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Dublin: 19°C Thursday 18 August 2022

Joan Burton breaks silence after trial: 'I have friends who live in Jobstown'

“I found the atmosphere in the courts intimidating,” the former Tánaiste said during a lengthy interview today.

Image: Leah Farrell via

JOAN BURTON HAS said that she doesn’t want the name of residents in Jobstown to be negatively affected after the high-profile water protest and subsequent trial.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the Jobstown trial concluded, Burton also told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke that the social media commentary around the trial made the process incredibly difficult.

She said that without the court’s victims support unit, which offers support to victims of crime, she couldn’t have been able to get through it: “I don’t know if I’d have been able to do it without their help.”

“It took a terrible toll on my family and friends… and I found the atmosphere in the courts intimidating.”

The former Tánaiste and ex-Labour leader gave evidence against six water protesters, who were charged with falsely imprisoning her and her adviser.

Among the defendants was Solidarity-PBP TD Paul Murphy, who was active on social media during the length of the trial – which raised questions on whether there should be a monitoring of social media commentary of ongoing court cases.

“We are going to have to look at social media in the context of trials”, Burton said today, adding that if the trial “were it linked to a sexual assault, that would be incredibly difficult”.

 Trolling on social media can be just horrific.
In another era, we would have called this kind of stuff and this kind of talk hate speech…it can’t be healthy for the people who are writing this stuff and it’s certainly not healthy for our society.

Chief Justice Susan Denham said in the aftermath of the Jobstown trial that she would write to the Presidents of each court to ask them to consider guidelines on the use of social media in the courts.

The jury and legal aid

Although Burton said that she had no “inside track” on the legal proceedings, and was just a witness in the case, she did have a few thoughts on the process, the defendant’s solicitors, and whether there should be an inquiry into the charges brought against the Jobstown water protesters.

“I’m told that in other jurisdictions, there would not have been as many lawyers…

“I counted [their lawyers], and there seemed to have been a minimum of three lawyers per person. So 21,” she said.

She also said that she didn’t believe there should have been an inquiry into the reasons why water protesters were charged.

We have run ourselves into the ground on public inquiries in Ireland at enormous cost and enormous expense in terms of legal advice.

Jobstown Courtcase Paul Murphy leaves the Central Criminal Court of Justice during the Jobstown trial. Source: Sam Boal via

In June, the Gardaí announced that it had begun to review its investigation into the 2014 Jobstown protest from “a lessons-learnt perspective”.

She said that An Garda Síochána had a very friendly approach to policing “where they kind of say ‘Well lads are you finished now? Why don’t you head off home?’” She suggested that the French police could have perhaps sorted the situation but she was pleased that everyone got out safely.

She also hoped that the high-profile court case and media attention wouldn’t negatively affect the perception of Jobstown’s residents.

“I actually know Jobstown. I have friends who live in Jobstown, I don’t want children in Jobstown growing up with a name being attached to a very hard-working part of Dublin and their potential at school or their potential socially being limited.

Paul Murphy has got a great deal of publicity, he’s been all over the world about this, but at the end of the day, people in Jobstown need and are entitled to respect.

“I was there because of a graduation in An Cosán, it was a great community event, and I think we need to focus on the real things, the bravery of the gardaí, the achievements of the people who were the graduates that day, who had worked hard to get to where they were and we need to celebrate them.”

Read: No second Jobstown trial as all charges set to be dropped

Read: Jobstown judge warns social and mainstream media about commenting on trial

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