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Murphy's disgraceful belated U-turn on Tallaght thuggery

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Paul Murphy, Anti-Austerity Alliance.

Paul Murphy, Anti-Austerity Alliance.

Paul Murphy, Anti-Austerity Alliance.

What a plonker newly elected TD Paul Murphy made of himself last weekend, by insisting what happened on the streets of Jobstown amounted to a peaceful protest'.

Anyone who objectively analyses the considerable amount of video footage or the photographs posted online can only conclude that it was anything but.

From pelting the Tanaiste with a water balloon, to barricading her in a car for three hours while chanting abusive taunts at her and those who tried to protect her, the line of peaceful protest was so far in the distance from where Murphy and his ilk found themselves as to be invisible.

It was shameful, and it exposed his naivety and poor judgement as a so-called leader of men.

I have known Paul Murphy since we were in college in UCD together a decade or so ago, and while we have differing political outlooks - to put it mildly - I have always had a sneaking regard for his tenacity and his ability.

But I was appalled at what happened last weekend, and, to my mind, he failed to show the kind of leadership demanded of great political figures. Maybe it was a rookie mistake, but a mistake it was.

As the news was breaking last Saturday, and it was clear Ms Burton was essentially a prisoner in a garda car, rather than try to seek to find a dignified and noble end to the protest, Murphy assumed the role of agitator-in-chief.

There he stood, megaphone in hand, talking about "letting her go" if the Garda Public Order Unit withdrew.

The use of the phrase "let her go" was significant and as it played out on the Six-One News on RTE you could sense thousands of people abandon the anti-water charges movement.

Rather than be in anyway downbeat as to what had happened, Murphy in an interview on the same programme smirked and looked well pleased with himself while pretending to the nation that what had happened was peaceful and acceptable.

For many this was their first real introduction to Murphy in a meaningful sense, and they were appalled at what they saw.

By the following afternoon, as the justified backlash against his role in the ugly scenes came thick and fast, Murphy then accused Joan Burton of lying and trying to demonise protesters by claiming they had tried to flip her car over.

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He also then went on to question the "heavy handedness" of gardai in their protection of Ms Burton and her officials, one of whom was said to have been badly bruised as a result of the scuffles.

While those thousands of people may not like how Joan Burton and her party have behaved in government, and they may not like the manner in which the water charges debacle has played out, but they want nothing to do with scenes akin to what happened last weekend.

Remember, it was the peaceful and noble march of more than 100,000 people on the streets of Dublin that forced the Government's U-turn on water charges, not the aggressive, violent and sickening actions of a small rabble who seek disorder and chaos, no matter what the cost.

It was the fear of losing middle Ireland, honest decent hard-working families, to the mob which caused the embarrassing climbdown.

Such anarchy as we have seen on the rise in recent weeks is unworthy of those who claim to be believers in democracy, which, as we all know, is the most fragile of things.

Rather than aid their cause, Murphy and co, in allowing such ugly scenes to play out, let Enda Kenny and his inept Coalition off the hook, and got people feeling sorry for them.

Murphy is the latest Dail young buck born with a silver spoon in his mouth to become an arch defender of the poor, coming in the wake of Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald and People Before Profit's TD Richard Boyd Barrett.

All private school educated southsiders who enjoyed privileged upbringings but are now in competition with each other, it seems, to be the voice of the working classes.

The only difference is that Murphy exudes a zeal which surpasses the other two.

It was his complete oppositionist stance against water charges in the face of Sinn Fein dithering that saw him surprisingly take the by-election seat vacated by the departure of Fine Gael junior minister Brian Hayes to Europe.

The cappuccino-drinking Goatstown native has made a name for himself everywhere he has gone since his college days in UCD.

There he single-handedly defeated the incumbent Students' Union leadership on a referendum to corporate-ise elements of the union's activities.

He was regularly mocked for his hard-Left leanings given his plummy accent and private school education.

With a posh accent that suggests he belongs alongside someone like Eoghan Murphy in Fine Gael, since as a young man ten years ago, he has railed and protested against the war in Iraq, the introduction of college fees, the Shell to Sea project, bin charges, the ongoing blockade of Gaza by Israel, the property tax and now water charges.

He insists his well-to-do accent is not a factor for his supporters in Dublin South West, who just want someone who will work hard for them.

Since then he has been a stand-in MEP but was rejected by the voters of Dublin last May, who plumped for Sinn Fein's Lynn Boylan and Nessa Childers instead.

But now a rising star in terms of Leinster House politics, Murphy's actions and comments will be under far tougher scrutiny, and his behaviour last weekend has made him a target for those who despise Left-wing politics.

At first glance, he has not coped well under pressure this weekend, and was forced to belatedly distance himself from the extreme elements in last weekend's thuggery. But it was all too little too late.

The anti-water charge movement knows that Jobstown did them great damage. Those neutrals who feel let down and betrayed by the Government are gutted because a promising new wave of people power has been thwarted somewhat.

While still in the early days of his career, Paul Murphy has a lot to learn.


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