Tuesday 16 January 2018

'You're no victim' - Varadkar rails against Murphy

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy. Photo: Collins Courts
Solidarity TD Paul Murphy. Photo: Collins Courts
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy has insisted he has nothing to apologise for in the wake of a Dáil bust-up with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar over events at the Jobstown water protest.

The two politicians clashed as Mr Murphy used Dáil privilege to claim "numerous gardaí lied under oath in a co-ordinated way" during his trial for falsely imprisoning former Tánaiste Joan Burton.

His remarks are being reviewed by the Ceann Comhairle to see if they should be struck from the record - but Mr Murphy said he would not be retracting them.

During a heated exchange, Mr Varadkar accused the Dublin South West TD of being "quite threatening" in his contributions, telling him: "You are not a victim here. You are not the victim of any conspiracy. You got a fair trial. You were acquitted but that doesn't mean your behaviour was right."

Mr Murphy has argued a public inquiry should be established into evidence given by gardaí during his nine-week trial to probe if there was "an agreement to commit perjury".

In her charge to the jury during the trial, Judge Melanie Greally noted there were discrepancies between some of the Garda evidence and video footage. She advised the footage be treated as the principal evidence, as it was not subject to "human frailties".

The trial heard Ms Burton and her assistant Karen O'Connell were trapped in Jobstown for three hours during the protest in November 2014 - but Mr Murphy and his five co-accused were acquitted.

Cheered on by his Fine Gael colleagues and some TDs from other parties yesterday, an unscripted Mr Varadkar said: "It may well be the case that you were not involved in kidnapping but it was thuggery and your behaviour was wrong. The protest was ugly, it was violent, it was nasty.

"For those of us who have seen some of the coverage of it that was broadcast on television... the anger, the virulence, the words that were directed at two women going about their work, a water balloon being thrown in somebody's face.

"All of those things are unbecoming of a member of this House. Unbecoming somebody who believes in democracy and unbecoming of anybody who has any respect for other human beings."

And Mr Varadkar called on Mr Murphy to stop trying to present himself as a victim and instead "offer an apology to Deputy Burton".

Last night, Mr Murphy said the Taoiseach's attack was "quite disgraceful" given he had been found innocent.

"It's my belief we would have been found not guilty of any charge brought against us because our defence relied on the right to protest," he said, adding: "I have no apology to make whatsoever."

However, the association that represents rank-and-file gardaí criticised any suggestion that members of the force lied under oath.

Spokesman for the Garda Representation Association (GRA) John O'Keeffe told the Irish Independent: "The GRA are crystal clear with regard to the Jobstown case.

"No GRA member lies on oath in a court of law. More specifically, no GRA member who gave evidence in Jobstown lied on oath, yet they are being vilified in certain parts of the court of political opinion. The frontline gardaí in the district gave evidence to the very best of their professional ability, without fear or favour to any party. Above all, they were truthful.

"The GRA will not be politicised. We will not be party to any extra judicial commentary or analysis on this - or on any case. Nor will the GRA be sidelined or distracted by politics, which is never our concern."

Meanwhile, Ms Burton broke her silence on the case to praise gardaí for their "enormous achievement" in ensuring nobody was injured at the protest.

"I think in terms of restrained, traditional policing, it was an enormous achievement of the gardaí. Particularly in a situation where there were small children mixed in with the people who were involved in the demonstration," she said.

However, Ms Burton also suggested she had concerns about the trial, saying she had not heard from the DPP since the trial. "Until we get greater clarity on that I won't be saying anything."

Irish Independent

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