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Derek Byrne was sentenced to 28 days in prison for contempt of court.
Derek Byrne was sentenced to 28 days in prison for contempt of court.
Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Four water charge protesters are going to jail

Five people will serve between 28 and 56 days.
Feb 19th 2015, 11:20 PM 57,338 358

Updated 8pm

A GROUP OF five water charge protesters have been found in contempt of court and sentenced to at least 28 days in prison.

Bernie Hughes, Derek Byrne and Michael Batty were all sentenced to 28 days in prison by Justice Paul Gilligan at the Criminal Courts of Justice today.

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.

Batty, 64, was not in court today. He spends part of the year in Lanzarote because of health problems. His solicitor Cahir O’Higgins told the court that he apologised for missing the hearings this week.

Purge contempt

He added that Batty is willing to enter into a bond and give an undertaking that he will abide by the court order telling protesters to stay 20 metres from works. He will have to attend in person to purge his contempt.

Six of the seven – Paul Moore of Mount Olive Grove, Damien O’Neill of Greenwood Park, Derek Byrne of Streamville, Donaghmede, Richard Larkin of Dublin 5, Mark Egan of Tonlegee Drive, and Bernadette Hughes of Finglas – were in court today.

Judge Mr Justice Paul Gilligan said the protesters actions amounted to “harassment and intimidation of GMC workers”.

He added, “The court cannot stand idly by while those who disobey his orders walk free.”

Two others who appeared in court today – Mark Egan and Richard Larkin – have been cleared and were free to leave the courthouse.

There were a number of supporters in court this afternoon for the sentencing, including TD Paul Murphy.

In a statement this evening, he said:

The jailing of these protestors and the arrests in Tallaght is an attack on the right of communities to protest against the imposition of austerity measures, in this case the water charge and meters, which are being imposed by the government despite the massive opposition to them.

“The attacks from the state on the campaign against water charges needs to be met with a significant response by the campaign and communities, the protest which has been organised against political policing following the Jobstown arrests on Saturday can be a response in opposition to these attacks.”

Earlier this week, the court had been shown footage recorded by security firms acting on behalf of water meter installers GMC Sierra that showed protesters in and around work stations.

Justice Paul Gilligan said that he was satisfied that the Batty, Byrne, Hughes, Moore, and O’Neill were in contempt.

The four found guilty who were in court all said that they were not willing to enter into a bond or give an undertaking not to interfere with the works.

Speaking on the steps of the court, Richard Larkin said that his name had been “dragged through the courts” and that he had lost his job because of the case. He warned that if any of the four were jailed, there would be “hell on the streets”.

Mark Egan later added that he would not stop protesting.

The fire in my blood is stronger than ever.

Bernie Hughes’ daughter Jessica said that those in court were being made out to be ringleaders.

“In communities across Dublin, people are doing exactly what [those convicted] did.”

Right2Water

In a statement this evening, Right2Water said it was shocked at the jailing of the protesters. They described the sentencing as “an unnecessary and provocative decision brought about by an unfair water charge that has already been rejected and cannot work”.

“It is important to remember that these jailings are not as a result of any crime committed, but for a technical ‘contempt’ issue,” the campaign added.

Originally published 2.30pm

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Paul Hosford

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