I have always been a committed and passionate advocate of the right of every citizen to peacefully protest.
As a garda, I policed many such protests over the years and – though there was confrontation in some instances – the right to demonstrate peacefully was sacrosanct and respected.
But let’s be clear. What occurred in Jobstown last November, when the Tanaiste’s car was blocked in on leaving an official engagement, did not constitute peaceful protest.
Joan Burton was effectively trapped in her car for two hours – forcibly detained, in the eyes of many people.
Burton’s car was surrounded by anti-water charge protesters on the day. Present at the scene was a fellow TD, Paul Murphy (inset).
Burton had also been hit by a water balloon during a separate incident on the same day.
It was subsequently reported that during the confusion some of the gardai policing the rally had their batons, pepper spray canisters and handcuffs taken by protesters.
All in all, it’s clear that the behaviour of a sizeable element of the protesters in Jobstown that day went way beyond the definition of peaceful protests and amounted to violent disorder, thuggery and criminality.
This week a number of those present at the protest, including Paul Murphy, were arrested and detained by the gardai.
They were questioned over the alleged false imprisonment of Burton and her staff. Murphy and three others arrested last Monday were later released without charge, with files to be sent to the DPP for direction.
It’s been claimed by their supporters that the arrests were politically motivated and designed to criminalise them and the anti-water charge campaign.
But this outpouring of righteous indignation by Paul Murphy and his supporters is shambolic.
They were all fully aware that a garda investigation had been ongoing for some months into the Jobstown incident and they must have expected arrest at any time.
It is utter nonsense for Murphy and others to hint that there was political interference in this garda matter.
The gardai were carrying out their duties as the law enforcement agency of this State. Elected personnel like Paul Murphy and others surely do not need reminding them that none of us are above the law.
But sometimes they appear to forget it.
MIT seems that Myleene Klass has caused uproar because she posted online about an email at her daughter’s school asking parents to contribute to a “class birthday gift”.
The former Hear’Say member shared on social media a group email sent on behalf of the parents of two girls, in which Klass and others were asked to chip in for a Kindle and a desk for her daughter’s schoolmates. She called the request “bonkers”.
The parents in question were apparently seeking a cash donation for their daughters’ birthday gifts – one was looking for a kindle and the other a desk.
Klass posted a mocking response to the two mothers, seeking donations for a live unicorn for her daughter and a Ferrari for herself. Such requests are, to my mind, laughable and only expose the sense of entitlement on the part of some parents.
As such, Myleene Klass should be commended for highlighting the ridiculous and extravagant demands. Surely a cake and a few bars of ‘happy birthday’ in the classroom is enough?
Health Minister Leo Varadkar is planning to introduce tough new measures to combat the sale of cheap alcohol in supermarkets and off licences.
These proposals are not new, of course. They have been on the back burner for the past six years.
When the new legislation comes in during the summer, the cheapest bottle of wine will potentially be €8.80 and a can of lager €2.20.
Will this reduce consumption? I’m no so sure.
Sadly, Ireland has a historic and ingrained unhealthy attitude to alcohol. Addiction counsellors, doctors and consultants will readily testify to the mayhem and carnage caused by this, not least those medical staff who work in the country’s emergency departments each weekend.
Much of this is caused by binge-drinking on the part of young and, indeed, no so young, people.
We are all too aware of the destruction caused to families and individuals by alcohol abuse.
Yet despite that, I don’t believe that outlawing cheap alcohol is the silver bullet that the Government believes it is. Quite simply those who abuse alcohol will not be deterred by this – binge drinkers and alcoholics will always find a way.
Instead this move on cheap alcohol will unfairly penalise the majority of ordinary people who enjoy a few beers or a glass of wine at the weekend.
Alcohol abuse in this country is a national scandal. But education, not increased taxation, is the way to tackle it.
One of the great legends of the sporting world, the iron man of national hunt racing, jockey AP McCoy has announced his imminent retirement from racing. The acknowledged master of national hunt racing, McCoy has been champion jockey 19 times and is regarded by most as the greatest national hunt jockey in the world. He’s earned his retirement.
A leopard never changes its spots. An old adversary of mine from my garda days, Jimmy Gantley, was given a five-year suspended sentence this week for demanding monies with menaces. Some years ago Jimmy vowed to give up crime and wrote a number of plays. So much for that – the lure of money proved too much, it seems.