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Dublin: 9 °C Thursday 18 October, 2018
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'The #JobstownNotGuilty social media campaign was absolutely necessary'

TD Paul Murphy writes candidly about the “relief, gratitude, anger and sadness” that accompanied the ‘not guilty’ verdict in the Jobstown trial.

Paul Murphy

SILENCE DESCENDED as the packed court room waited for the verdict. “Not Guilty” – the court erupted in joy. Eleven more “Not Guilties” came thick and fast as each and every charge against the six remaining defendants was rejected unanimously by the jury.

Relief, gratitude, sadness and anger came upon me quickly.

Relief that this two-and-a-half-year ordeal was over.

Gratitude for the jury which, in effect, defended our right to protest and for our legal teams who so comprehensively demolished the prosecution case.

Sadness that Philip Preston who would have been on trial with us had tragically died before he too could be found not guilty.

Anger at the Gardai who, as Judge Melanie Greally said, provided “testimony describing events that were not borne out by the footage”.

All the defendants have been overwhelmed by the messages of support and relief from people across the country and even around the world. For many, this has opened their eyes to what could in my view have been perceived as political policing, had the result been different, and also the potential for a gross miscarriage of justice.

Paul Murphy court case Ken Purcell, Scott Masterson, Paul Murphy, Michael Murphy, Ciaran Mahon, Frank Donaghy, Michael Banks (left-right) among supporters after the 'not guilty' verdict at Dublin's Circuit Criminal Court. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

The reaction of sections of the mainstream media could not be more different. The ‘paper of record’, the Irish Times, couldn’t bring itself to have a frontpage story about the fact that the defendants were found not guilty. Instead, they led with a story about my #JobstownNotGuilty tweets. Their editorial featured, not a call for a public inquiry into the decision to pursue false imprisonment prosecutions, but a comment that those who used social media to comment on the trial have placed “jury trials under strain”!

Other media outlets attempted to redo the trial, forgetting that a jury had seen everything there was to see about the protest over nine weeks and had unanimously decided we were not guilty. On multiple interviews, I was asked whether I regretted the verbal abuse that Joan Burton had been subjected to.

On one, I answered back simply – “Well, do you regret it?” – because just like the presenter, I, like the vast majority of people present at the protest, wasn’t engaged in any abuse and wasn’t responsible for any abuse.

The need for the #JobstownNotGuilty campaign

The need for the #JobstownNotGuilty social media campaign is ironically proved by the actual focus of the media. The reporting from the court was generally reasonably accurate on RTE, but looked to me to be sometimes biased and one-sided against the defendants in other outlets.

Our social media reports were needed to give people outside the court a genuine sense of what was happening in court every day and what we were going through. The notion that it was aimed at influencing the jury is demeaning to a jury who sat through the evidence for nine weeks and ignorant because all of Solidarity reporting covered only what was heard while the jury was present. In reality, it’s a distraction designed to take away from the real story here – the vindication of the defendants.

This is not over

This is far from over for us. We want answers about where the decisions were made inside the Gardai and the office of the DPP to pursue these ultimately doomed prosecutions. The only way we’ll get that is with an independent public inquiry, not led by the Gardai.

A perverse situation currently exists where the only person convicted of false imprisonment is someone who was 15 years old on the day. He was convicted on the same Garda evidence that was ultimately rejected by the jury. Unfortunately, his was a judge-only court. He is appealing and if there is any justice, I believe his conviction should be overturned.

The remaining 11 defendants who have trials starting in October and next year now face an uncertain situation. It is clear that the entire investigation process was flawed – it seems to me now that this investigation was designed to gather evidence only to obtain our conviction. How can further prosecutions based on that same investigation proceed?

The defendants of this case and upcoming cases will be gathering at 2pm at the old Central Bank on Dame Street tomorrow. We encourage all supporters to come along to send a clear message – drop all the charges now!

Paul Murphy is a Solidarity TD for Dublin South-West.

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