gardaí for not finding “crucial” YouTube footage uncovered by Cllr Murphy,

The video in question showed Cllr Murphy speaking through a loud hailer, proposing to move the protest on and warning against “argy-bargy”, saying “this isn’t what we came here for”.

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

“The final 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.

Mr Comyn pointed out that Cllr Murphy had actually taken steps to restrain people from acting violently and had pulled some protesters back from the jeep.

He said his client had also asked a man who was “hogging the megaphone” and chanting “Shove your water meters up your a**” to desist.

And, he said that although Cllr Murphy did bang on the garda jeep, he was doing so at a time when the jeep was moving as a warning to the driver who could not see the people sitting down in front of it.

Mr Comyn endorsed a comment made by his client when interviewed by gardaí: “the videos speak for themselves,” telling the jury that were it not for the footage, this would be an “utterly different” case.

Counsel for another of the accused, Cllr Kieran Mahon, also criticised what he described as “a series of misjudgements” and “tactical mistakes” by gardaí on the day.

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 and was never accused of violent disorder.

“He didn't use force or threaten to use force on Ms Burton, her advisor, or any member of the gardaí; he didn't use vile or threatening language; he didn't push or shove gardaí.

“He didn't throw an egg, a balloon or any other missile, he didn't have a water metre hidden down his trousers,” said Mr Naidoo.

Mr Naidoo said that there were eleven other people still facing trial and that nine of those were charged with both false imprisonment and violent disorder.

“It was the violent disorder that put the two women in fear, and it was because of the fear that they didn't get out of the car. And he (Cllr Mahon) is not responsible for that,” he said.

Mr Naidoo played a number of video segments to the jury, including one showing Cllr Mahon walking away from the crowd that was beginning to gather around the garda car containing Ms Burton and Ms O'Connell.

Further videos showed Cllr Mahon at the periphery of the crowd, moving in the opposite direction of the crowd, and sitting down for about five minutes until gardaí pulled him up.

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 have all denied the charges.

The trial continues before Judge Melanie Greally.

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