PAUL Murphy is innocent.
He got a fair trial from his peers, was acquitted by them, and found not guilty of all charges that he faced.
He was tried over nine weeks and let us remember, too, the tab for his legal defence was picked up by the taxpayer, despite him being paid a salary of €89,965.
But his behaviour in the Dáil on Wednesday at Leaders’ Questions was once again reprehensible and his refusal to accept any responsibility for the vile events on the day of the Jobstown protest show why he is unfit for office.
Despite his victory, during very heated exchanges with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, he saw fit to stray into conspiracy theory land and accuse members of An Garda Síochána of committing perjury.
“The Taoiseach has to decide what all of that means. I know what I think it means. I think it means that numerous gardaí lied under oath. I think that they did so in a coordinated way. That implies an agreement to commit perjury,” he barbed.
Having been warned repeatedly by Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl that he was out of order by attempting to review the trial, Mr Murphy ignored him and cried foul at this attempted ‘conspiracy’.
“One garda misremembering this under oath would be an unfortunate error. Two gardaí remembering the same words that were not said would be an incredible, almost unbelievable, coincidence, but three gardaí — the Taoiseach should tell me what he thinks that means. Add to that the garda who swore under oath that he had seen me directing protesters where to stand.
“When confronted with video evidence proving that I was not directing anybody and he could not have seen me in any case, he responded, ‘I stand over my statement’.
“Add to that the superintendent who, in his written statement, claimed that as a consequence of what I had said on the megaphone, people became more aggressive and missiles began to be thrown.”
Amid interruptions, he attempted to continue. “The deputies might not agree with the call for a public inquiry. Fianna Fáil, in particular, might be nervous about these points being raised but something very serious happened in court and there is a public interest in a public inquiry. I am asking for a public inquiry if the Ceann Comhairle will let me finish the point,” Mr Murphy continued.
At which point, the Taoiseach took to his feet to respond. It was the sort of response that his supporters flagged during the leadership race, as to what he is capable of.
Speaking without a script, he went for the jugular and landed a heavy blow on the posh populist prince of the poor.
He said: “The deputy had a fair trial. It went on for nine weeks. The deputy’s peers heard both sides of the case, the prosecution, and the defence. They reviewed the evidence and they acquitted him of false imprisonment. You are not a victim here. You are not the victim of any conspiracy.
“You had a fair trial and you were acquitted, but that does not mean that your behaviour was right.
“It may well be the case that the deputy was not engaged in kidnapping, but it was thuggery and your behaviour was wrong,” he said to loud cries of ‘hear, hear’ from the benches behind him.
“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, whether it was the anger, the virulence, the words that were being directed at two women going about their course of work on the day, a water balloon being thrown in somebody’s face, all of those things were behaviour that is unbecoming of a member of this House, unbecoming of somebody who believes in democracy, and unbecoming of somebody who has any respect for other human beings.
“Instead of trying to present himself as the victim and demanding a public inquiry, what the deputy should do now in the House is offer a public apology to Deputy Burton and Ms O’Connell [Ms Burton’s adviser].”
While they were not audible during the noisy exchanges, Mr Varadkar’s comments were instantly denounced by Mr Murphy and his comrades.
According to the official Dáil record, Deputy Ruth Coppinger described Mr Varadkar’s charge of thuggery as “outrageous”.
Deputy Mick Barry added: “It is a disgraceful comment.”
Ms Coppinger is also recorded as saying the word ‘traitor’ while the Taoiseach was attempting to speak.
It was a very important exchange from the Taoiseach’s point of view and it showed a sign as to why he is fit to lead.
For as loud as the cheers were on the backbenches when he described Mr Murphy’s actions as thuggish, they were equally loud through the length and breadth of this country.
In that moment, the Taoiseach spoke as a leader of the majority of the people of Ireland who were appalled at what they saw in Jobstown in late 2014.
This is evidenced by the fact that politicians from all sides of the House, other than the hard left, have commented on how their constituents found the Taoiseach strongly echoed their views on the ugly scenes in South-West Dublin. In his final reply to Mr Murphy, the Taoiseach gave vent to the very legitimate concerns as to why the trial was not successful.
“As the head of Government, I have a legitimate concern about any failed prosecution, whether it is that prosecution or the prosecution of Mr Seán FitzPatrick or others. Enormous cost goes into such prosecutions. Enormous effort goes into such prosecutions, and at the very least, if a prosecution fails in this way, there should be a review or an examination of the facts. That is something that should occur,” he said.
The failure of the two trials mentioned by the Taoiseach are cause for concern and do raise questions for gardaí, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and, in the FitzPatrick case, it raises major issues for the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.
But Mr Murphy, having had a fair trial, sought to do the most unfair thing by trying to convict three members of An Garda Síochána in the court of public opinion, on the floor of the Dáil, where the officers had no opportunity to respond.
He has been unapologetically defiant in the aftermath of the trial and his spat with the Taoiseach.
At a doorstep later that day on the Summer Economic Statement, Mr Murphy was asked whether he would give an apology to Ms Burton and Ms O’Connell.
“I have nothing to apologise for,” came the response.
He is now set to lodge a formal complaint claiming that Mr Varadkar and ministers Charlie Flanagan and Mary Mitchell O’Connor defamed him during a heated Dáil exchange.
In a letter sent to the Ceann Comhairle, Mr Murphy will claim Mr Varadkar’s accusation that events at the Jobstown protest amounted to “thuggery” broke Oireachtas rules.
Mr Murphy has alleged that the Taoiseach’s description of the demonstration suggests he was involved in ‘anger’, ‘swear words’ and throwing a water balloon.
“These are false allegations, which are defamatory,” he writes.
It would appear Mr Murphy wishes one sets of rules for him and a different set for everyone else.
The Irish people, however, aren’t buying it.