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Dublin: 5 °C Thursday 20 February, 2020
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Enda Kenny: Some water protesters are "terrifying young families"

The Taoiseach also said the protesters jailed last week wanted to be in contempt of court.

Enda Kenny
Enda Kenny
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

ENDA KENNY HAS said the anti-water charge protesters who are demonstrating outside politicians’ homes, such as that of Fine Gael TD Ray Butler, are “terrifying young families”.

The Taoiseach also said he believes the anti-water charge protesters who were jailed last week wanted to be in contempt of court.

Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Ruth Coppinger raised the issue during Leaders’ Questions today.

She accused the government of attempting to criminalise water protesters, something she described as “anti-democractic” and an “affront to the right to protest”.

The Taoiseach said peaceful protest has long been a part of Irish society, but that the protesters who were jailed “knew very well what they were doing”, adding: “They wanted to be in contempt of court, as far as I can assess.”

Last Thursday three protesters – Bernie Hughes, Derek Byrne and Michael Batty – were sentenced to 28 days in prison by Justice Paul Gilligan, while Paul Moore and Damien O’Neill were handed down 56 days each.

They were previously given 28-day suspended sentences in November, which they will now serve along with another 28-day term.

File Photo Derek Byrne is on Hunger Strike. Derek Byrne Source: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Coppinger asked Kenny “how far” Fine Gael and Labour were willing to go in their “vain attempt” to discredit protesters, labelling the arrests of more than 20 people in Tallaght as “outrageous”.

The Dublin West TD said the coalition has “bled ordinary people dry to feed the greed of bankers an the financial market”, adding that it is intent on throwing the people of Greece “to the wolves”.

Education Protests Crisis Ruth Coppinger Source: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

She said there would be a mass boycott of paying the charges, telling the Taoiseach he should listen to “the majority of people” and abolish water charges.

If he doesn’t, the government will be “obliterated” in the General Election, Coppinger warned.

Kenny said Coppinger and her Socialist Party colleague Paul Murphy, one of those arrested, were encouraging people to break the law.

You are inviting people to break the law, like Deputy Murphy beside you.

He said he recognised the laws of land, noting that the courts are independent of the government.

Kenny advised Coppinger to speak to Fine Gael TD Ray Butler after a protest was held outside his home last night. The Taoiseach accused some protesters of “terrifying young families”.

You should go and speak to Deputy Butler today. Go and speak to him in respect of fear, intimidation and the frightening of young people.

“If you want political leadership, then don’t attempt to be leading a mob.”

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Órla Ryan

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