Monday 22 January 2018

Ruth Coppinger: 'My dogs of war comment was too highbrow for Dail colleagues'

12/2/15 Ruth Coppinger speaks to Anti-Water Charges protesters outside the Department of Justice, Dublin, protesting against the arrest of protesters earlier this week by the Gardai. Picture:Arthur Carron
12/2/15 Ruth Coppinger speaks to Anti-Water Charges protesters outside the Department of Justice, Dublin, protesting against the arrest of protesters earlier this week by the Gardai. Picture:Arthur Carron

Robin Schiller

Socialist TD Ruth Coppinger has defended her Dail comments labelling gardai involved in the arrest of people who took part in the controversial Jobstown protest last year as “dogs”.

Tonight at a protest against this week’s arrests at the Department of Justice, she said her remarks were perhaps too “highbrow” for her Dail colleagues.

Ms Coppinger is currently facing a Dail probe over the comments.

Approximately 200 demonstrators stood outside the St Stephen’s Green department tonight against what is being described as “political policing”.

Roads were closed to facilitate the demonstration, while Anti Austerity Alliance (AAA) TD Brian Leech acted as MC.

Around six gardai guarded the doors of the department while others kept watch from across the street, but the protest remained peaceful and good spirited.

Ms Coppinger was today accused of comparing gardai involved in the Jobstown investigation as “dogs”, sparking furious accusations from government TDs that she was showing complete disrespect to members of the force.

However Ms Coppinger denied her comments by describing them as a comparison of Shakespearian literature while suggesting that her analogy was too “high brow” for other TDs.

Read More: Ruth Coppinger accused of describing gardai in Jobstown arrests as 'dogs'

“Today I compared the terror campaign unleashed on the working class community of Jobstown to the dogs of war that were unleashed in the play Julius Cesar by William Shakespeare. Perhaps that was too high brow for TDs in the Dail. Obviously they chose to seize on the word dog as if I was targeting all of the gardai as dogs,” she said.

“This distracted from the real issue which is men, women and now children being arrested by large numbers of gardai, that is the issue,” she added.

Ms Coppinger also questioned Joan Burton’s “political vanity”, describing it as “fragile “and “precious” which leads her to rule a “repressive regime”.

A further five people, including two teenagers were arrested this morning in relation to the Jobstown protests.

All five were released without charge, but one of the individuals was re-arrested on a separate incident relating back to 2011 and will appear before court next month.

Read More: Five men arrested as part of ongoing investigation into Joan Burton anti-water charge protest

The arrests bring to 17 the total number of people detained in connection with an investigation into a protest in Jobstown last November.

At the protest, demonstrators surrounded the car of Tanaiste Joan Burton as she attended a graduation ceremony in the area, leaving her trapped in her vehicle for several hours.

A water balloon was also thrown at her during the incident, while missiles were launched at gardai.

Also attacked during the protest was the principal of the An Cosan school which Ms Burton was attending.

The principal had her necklace ripped off her and was spat at as she walked alongside the Tanaiste.

Among those detained on the first day of arrests was AAA TD Paul Murphy, who was held on Monday for several hours and upon his release stated “I didn’t think the Government would be stupid enough to arrest me”.

Attending tonight's protest ,Mr Murphy described the government’s approach to the situation as “a serious attack on people’s democratic right”.

“It’s become more and more serious, you have more arrests being made every day and it has become a potential turning point,” the TD told the Herald.

“If we don’t resist what’s going on then the Government establishes the fact that it can go after people for engaging in peaceful protesting and things like a sit down protest which is a serious attack on peoples’ democratic rights,” he added.

Although Mr Murphy does not believe that the “political policing” will stop, he does feel the importance in citizens voicing their discontent.

“This is what this protest is about, to demand an end to political policing which is what it is plain and simple.

“I’d most likely say that the arrests will continue but it’s good in any case to make a statement. An injury to one is an injury to all and if the arrests continue we’ll consider a protester on a larger scale, maybe Saturday week,” Mr Murphy said.

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