ANTI AUSTERITY ALLIANCE TD Paul Murphy has struck a defiant tone after the latest trial hearing for him and 17 others involved in the Jobstown protest at the Criminal Courts of Justice (CCJ) today.
The 18 facing trial were today remanded on bail for a further hearing at the CCJ on 4 April where it is expected that trial dates will be set.
At today’s hearing in a packed Circuit Courtroom at the CCJ, prosecuting barrister Tony McGillicuddy suggested that the 18 be split into four groups to face trial sometime next year.
Presiding Judge Melanie Greally assented to this, and it seems likely that the trials will take place over a block of four weeks from 24 April 2017.
Those trial dates will be confirmed on 4 April next, while all 18 defendants will indicate their plea at that date also, having seen Mr McGillicuddy’s indictments in the interim.
Emerging outside the court after the hearing, the various protesters were met by supporters carrying a banner reading “Support The Jobstown 23, Drop The Charges”.
Chants of “Jobstown – innocent, Labour – guilty” and “What do we want – drop the charges, when do we want it – now” rang out defiantly.
Speaking afterwards, Murphy indicated that the decision to split the defendants into four had only come to their attention “in the last couple of days”. He indicated that all of those involved now want the charges dropped.
“We think Joan Burton and the Labour Party have been politically decimated at the election, they’ve been decimated because of the imposition of the water charges, their betrayal of promises, their implementation of austerity, and their attacks on the right to protest,” Murphy said.
We think these charges should be dropped, we don’t think that this vindictive prosecution should be going ahead, we don’t think that 18 people here and a number of people in the children’s court should be facing these extremely serious charges, which could see them facing many, many years in prison.
Murphy called on people to “mobilise against the water charges, to tear up the bills, cancel the direct debits”.
He confirmed that a water protest is set to take place outside Dáil Éireann this coming Thursday at 1pm.
“That protest is precisely to say that we can’t trust Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael to abolish water charges, so we as a movement need to intervene,” he said.
Close to 70% of people voted for parties that claimed they were against water charges, so we have to go and protest on Thursday and encourage people to join the boycott as the way to kill the charges off.
“Vote Irish Water out of existence”
Murphy’s call to arms regarding Thursday’s protest outside the Dáil was later echoed by the Irish trade unions affiliated with the Right2Water movement.
Representatives of Unite, Mandate, and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) have released a statement calling on Ireland’s new TDs to “vote Irish Water out of existence”.
“Now that the election results are confirmed, the focus must shift to the incoming TDs,” said Brendan Ogle of Unite.
Clearly a big majority of those elected promised to get rid of water charges so it is now up to them to do what too few Irish Governments have done in the past, begin their term by actually keeping an election promise.
“The Right2Water unions and our members have worked with communities to beat these unjust charges and foster unity among progressives.
“We are ready to continue working with those who share our vision of a broad progressive movement which puts workers and their families first,” said general secretary of Mandate John Douglas in the same statement.
Now, however, the ball is firmly in the court of our elected representatives.
It is up to them to show that they can work together to abolish water charges, address homelessness and tackle the social injustice left behind by the outgoing defeated government.
The appearance of the 18 protesters before the Circuit Court today relates to charges concerning the alleged false imprisonment of Tánaiste Joan Burton at a water charges protest in Jobstown, Tallaght 16 months ago.
Others present at the protest that day who were also in court with Murphy include AAA councillors Kieran Mahon and Mick Murphy.
Labour leader Burton and her adviser Karen O’Connell were leaving a local graduation ceremony on 15 November 2014 when it is claimed their vehicle was blocked by protesters.
The 18-strong group are waiting on indictments and a trial date to be fixed. A four-week period for trials has been blocked off from 24 April 2017. The group will be splintered into four smaller groupings for the trials, which will be held before juries.
Murphy faces a number of charges relating to the Jobstown demonstration, including false imprisonment and violent disorder.
He was one of 32 people served with court summonses in November 2015 in connection with three separate anti-water charge protests in Dublin.
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Originally published 6.10am