JOAN BURTON HAS said she was worried about “the parallels with fascism” when she was trapped in her car for almost three hours by protesters in Jobstown last month.
The Tánaiste comments are likely to reignite the row over the protests in Tallaght where she was also verbally abused and pelted with a water balloon. Responding to her remarks this morning, the Socialist TD Paul Murphy, who was involved in the protest, accused Burton of “slander against protesters and the people of Jobstown”.
Anti-water charges protesters prevented Burton’s car from leaving An Cósan adult education centre on Saturday, 15 November for a number of hours before gardaí helped to transport her away from the area.
Murphy, a local TD, insisted at the time it had been a peaceful protest, and has repeatedly defended the actions of those present. He said it would have been peaceful to hold Burton in her car for up to 12 hours.
But Burton, who has spoken to the gardaí about the events of that day, described the protest as “extremely negative” and told reporters in a pre-Christmas briefing last week:
“I have to say at times when I was in that car I was worried about the parallels with fascism.”
“How you move from a situation where you are arguing, as you see it, from a democratic point of view but you then decide that imprisoning people in a car is an appropriate way to treat people or to have some kind of a democratic discussion, I simply don’t know.”
She also said: “I suppose I had a couple of hours to reflect on what it would be like we had a country run by some of the people who were outside and who seem to have a utterly nihilistic approach.”
On Murphy, a recently-elected TD for Dublin South-West, she noted that he has subsequently said he had been elected to break the law.
“I thought it was extraordinary that at a community celebration, he was using it to bring a message of despair to a very disadvantaged community,” she said.
Responding to her comments, Murphy told TheJournal.ie this morning: “Faced with collapse in the opinion polls and mass protests against water charges on the streets, Joan Burton is returning to the theme of slander against protesters and the people of Jobstown.
“At the time, she played down the protests, but has since found it useful to engage in hyperbole about them. Instead of condemning protesters, she should perhaps reflect on what she and the Labour Party have done to alienate their traditional support base so that she was faced by an angry protest of a local community where Labour would have previously won significant votes.
The former MEP claimed that “huge police resources” are being used in the investigation which is aimed at “trying to implicate me in a crime” describing it as “blatant political policing”.
“Instead of this ongoing slander and ridiculous allegations of imprisonment, let charges be brought against me or others and we can fight them in court,” he added.
The Labour leader added that people had been “extraordinarily kind to me” and said that generally “Irish people are friendly”.
Burton said: “If some of the people who are operating politically in Ireland think they can turn our streets into areas where people are imprisoned in cars and that that is some kind of a democratic dialogue, I couldn’t disagree with them more.”
First published 6am