Politicians, rights campaigners, and commentators have joined forces to raise concern about the so-called Jobstown trial, claiming the court case is the “criminalising of political protest”.
Several protestors, including TD Paul Murphy, will stand trial on April 24 and are accused of false imprisonment of Labour TD Joan Burton at an anti-water protest in Jobstown, Dublin, two years ago.
Sports pundit Eamon Dunphy yesterday joined others opposing the jury trial going ahead and noted his concerns about a court last year finding guilty one youngster who was at the protest.
“It’s the criminalising of political protest,” said Mt Dunphy as a public awareness campaign was launched by activists. “That’s particularly bad in the case of a boy, a kid, 15 years old at the time. It looks like political policing and it’s alien to democracy anywhere.”
Mr Murphy and six others will stand trial for their actions at the 2014 protest, at which Ms Burton and her then-assistant Karen O’Connell claim they were falsely imprisoned in a car for over two hours.
Members of the Rossport Five, who were previously jailed for 94 days for blocking gas pipeline works in Mayo, attended the launch yesterday, as did former MEP Patricia McKenna. The campaign is being supported by Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six, by musicians and artists such as Don Baker and Robert Ballagh and international figures such as US intellectual Noam Chomsky.
Former Socialist TD Joe Higgins said previous political figures had been subjected to protest such as Charles Haughey, whose car had been blocked from leaving an event in the 1980s.
Ms McKenna said those before the court were facing a “serious criminal charge”. The trial could affect future protests, she claimed.
“This is a clear message to people: ‘Stay at home or you are going to be levelled with a serious charge,’ ” she said.
Mr Murphy said that if he was sentenced to six months in jail or more, he would be barred from being a TD.
“People will find their right to protest extremely reduced... we are the victims of political policing,” said the Dublin South West TD. He said his defence, and that of others, would rely on an EU convention guaranteeing right to freedom of assembly.
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