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Tánaiste to be key witness in trial of TD Paul Murphy


Tanaiste Joan Burton

Tanaiste Joan Burton

Tanaiste Joan Burton

Tánaiste Joan Burton is to be a key witness when socialist TD Paul Murphy and more than 20 other water protesters face trial.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has decided to bring charges against 23 people who were involved in a protest last November that saw Ms Burton trapped in a car for nearly two hours.

They will face a variety of charges, including false imprisonment and criminal damage.

The Irish Independent understands that Mr Murphy will be among those brought to court within the next 10 days. Two Anti-Austerity Alliance councillors, Kieran Murphy and Mick Murphy, will also face charges.

Ms Burton and members of her staff who were at the protest will have to take the stand if, as seems extremely likely, the case goes to trial in the Circuit Court.

A source close to the Labour Party leader said last night that the she was unaware of the impending developments in the investigation and the news had come "out of the blue".

Ms Burton met with gardaí for more than an hour in the days after the demonstration to give what she described at the time as her "version of events as they unfolded".

She has also said previously that during the protest Paul Murphy "was ecstatic - grinning from ear to ear, like a child".

The Tánaiste's adviser, Karen O'Connell, who was pushed and jostled during the chaotic scenes in Jobstown, is also likely to be called as a witness.

Earlier this year, 40 people were arrested in relation to the protest, leading to accusations of "political policing".

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However, Ms Burton's spokesperson refused to comment last night, saying that the gardaí and DPP "function independently".

Paul Murphy told the Irish Independent last night that the move is "a serious attack on civil liberties and the right to protest. I don't believe I or others committed false imprisonment, I reject that in its entirety," he said.

He also spoke on Morning Ireland on RTE this morning: "The first we heard of the charges was when it appeared on the 9 O'Clock news, I am disappointed that it was leaked to multiple crime correspondents."

"It is absolutely farcical to suggest that false imprisonment took place. It stretches the definition of false imprisonment beyond all recognition."

"This is clearly an attack on the right to protest."

"What we have seen is political policing. It was an attack on the socialist movement. It's draconian."

"I don't believe the gardai did their job. The dawn raids were not the norm. Gardai contacted me afterwards and said it should have been arrest by appointment."

"I do not believe that anyone should face charges for delaying the Tanaiste in her car for a few hours."

"Irish Water has been a disaster for the government, now what we are seeing is an attempt to criminalise protest."

"People should not be intimidated, the next major demonstration is scheduled for August 29 and I urge people to get out there."

"Joan Burton is absolutely hated in Jobstown."

"The people of Jobstown have risen up against the Labour party, a party that would have previously been very popular in the area."

"There is a clear political context to this."

The decision to charge protesters was made last weekend. Some will now be arrested and brought to court, while others will receive a summons or be asked to appear at a garda station by appointment.

Worryingly for the Tánaiste, the timeframe for these types of cases coming before the Circuit Court for trial means that it could happen early next year, when she expects to be fighting the General Election.

Councillor Mick Murphy said that he was "prepared to fight" and "let the law take its course".

"They arrested us before, but we weren't expecting this. It's hard to see where this is going but it sounds like an own-goal decision for the Government."

Among those arrested in a series of swoops last February were juveniles and a number of women.

Ms Burton was attending a graduation ceremony at Cosan College in Jobstown when a group of up to 1,000 protesters gathered outside the college.

Video footage emerged showing the Tánaiste being hit by a water balloon and being forced to sit in a car for nearly two hours as up to 100 protesters blocked the road. She was eventually transferred to a different car by gardaí before she managed to leave the area.

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