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Irish state fails in bid to frame community activists for false imprisonment
ireland / britain | community struggles | news report Friday June 30, 2017 23:27 by Various - Workers Soldiarity Movement
Jobstown Not Guilty verdict exposes Garda, Labour and class rule
Six men were on trial accused of falsely imprisoning the then Tanáiste (deputy Prime Minister) and Labour Party TD, Joan Burton, and her colleague in Jobstown, a working class suburb of Dublin, on 15 November 2014. The charge of false imprisonment carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. All six men claimed that they were exercising their right to protest, and that the protest was peaceful. This was part of a mass campaign that successfully defeated the attempt to introduce water charges. Following a nine week trial, the six have been found not guilty.
THE JOBSTOWN SIX have been found NOT GUILTY - a disastrous outcome for the Labour party and Garda in what has been the biggest political show trial for some decades. It is impossible to have followed the details of the arrests and trial and walk away with the impression that the Garda were not acting on government instructions, even if just on the basis of the ‘nod and a wink’. The verdict may well catch anyone relying on the mainstream media as a surprise because right across that media the reporting of the trial was highly selective, reflecting the interests of those who own and control it.
The prosecutions have been exposed as an act of political revenge by a party furious that its role in serving the capitalist class while talking left was so completely exposed by the largest mass movement Ireland has seen. Shamefully the Labour Party rather than hanging their head in shame reacted to the verdict with a statement repeating the fiction that the Garda are independent, something we have all just seen disproved. We can be almost certain that there will be no repercussions for the Garda that carried out the dawn raids on people’s homes as they were getting their kids ready for school. There will be no repercussions for the Garda that lied in court under oath. The state needs political policing to protect the super wealthy few from the many and that means that the Garda understand they will be protected.
The Jobstown Trial shows how desperate the state (and the capitalist interests it serves) are to crack down on any resistance to austerity, and to enforce the ‘normal’ politics of class inequality and popular disempowerment. The only thing that stopped them was the jury just as in the past juries stopped attacks on anti-war protesters at Shannon and anti-heroin campaigners in the 1980s.
This was not without massive cost for the defendants, the trauma of the dawn raids, the fear that must have hung over many of a 14 year sentence as a result of being stitched up And perhaps most importantly the grind of having to spend so much of your life preparing for and in court, all during working hours. For years the garda have got away with using long drawn out court cases as punishment for political organising. Minor offences can see people required to attend court on many different days, all requiring time off work, only for charges to be thrown out or the garda not even bothering to turn up on the day the case is to be heard. All part of a rotten system designed by the powerful and wealthy to punish those who dare to rebel.THE STATE CRACKS DOWN ON POPULAR RESISTANCE
In times of massive inequality and social unrest, it is common for states to wait until popular anger and mobilisations have subsided before cracking down on particularly prominent or vocal organisers. The trial of the Jobstown Six occurred following some of the largest popular mobilisations seen in Ireland for decades. These mobilisations arose in opposition to the establishment of Irish Water, a water metering utility designed to introduce water charges and ultimately water privatisation.
From 2014 onwards, groups of friends, neighbours, family and activists organised themselves to prevent water meter installation in working-class areas right across Ireland. At the same time, a massive number of people boycotted the registration process, refusing to pay for water. Some of the largest street demonstrations in Ireland for decades took place. Amidst this upswing in popular self-organisation, the protest of 15 November involved the six men take part in a peaceful, sit-down protest with hundreds of other angry Jobstown residents which delayed Joan Burton and her colleague for between two and two and a half hours.
Jobstown and the wider water movement was particularly significant because, until 2014, popular resistance to austerity in Ireland appeared to be strangely lacking. Following the capitalist crisis of 2008, austerity measures were imposed by states on populations across Europe in order to socialise the debts of failing, private financial institutions. The crisis in Ireland was centrally managed by the state in order to achieve this outcome (with much secrecy, lies, skull duggery, broken promises, and propaganda used to do so). What we were told was the cheapest option, became the only option, became the most expensive in Europe as 65 billion euro was found for socially useless banks. Cuts to social services, increased taxes and new charges, including water charges, formed the bill presented to the Irish people for the enrichment of private interests and bondholders.
Jobstown was a working class demonstration against a party leader whose party had imposed austerity and water charges, a party defending the privileges of private interests and bondholders ahead of the basic needs and dignity of the immense majority of the people. The curtailment of resistance to left-wing activists up to 2014 owed much to social partnership between the state, employers, and trade unions; to the capitalist media consensus in legitimating the austerity regime; and to left-talking but austerity-imposing political parties and independent TDs, notably the Labour party, propping up right-wing governments. The water movement marked a determined break with these patterns.THE STATE ON TRIAL
This trial represent a counter assault on the biggest grass-roots, anti-authoritarian movement in decades in Ireland by framing the protesters as being beyond the pale, deviant, illegal, and even fascist. Instantly after the protests media was filled with accounts of violence, mob behaviour, stones and bricks were hurled, abuse screamed, a near riot occurred, in the process both the movement and the people of Jobstown were slandered. One example of many was David Begg of ICTU’s claim that an aid of Burton who he “personally knew”, was “beaten and kicked” on the ground, remarkably no such incident was mentioned at the trial itself.
There exists a latent need within the establishment to pigeonhole any resistance as being inherently violent and degenerate (and by extension this preys on anti-working class bias propagated by the media), this goes double when those who resist come from those who are regarded as belonging to the ‘lower orders’, the Jobstown trial is the highwater mark of this mentality and all it has done is demonstrate the strange brew of foolishness, naivity, arrogance of the state in light of real people standing up for themselves. These protests weren’t just protests, they were not merely about water charges, they were also symbolic of wider scale resistance to austerity and direct action. We weren’t supposed to notice the parasite as it fed. The Labour Party’s behaviour especially has been spectacularly self-defeating, the leader of a party that has long given up any pretense of leftism openly showing her contempt of those whom she is supposedly a champion for.CLASS DYNAMICS
One issue the trial brings up is the question of what would have happened had this incident taken place in D4 rather than D24? But this begs the further question under what circumstance would a middle/upper class protest such as what occurred in Jobstown manifest? We know the upper classes have their interests looked after automatically by the Irish state, austerity after-all has increased their wealthy not diminished it, when the Irish economy was essentially crashed in 2008 it was done so not to keep ATMs open, but to protect the wealth of bankers and developers (Anglo Irish Bank famously had no ATMs, but almost exclusively wealthy clients), they have special access to power by dint of their class and status. The ‘need’ to be heard by the upper classes has so many release valves that it hardly exists and as such is far less acute than it is in an area like Jobstown where the visitation of a high-level minister like Burton is a novelty and a spur to action.THE STATE LIMITS THE FREEDOM TO PROTEST
In response to people standing up for themselves, the state has swung wildly between arrogance and panic. The policing that accompanied the Jobstown protest demonstrated the idea that the police and the government work in tandem through the state in order to protect the powerful and suppress dissent wherever possible, that any dissent that registers as causing any kind of disruption to power itself is to be crushed, that your freedom to object and fight back is inconsequential compared to the freedom power has to do as power does, the effect on the people be damned.
The government, nor Labour itself itself did not bring the trial, but they didn’t have to, the mechanisms of the state and legal system are such that their political agenda kicks in like automatic stabilisers, a good servant they know the will of their political masters, act accordingly and is rewarded and protected. Gardai are amongst the most best paid, most conservative and least qualified public servants, with average Garda pay estimated to be 100,000 euro per anum (when pension contributions are taken into account). Meanwhile blatant and open Garda corruption has little or no consequence for force members, GSOC is widely regarded as toothless and the allegations of whistle blowers like Maurice McCabe require relentless pressure from leftist independent TDs before they are so much as considered, let alone dealt with.GARDA CORRUPTION OR POLICE STATE IN ACTION
Strangest thing about #JobstownNotGuilty trial is all Garda statements repeated same lies, the protesters were hurling stones and rocks, Paul Murphy was marshalling and directing the protesters, there was no cooperation between protesters and the Gardai, the protest was presented as a scene of bedlam and chaos. Like kids copying homework with the wrong answer, written testimonies contradicted verbal testimonies, some testimonies even contradicted evidence the same Garda gave in the previous Jobstown trial (see key facts below). It goes to show how little scrutiny the Gardai receive in this country that they can so flagrantly construct their own facts out of thin air to suit their own agenda and get away with it, only in very rare circumstance is this examined with the kind of rigour offered by the defence teams cross-examination. It speaks of the corruption within the force that goes hand in hand with policing in general.
The Garda have been making a lot of noise in the last year about people videoing them in action. They want to make this illegal. At the Jobstown trial we saw Garda lying under oath but being exposed again and again by video from the scene.FREEDOM IN A CAPITALIST SOCIETY
From an anarchist perspective. How is it to be taken? It speaks a lot about spurious notions of 'freedom' which exist under a capitalist system enforced by the the state and rule of law, constrict a minister for the duration of a film, it's a scandal and a crime, worthy of morning raids and a costly and farcical trial. Run a socio-political system that expands the cost of buying a house from four to nine times the average income in a generation, that forces thousands to emigrate, that cuts crucial services and lines hospital corridors with trollies, retire on a nice fat pension and take up an executive role in the private sector to feather the nest. If Joan Burton is to seriously be considered as having been imprisoned for those three hours, then surely is it not fair to consider those who wait for hours in our hospitals not just imprisoned, but tortured?
Whilst Burton and the establishment bemoan the curtailing of her freedom by the action of the people, what freedom do the people have to reject austerity, neo-liberalism, or capitalism? You have the ‘freedom’ to protest and they have the ‘freedom’ to determine whether or not that protest is to their taste and if it is not you will find all your freedoms forfeit. It recalls the futility of expecting justice from the legal system that is highlighted by the well-known Anatole France quote: “In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.”
Conclusion Jobstown reminds us that the longer the state continues to impose austerity in Ireland, the more it will encounter popular opposition. The more it resorts to force or fraud to counter that opposition, the more it faces a crisis of legitimacy. Jobstown is innocent! The state is guilty! The charges against the remaining defendants in the two next trials must be dropped and the earlier conviction of the 17 year old over turned.
The collaboration of political parties, media and garda in the farce that was the Jobstown trial reminds us that all these serve a tiny percentage of the people living in Ireland, the multi millionaires and billionaires. That gang will stop at nothing to maintain their wealth and power, it’s long past time to show them the door. The laughter of our children in a free society (while history only remembers their shameful role) shall be our retribution.
Appendix: Key moments from case: This includes so many claims that they jury must have considered lies or which were not even made in court
Protest and immediate aftermath: In November 2014 a protest takes place in reaction to news Joan Burton is to appear at a graduation ceremony at An Cosán Virtual Community College in Jobstown, Tallaght. Media reportage in aftermath speaks of violent protest, Sunday Independent runs with clumsily photoshopped image of a brick throwing teenager and Joan Burton. David Begg of ICTU claims a personal assistant of Burton’s who he personally knew was “kicked and beaten” on the ground. Dawn raids carried out three months after the protest. Information leaked by Gardai on the nature of charges to and reported on by RTE correspondent Paul Reynolds. In October 2016 a teenager (aged 15 in November 2014) is found guilty of false imprisonment and sentenced to six months, this verdict is being appealed.
Pre-Trial: Jury selection: DPP request that jurors not come from Jobstown or the Tallaght area, active in any water charges protests, or to have expressed an opinion on water charges or austerity online. Burton evidence: Burton testimony, claims of nightmares, terror, running her for life, nearly losing her shoe, the ever present grin of TD Paul Murphy. The defense essentially aimed to make it about austerity. Broken promises of Labour etc. Cross examination grilled her on the Labour party’s treachery, to which Burton replied that as leader of the Labour party she saw herself as carrying the ideas of Connolly. Helicopter footage, no pushing or shoving, very few children to be seen, Gardai can be heard to comment. “The jeep could have gone back ages ago, but there was no hassle really.” Footage shown from Burton’s car, both she and assistant, happy, joking, far from angry mobs, people chatting, in a second Burton is asking her assistant about making posts on social media about “the children”, in the third her assistant Karen O’Connell can be heard to said of the protesters they were “the fucking dregs.” Narrative of people being ‘out of control’ a baying mob completely shattered, all the video evidence showed was a sit down protest, minor scuffles which emerged when Burton’s memory shown to be patchy at best.
Zappone testimony: Snookered on question regarding the role of riots in achieving gay liberation (in a book she co-authored she made explicit reference to the role the Stonewall riots had in securing gay rights). Throughout her cross examination asked Judge “do I have to answer this?” Later shown refusing to condemn the protesters on in 2016 on Vincent Browne’s ‘The People’s Debate’, contradicting her evidence.
Garda testimony: Garda McGuinness’ claims of rocks having been thrown, defense pointed out no rocks mentioned in her statement or visible in footage. Garda Cooke claimed Paul Murphy was directing protesters using a megaphone, again footage shown which contradicted this. Inspector Maguire denied that any agreement between Gardai and protesters, this was contradicted by evidence the same Garda had given at the previous Jobstown trial. Super-Intendant Flavin claimed in their written statement that the animation and aggression of crowd a consequence of what Paul Murphy was saying through the megaphone, this was left out from court evidence.