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Dublin: 18 °C Wednesday 24 July, 2019
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Why last night's Garda Station vigil was so startling ... and why we can expect more like it

The grassroots event was organised at short-notice via social media. After ‘Jobstown’, it’s a massive PR win for the Right2Water campaign, even though top organisers had nothing to do with it…

Updated at 11.20pm

A DEMONSTRATION HELD by some 200 women outside Coolock Garda Station last night has generated a huge amount of attention online over the last 24 hours — and already, similar events are being planned for elsewhere in Dublin.

After days of political noise over whether the scenes of protest that met Joan Burton’s appearance in Jobstown on Saturday were or weren’t peaceful — to many, the sight of a large female-only crowd standing in deathly silence outside a suburban garda station was a startling one…

The event was arranged at short-notice via private Facebook groups in a direct response to what happened to Fiona Healy (below) — the anti-water charges protester who tried to block the Taoiseach’s car on Sunday at the Mansion House, and was thrown from its bonnet by Gardaí…

[Screengrab]

Rolling protests

Groups who have been protesting the installation of water meters in the Dublin 5 and Dublin 13 areas in recent weeks also maintain that policing of their rolling actions has been unnecessarily heavy handed. There were violent scenes at an earlier protest, at the same garda station, just two weeks ago.

As you might imagine, gardaí dispute those claims — a statement from rank-and-file group the GRA earlier this month contended that there was a “darker element” at work within the grassroots protest movement, and that members of the force had been subjected to threats of violence.

Here’s how Pamela Flynn, a fellow demonstrator of Healy from the Baldoyle Anti Water Metering Task Force, described last night’s vigil afterwards, on Facebook… 

“Wearing pink hi-viz and each holding a candle it was an extraordinarily moving event.

We lined both sides of the road and and with the cessation of chatter a stillness descended. You could hear the wind rustle the leaves of the trees.

Footage from the protest showed dozens of women standing in silent solidarity, as perplexed gardaí stood at their gate.

“We had a meeting on Monday night, we felt we had to do something. We messaged each other then throughout the day. We deliberately wanted to keep it off public Facebook,” Flynn told TheJournal.ie this evening.

We stood there for an hour. When it finished we blew a whistle and all cheered. The gardaí all come running out. I think they thought we were going to charge on them.

Source: Quinno Radford/YouTube

Reaction

Following what happened in Jobstown on Saturday, the furious reaction of Government ministers in the following 48 hours, and the hastily-mounted onslaught by left-wing TDs, defending it as ‘largely peaceful’ — the actions of the women generated a hugely positive response.

“This is how it should be done,” was the best ‘liked’ reaction from our own comments section. 

“Indeed peaceful protest is every citizens right so more power to them. The only way to protest is peacefully,” another reader added. 

Hundreds of similar comments soon popped up on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere before (somewhat inevitably, it’s the nature of social media) the conversation opened up once again to take in the nature of the weekend protests, and the wider issue of water charges.

And, while there was general approval for the way the protest was conducted last night, some also questioned its rationale…

“Seems to me that the anti water protesters are trying to use anything to their advantage,” another TheJournal.ie reader said. 

The Gardai shouldn’t have pushed her and she shouldn’t have jumped at the car… No need for this protest though.

Whatever we might make of what happened to Fiona Healy or what’s been happening at the northside protests (and, obviously, there’s a massive spectrum of opinion out there, all just a click away) last night’s vigil clearly struck a chord with many.

A small bit of context… Organisers of a protest in Sligo the previous night, where the Taoiseach was attending an event, had been imploring participants in advance to ‘keep it peaceful’ in the wake of the Jobstown controversy.

[Screengrab: Right2WaterSligo]

In the end, a small group did block Kenny’s car, drawing criticism once again — with the Taoiseach himself observing that it was a good thing no-one was injured.

In the midst of all this, organisers from the  left-wing- and union-led Right2Water campaign — fearful that Middle Ireland might boycott the next mass day of action on 10 December — stressed in very clear terms that anyone who felt they couldn’t take part peacefully should “stay away”.

That’s why last night’s vigil was such a big PR win for the Right2Water movement.

The fact that grassroots campaigners in an area where protests have so often hit the headlines for the wrong reasons could organise such a well-conceived and peaceful event only served to underscore the depth of feeling on the issue in the area.

Already, similar protests are being planned for elsewhere in Dublin…

Over 300 people have already signed up on Facebook to attend one outside Tallaght Garda Station on Friday night.

The page was created by Sinn Féin councillor Louise Dunne (the by-now almost-famous graduate-turned-protester from last Saturday) just after 10am this morning.

Again, it’s a women only event — and contributors to the page have already started talking to each other about where to buy candles, hi-vis jackets and other protest essentials.

As anyone who’s ever thrown a party will know, Facebook attendees are notoriously fickle… But given what’s been happening in the country — and the momentum behind the protest movement in Dublin in particular — it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect crowds of several thousand turning out, come 6.30pm on Friday.

More on the Dublin 5 & Dublin 13 protests… 

Read: Anger outside Coolock Garda Station after water charge protesters are arrested

Read: Thirsty for a revolution? No … we’re not, insist Raheny’s elderly residents

Read: Water meter protesters to return to court next week

 

 

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