Tuesday 26 March 2019

Review of Jobstown protest finds gardaí should have anticipated risk of major public disorder incident

Joan Burton
Joan Burton
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

Garda intelligence over the risk of a major public disorder incident that culminated in the former Tánaiste and her advisor being trapped in their car surrounded by demonstrators, was woefully lacking, senior garda management have conceded.

In its internal review of the infamous protest in Jobstown on November 15, 2014, An Garda Síochána said: "From the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that the risk of a serious outburst of public disorder was likely to occur around this time as demonstrated by the considerable number of public order incidents surrounding the installation of water meters in October and November 2014, coupled with the two specific incidents in the days immediately preceding this visit of the Tánaiste to Jobstown."

"These events should have increased the level of risk and been picked up by garda intelligence."

A summary of the internal review, released today, confirmed there was "no intelligence received prior to the event which suggested that any protest at this location on the 15th of November, 2014 was due to take place."

As a result, only a few gardai were deployed.

However, garda management found there was "little or no evidence to suggest that in the period leading up to this event any strategic assessment or overview was undertaken within An Garda Síochána as to the extent of public disquiet and the potential impact on public order and protection."

This was despite an escalating series of anti-water charge demonstrations in Dublin and across the country that drew tens of thousands of protesters as well as a number of public order incidents involving demonstrators and water meter installers.

They culminated in what gardai refer to as a "serious public order incident at An Cosan, Kiltalawn, Tallaght" in which former Tánaiste Joan Burton and her advisor Karen O'Connell were left trapped in their car for three hours surrounded by angry demonstrators after attending an event at a local college.

A number of people, including TD Paul Murphy were charged with false imprisonment but acquitted following a high-profile trial.

The review found the "policing response in this instance was a qualified success," noting that both Ms Burton and Ms O'Connell were "extricated from the protest without any physical injury."

It also noted that none of the protesters 'reported any physical injuries or lodged any complaint' against gardai.

"However, evidence would suggest that the event lacked strategic direction and various tactical options do not appear to have been explored," the report stated.

The review also found 'not all of the existing policies and procedures were followed to the letter' during the subsequent investigation into the incident. But it was nevertheless 'brought to a successful conclusion with a significant number of files submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions in an efficient and expeditious manner."

But "when set against the benchmark of court outcomes, it is questionable as to how successful this investigation actually was," the review found.

The review, which began more than three years ago, makes a number of recommendations to ensure that any  inkling of possible public disorder in the future is flagged earlier and that frontline gardai and managers have better training to deal with such incidents.

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