Saturday 20 January 2018

'My late mother came back to me and gave me strength' - Joan Burton breaks silence on Jobstown trial

'An experience I wouldn't like anybody to have to go through'

Former tánaiste Joan Burton. Photo: Collins Courts
Former tánaiste Joan Burton. Photo: Collins Courts

Kathy Armstrong and Shane Phelan

Former Tanaiste Joan Burton has broken her silence on the Jobstown trial, saying her late mother "came back" to her during the high-profile court case.

Deputy Burton said that being trapped in a car with her then-advisor Karen O'Connell during a water charges protest in Jobstown, Dublin in November 2014 will stay with her forever.

In the week that the Director of Public Prosecutions dropped all charges against the remaining defendants for falsely imprisoning the two women, former Labour Party leader Burton gave a candid interview about the "intimidating" trial.

Speaking on Today With Sean O'Rourke on RTE Radio One, Ms Burton said: "It was an experience I wouldn't like anyone to go through.

"I think for myself and Karen those three hours of people banging on the car will remain with us always...

"The trial took a terrible toll on my family and friends, I found the atmosphere in the courtroom quite intimidating.

"Worse was that in the run up to the trial there was an enormous campaign on social media, and we are going to have to look at social media in the context of trials.

"If the evidence I was giving related to some kind of personal sexual assault that would be incredibly difficult."

Read More: Charges dropped against remaining Jobstown defendants

Ms Burton said that online abuse is something that needs to be addressed.

She said: "I do think, there's evidence of this - not just in Ireland but around the world - that trolling on social media can be just horrific, you don't want to hear some of the stuff that was said.

"To be perfectly honest in another era we would have called this kind of stuff hate speech.

"It was so discriminatory, so hateful and so destructive that it can't be healthy for the people writing it, it's certainly not healthy for our society or the people who happen upon it."

The Dublin West representative took particular issue with being questioned about her attendance at a demonstration against the Vietnam War in 1968.

She said: "There were very eminent barristers doing their jobs but I don't know what part of their job is to ask me about where I was in 1968 when I was a teenager, asking what I was doing.

"I was a teenager, I was on a scholarship in UCD and working in places like Dunnes at the weekend.

Witness Karen O'Connell pictured arriving to the Jobstown trial. Photo: Collins Courts
Witness Karen O'Connell pictured arriving to the Jobstown trial. Photo: Collins Courts

"It was the year my mother was very ill with cancer and I feel like she was almost there with me in court.

"There were these very learned gentlemen in court - I think there might have been one woman - and in a way I felt my mother come back to me and I got strength from that."

Read More: Insult to associate 'working class' with foul-mouthed protesters

Ms Burton had been in Jobstown on November 15 2014 to attend a graduation ceremony at An Cosán Education Centre.

Following the ceremony Ms Burton and Ms O'Connell were delayed in a garda jeep outside of the building for three hours, when the vehicle was surrounded by anti-water charges protesters.

The vehicle was slowly able to move up the Fortunestown Road, where the two women were able to run to waiting garda cars.

She said that she does not want those events to overshadows the achievements of the people of Jobstown.

She said: "I know Jobstown, I have friends who live there, I don't want children in Jobstown growing up with a name attached to a very hardworking part of Dublin and their potential at school or socially being limited...

"People in Jobstown are in need of and are entitled to respect, I was there because of a graduation.

Paddy Hill (centre) of the Birmingham Six and founder of the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation with Jobstown defendants (from the left) Kieran Mahon, Michael Murphy, Paul Murphy and Frank Donaghy at a rally yesterday. Picture: Collins
Paddy Hill (centre) of the Birmingham Six and founder of the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation with Jobstown defendants (from the left) Kieran Mahon, Michael Murphy, Paul Murphy and Frank Donaghy at a rally yesterday. Picture: Collins

"We need to focus on the real things - the bravery of the guards, the achievements of the people graduating that day and we need to celebrate them."

Following a high-profile trial, six people, including Solidarity TD Paul Murphy were acquitted in July of falsely imprisoning Ms Burton and Ms O'Connell.

Charges against a seventh man were withdrawn during the trial.

The verdicts came after a nine-week trial during which evidence from a number of witnesses was at times contradicted by video footage.

Seven more people had been due to go on trial on October 2 on charges of false imprisonment and violent disorder.

Four others had also been due to go on trial over their involvement in the protest at a later date.

However, letters from the Office of the DPP, received by solicitors for the remaining defendants, stated the charges are to be withdrawn.

A solicitor involved in the case confirmed that a nolle prosequi, or formal notice of the abandonment of the prosecution, would entered.

The withdrawal of the charges will not become official until October 2.

All of the defendants are currently remanded on bail.

The only person to have been convicted in connection with the protest is a teenager who was tried in the Children’s Court and found guilty of false imprisonment.

Online Editors

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News