The judiciary remains the last potential obstacle in securing a not guilty verdict for the Jobstown Protesters

Most of us who have followed closely the unfolding Jobstown Trial over the last four weeks can’t help but feel a rising optimism about the prospects of a not guilty verdict. Our anxiety about the blatant stacking of the jury was assuaged when the judge threw out the DPP’s application seeking basically a jury composed of hardcore Fine Gael and Labour voters. The resources that #JobstownNotGuilty and others put into exposing the DPP’s disgraceful anti-working class application were resources well spent.

Our next concern was that the politics that underpin the Jobstown trial, that is Labour’s betrayals in government, which brought people out in protest against Joan Burton, would not get an airing. It has to be acknowledged that the Senior Counsel, whose personal politics I cannot vouch for, have followed their brief admirably and brought the class politics into the courtroom when cross examining Joan Burton, Karen O’Connell and Minister Zappone.

Then came the Garda testimony. This phase of the trial has inevitably been more technical than political but again political conclusions about the Guards touched upon in previous blog postings have been reinforced. What has emerged is that in the immediate aftermath of the protest the Gardaí and the government represented by the Labour Party decided here was an opportunity to split the water charges movement and take Paul Murphy off the political field. Once this was decided the ‘investigation’ that followed was about constructing a case that pinned responsibility for alleged offenses principally on Paul Murphy.

Blind justice right

The problem for the DPP, the Gardaí and the whole establishment is that the case is crumbling before their eyes. Each Garda witness has been shredded. They have contradicted each other, contradicted themselves but also had their testimony falsified by their own video evidence. The problem for the prosecution side at this point is that the more Gardaí they call to the stand the more damage is being done to their own case. We should anticipate the possible foreshortening of the trial becaue of this.

We cannot see into the minds of the jury but one has a right to be optimistic that if they are statistically representative of wider society in their composition and are fair minded it must be clear to them that the DPP has manifestly failed to prove its case.

However the one remaining act that could salvage the possibility of a conviction is the judge’s direction to the jury before they retire to consider their verdict. The DPP have sought to establish a definition of ‘false imprisonment’ so broad that Joan Burton being delayed for two hours falls into that category. The judge may decide to agree with this interpretation and basically instruct the jury to apply this criteria and effectively put to one side the entire cross examinations as well as the political and technical challenges to the prosecution case.

The point has been made in previous blogs about the role of the Gardaí and any other police force in capitalist society is fundamentally to preserve the status quo. This applies to all branches of the repressive state apparatus including the judiciary who are politically appointed and many of whom have establishment party political histories behind them.  This is why for socialists and campaigners fighting a court case is like playing away from home in a football game

However is does not follow that we automatically go into these situations expecting to lose. The dilemma for the establishment is that on the one hand securing convictions against Paul Murphy and the other defendants is highly desirable. Otherwise they would not have put the effort and resources into this case over the last two and a half years.

However they have to balance that objective out with maintaining the appearance of legitimacy i.e the pretence that we have a functioning modern capitalist democracy with an independent judiciary that applies the law fairly.  The establishment already blinked on this score when it came to the jury selection.

The mainstream media have done their bit in propping up the legitimacy of the prosecution case over the last few weeks on this by either not giving the trial its due prominence but moreover mostly ignoring the cross examination and resultant discrediting of the case for the prosecution in their reporting.

Despite this a monumental campaigning and social media effort has gone into the #JobstownNotGuilty campaign before and throughout the trial.  The helicopter footage alone which blows a hole in the Garda narrative has been viewed over half a million times.

The establishment have to weigh up whether what they might gain from sending the defendants to jail will be outweighed by the further de-legitimising of their own system in the eyes of hundreds of thousands of working class people which in itself would have long term political consequences for the system.  The directions the judge gives to the jury we can interpret as the considered view of the establishment on this dilemma.

The only reason they are in the position whereby they have to weigh this up in the first instance is thanks to a campaigning effort the judiciary has probably never come up against before. Let’s keep it up!

Fine Gael will go to the limits and beyond to defend the Garda

The theme of a posting I put up three weeks ago concerned the role of the Garda in pursuing the Jobstown prosecutions and how their stock in the eyes of the public had plummeted in recent years not least due to their role in the water charges movement.

In the intervening three weeks we have observed:

  • The existence of up to forty unauthorised bank accounts centred around Templemore Garda training college which were operating as a slush fund and the efforts of senior Gardaí to obstruct civilian management within the organisation investigating this
  • The complete degradation of Dara Quigley days before her tragic suicide
  • Headlines regarding a significant jump in Garda surveillance including at least one occurrence of surveillance of a Minister’s constituency rival

Coupled with the last point is the victimisation of another Garda whistleblower who objected to the completely inappropriate surveillance practices.

Gene Kerrigan in last weekend’s Sunday Independent referred to the typical Fine Gael response, personified in Frances Fitzgerald’s ongoing defence of the Commissioner, that 99% of Guards are ok.

EndaNoirinFrances

This is a cliché that is not supported by the evidence we have available. The scale and geographical spread for example of the 900,000 plus false breadth tests suggest that from top to bottom there is an outright rotten minority that exceeds 1% of the force. More serious however is the sizeable chunk of the 13,000 Gardaí who while not actively corrupt in their practice clearly observe it in others, effectively tolerate and enable it or are paralysed by fear of the consequences of making a stand against it

To those who would object and claim that this is an exaggeration you only have to observe how few whistleblowers have come to the fore and how the Garda institutions have treated them.

The recent conferences of the Garda Representative Association and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors shows us again that as an organisation they are unreformable. They cannot deny the volume of scandals but reading between the lines their spokespeople feel that we should cut them some slack because of the hazardous job they have to do.

They can rest assured that Fine Gael has a big supply of slack. There is a close historical association between Fine Gael and the Gardaí. The first Garda Commissioner Eoin O’Duffy and elements of Fine Gael’s predecessor party Cumann na nGaedheal together contemplated obstructing Fianna Fáil’s assumption to power in 1932 on the basis of an undue concern that DeValera’s government would not protect  the core interests of the southern establishment.

O’Duffy’s subsequent dismissal as Commissioner saw him step up his dabbling in right wing authoritarian politics under the guise of the Army Comrades Association (Blueshirts) which later merged with Cumann na nGaedheal and smaller right wing parties to form the Fine Gael we know today.

It was under the Fine Gael Labour coalition of 1973 to 1977 that the Garda “heavy gang” was given free reign to beat confessions out of republilcans. Likewise that period saw the introduction of the repressive Emergency Powers Act enabling the Guards to detain somebody for up to seven days.

So draconian was this legislation the then President Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh referred it to the Supreme Court to check its constitutionality provoking the public rage of the then Minister for Defence Paddy Donnegan who was reported to have referred to the President as a “thundering disgrace” or worse precipitating Ó Dálaigh’s resignation from the office of President.

The point of digging up these historical examples is to demonstrate that then as now Fine Gael will go to the limits and beyond even at the expense of provoking a constitutional crisis to back up the Garda, and the fact the Garda Commissioner knows this explains her breath-taking arrogance.

Katherine Zappone’s long march from direct action politics to Government

The disconnect demonstrated by Joan Burton in the witness stand at the Jobstown trial when she conceded that militant protest was a legitimate driver for social progress in the past but not the present was on display again in an even more glaring form with Katherine Zappone in her testimony.

Whereas Joan Burton alluded to her grandfather’s role in the 1913 lockout Katherine Zappone has been on record talking up civil disobedience episodes as recently as the 1980s and furthermore was a direct participant herself!

Her thoughts about the Stonewall Riot of 1969 which was a revolt by New York’s gay community against police harassment were read out to her :

‘With the origins of the gay liberation movement in the Stonewall riots of June 1969, many gay and lesbian people found their public voice to resist the construction of homosexuality as a pathological condition and to reject heterosexuality as a normative (that is the only way to be normal’.  Our Lives Out Loud: In Pursuit of Justice and Equality, co-authored with her wife Ann Louise Gilligan

It should be added that the type of police harassment and entrapment faced by gay people in the west when homosexuality was criminalised has led in Britain to a mass ‘pardon’ of thousands who were convicted. There is a similar push for such a gesture in Ireland.  It serves as further proof that unjust laws deserve to be broken.

There are other examples of Zappone’s double standards that did not even get a full airing in the courts. In the 1980s she belonged to a radical peace group called Irish Women for Disarmament. One of the high profile protests they participated in leading to arrests took place when Ronald Regan visited this country in 1984. Again in her biography she said:

‘The Gardai, who overreacted to this peaceful protest, arrested members of our group, who were present on 3 June. Many of our friends spent three days in the Bridewell prison, incarcerated under no known law….This was an extraordinary response by officials of the Irish state to a group of women non-violently protesting the violence of a regime that had been implicated in over 50,000 deaths in San Salvador’

Besides the Regan protest Zappone and Irish Women for Disarmament supported and joined the women’s peace group in Britain that protested at the US Air Base at Greenham Common when nuclear Cruise missiles were stationed there from 1982. These protests mainly took the form of sit down blockades as well as cutting the perimeter wires. Some of the responses of the Berkshire constabulary to the sit down protests are eerily reminiscent to the Garda conduct in Jobstown over thirty years later.

Greenham Common

Fast forward to 2011 and Katherine Zappone was nominated by Eamon Gilmore as one of the Taoiseach’s eleven direct appointees to the Senead. She was then listed on the Labour Party’s website for some time after as one of their thirteen Senators. While clearly being courted as Dáil candidate in Dublin South West in light of Eamon Maloney’s defection and Pat Rabbitte’s retirement Zappone demonstrated enough career savvy not to be weighed down by the Labour Party label. She scrapped into the Dáil as an ‘Independent’ in 2016 with 6.6% of the first preference votes in the constituency and without even bothering with the bargaining rituals of the Independent Alliance, which she never joined, she jumped straight into government with Fine Gael.

What explains this transition over thirty plus years? Personal attributes like ambition are a factor but politics is the key to understanding why not everybody sells out in this fashion.  People like Zappone who get stuck in single issue campaigns, albeit very important issues, but do not have a wider perspective for the need for complete system change can easily reconcile their protest days as a rite of passage that is then followed by a comfortable position in academia or the charity /non-governmental organisation sector.

“Being determines consciousness” to paraphrase Marx is another way of saying that the financial and status comforts that came with being a former Irish Human Rights Commissioner and CEO of the National Women’s Council of Ireland and then head of an Educational project co-funded by the state and philanthropic organisations fully prepared Zappone for establishment politics and from there a courtroom disavowal of her own protest lineage.

The senior management and board levels of the voluntary and charity sector  in Ireland is a renowned refuge for tired out or cynical former activists and especially those whose activism was never underpinned with radical left politics. There you get to advocate on issues of concern or part deliver public services on the state’s behalf while taking home a six figure sum. Your dependency on state funding completely tames the political advocacy side of what you do. We see it we see it especially with the big homelessness charities who are not at the races when it comes to opposing government policy and campaigning for the solutions we need. There are honourable exceptions but they are rare. Certainly rarer than the establishment politicans who either emanate from this sector or who end up there when they leave politics voluntarily or otherwise.

[With thanks to Diana O’Dwyer for the research for this posting]

Why is the right to protest coming under attack?

Amnesty International in Ireland unfortunately have displayed a blind spot regarding the seriousness of the Jobstown trials from the point of view of the right to protest being under attack. They have refused to take a public position on the Garda operation, the prosecution, the disproportionate severity of the charges and the failed efforts of the DPP to stack the jury.

That said a cursory look at their international website will demonstrate a global trend on all continents towards increased repression by regimes of political opponents. What is lacking from Amnesty however is an explanation as to why repressive measures are on the up and the right to protest being curtailed internationally.

Our starting point in finding an explanation lies in recognising the class nature of society under capitalism. Put simply there are exploiters, the colloquial 1% who own and control most of the worlds resources and the 99% of workers, unemployed, urban and rural poor and refugees who either barely exist or get by on the basis of working for a living.

How does such a small minority wield such control over the majority? Within any capitalist society including Ireland there are two key dimensions by which control is exercised. They are ideology and state repression.

The stronger, more affluent and advanced a capitalist society is, the easier it is for the ruling class to lean on ideological methods to maintain their position. Through a combination of media, church the education system and the weight of tradition on forming outlooks the default position of the majority is that society as it is, despite its obvious problems, is the natural order of things and that the best that can be hoped for is incremental change via occasional elections.

Garda public order unit

However even in the most advanced and affluent societies ideology alone is not sufficient to keep people in check. A conflict rages between beliefs based on what one receives from above and from tradition on the one hand and day to day experience and hardships on the other. This conflict became sharper with the advent of the economic crisis in 2008 and all the austerity measures that followed it in subsequent years.

A point has been passed in Irish society where a significant portion if not a majority of the working class and youth rejects the dominant ideology of the ruling class. That is not to say that a coherent alternative ideology has yet been embraced  but that rejection has then been followed by a number of campaigns and struggles.  Again in ‘normal’ circumstances advanced capitalist democracies can display a tolerance for active opposition, free speech, demonstrations and strikes once they are safely confined within certain legal parameters that do not seriously encroach on business as usual.

The water charges struggle smashed through these parameters being a struggle built on mass civil disobedience. Other subsequent strikes and struggles have also ventured into civil disobedience.

Faced with the breakdown of its ideological control the ruling class is left with no other option but to lean on the repressive measures it likes to keep in its back pocket i.e. the heavy deployment of the Gardaí and the blatant use of our courts and prison system to deal with the opposition.

So it is a mistake to view repressive measures as a sign of strength on the part of the establishment. On the contrary it is a symptom of weakness. Furthermore by leaning more on repressive measures such as we see in Jobstown they further undermine illusions people will have harboured about the nature of our democracy and reinforces the emerging opposition in Irish society.

“fucking dregs” – The unvarnished  contempt for the working class expressed in hate speech

If a “not guilty” verdict is returned at the end of the Jobstown protest trial it will be an occasion for celebration by working class and left activists throughout the state. In our “post-match” analysis of key moments in the trial where the credibility of the prosecution case was shaken it’s likely that Karen O’Connell’s recorded remarks referring to the local protesters as the “fucking dregs” will stand out among the lowlights.

It would be a mistake to see Karen O’Connell’s words as an aberration. The very fact Joan Burton did not take her up on those insults there and then are a clear indication that this is how a section of the working class is viewed by the Labour Party leadership.

Guardian columnist and author Owen Jones is not a friend of the radical left these days. However many of us would recognise that he was on to something when he wrote his breakthrough book in 2011 entitled Chavs – The Demonisation of the Working Class.

chavs

The central theme of the book is exposing a certain type of stereotyping by the pro-establishment media of the most disadvantaged stratum of the working class in a manner designed to excite feelings ranging from scorn to outright contempt in the reader or viewer. Think of the Channel 4 documentary Benefits Street and its TV3 Irish imitator Dole Cheats and you get the idea.

There is a political purpose underlying these portrayals. They serve first and foremost to sew a major division within the broad working class itself. That section of the working class in relatively stable employment, be that low or middle income, is encouraged to divert its gaze away from the robbery of the bankers and bondholders. Instead they are told to look upon those who are unemployed or relying on some form of welfare support or who live in council accommodation or who are on the public housing waiting lists as being the major source of society’s problems.

Conversely working class people in employment are then encouraged to see themselves as being comparative “solid citizens” with something in common with the establishment in opposition to the unemployed.

Tied up with this is a culture of blaming people who are unemployed for their predicament and insinuating that they are living too comfortably on the benefits they receive.

Once this atmosphere of division and prejudice is established and solidarity between the employed and unemployed weakened it then lays the basis for attacks on welfare payments and “activation” measures like Jobbridge which we saw on Joan Burton’s watch as Minister for Social Protection.

Former Minister Joan Burton’s public utterances defending the above policies were phrased  as positively as she could manage as being necessary motivators to incentivise people to find work.  However this is just the varnish that was missing from Karen O’Connell’s unguarded remarks in the Garda car.

Leo Varadkar’s current billboard and bus ad campaign on so called “welfare fraud” is all about perpetuating that prejudice and playing to the gallery of the Fine Gael rank and file ahead of their leadership election. The false figures he presents are a precise repetition of claims made by Joan Burton when she held the Social Projection portfolio.

Significant advances have been made in pushing back against the open expression of extreme prejudice against people on a range of grounds in recent decades. In the Channel 4 documentary It was alright in the 70s shocked young people were shown some of what passed for mainstream entertainment on British television in the 1970s where racism, sexism and homophobia were par for the course.

In one sense we’ve come a long way thanks entirely to movements and campaigns of those groups in society who were the very victims of prejudice. We need now to stand up to the stereotyping and hate speech directed against the unemployed and poor with similar vigour.

 

Joan Burton’s very shaky courtroom claim to the mantle of Connolly

The claim by Joan Burton today in the witness box that she is in effect a direct political descendant of James Connolly by virtue of being an ex- leader of the Labour Party drew a combination of gasps and sniggers from most people assembled in the courtroom.

A cursory search for the name James Connolly and Jim Larkin on the Labour Party website will throw up lots of references to both these towering giants of the Irish labour (small ‘l’) movement.  If you can bear to watch the televised parts of Labour Party conferences to this day you can still hear some delegates utter the word ‘comrade’!

The Russian Revolutionary Leon Trotsky coined the term ‘holiday speechifying’ back in the 1930s to describe the leaders of ostensibly socialist and labour parties who on special occasions like party conferences and May Day rallies would talk the radical talk. The point being that this talk had no bearing on their day to day conduct which involved rotten compromises and outright sell out of their voters.

Labour’s claim to the mantle of Connolly and Larkin was always tenuous at best. At the conference of the Irish Labour and Trade Union Congress in Clonmel in 1912 Connolly and Larkin had a motion passed calling for the formation of a party of labour. However the intrusion of major events not least the 1913 Lockout and World War One cut across any meaningful steps to turn this motion into a reality.

The Labour Party of today in reality came into being in the years after Connolly’s execution and Larkin’s long exile in the United States. The calibre of the people at the helm of this party and the trade union movement affiliated to it was frankly not a patch on Connolly and Larkin. In the course of the war of Independence and the Civil War these individuals made no effort to put the stamp of working class interests and socialist policies on events. Instead they took a back seat and helped ensure that the character of the Southern state that emanated was light years from what Connolly and Larkin aspired.

Connolly Larkin

The Labour Party has always been first and foremost loyal to the establishment and effectively see this state as the finished form of democracy and that there are official channels through which all grievances we have can be pursued.

That explains Joan Burton’s talking up of her family connections with the 1913 Lockout. They view society prior to the foundation of this state as a different country in every sense of the word and back then the militant methods and the radical politics of Connolly and Larkin for them belonged to that time but ceased to be legitimate once the Free State was consolidated.

We in the Socialist Party however see society now and back then as the same in its essentials. Connolly’s warning about swapping flags but maintaining a capitalist system has unfortunately been borne out over the last hundred years.

That said we should rejoice in the fact that working class people and the oppressed in this country have taken up the militant methods of Connolly and Larkin in the course of the crisis as seen in the water charges struggle but also in various campaigns and struggles such as Bus Eireann, Greyhound Recycling and numerous workplace occupations.

Despite its obvious political deficiencies and periodic betrayals when they propped up Fine Gael led governments in the 40s, 50s, 70s, 80s. 90s and then this decade as well as a short lived coalition with Fianna Fáil between 1993 and 1994 Labour historically commanded the loyalty of a significant minority of left leaning working class people.

Periodically battles were waged within the Labour Party, especially in the 1970s and 1980s between the essentially right wing pro-establishment leadership and a various left trends who up until the late 1980s held the common position that Labour should stay out of coalitions with the traditional conservative parties.

In the end for reasons beyond the scope of this blog posting the right wing prevailed by expelling the most consistent opponents of coalitionism, the Militant Tendency from which the Socialist Party of today is descended. The other ex ‘lefts’ including Michael D Higgins and Emmett Stagg almost entirely reconciled themselves to coalitionism in the 1990s.

This period of the late 1980s early 90s represented the real turning point for Labour. Prior to that time it could be characterised as a “capitalist workers party” which in a sense is a contradiction in terms but reflected a real tension between a capitalist leadership and a certain rank and file pressure from a more working class membership and an organised left.

Since that point Labour can be more accurately characterised as an out and out pro-capitalist party with one significant trade union affiliate SIPTU whose leadership puts it under zero pressure to represent its members interests. Much as they might blame Fine Gael for the right wing policies they went along with, it is not as if they would have done much differently had they been the bigger party in government or indeed had they government alone.

We only need to look at Spain, Portugal and Greece whose governing parties at the start of the economic crisis were the sister parties of Labour. They all proved to be as faithful to the Troika as Joan Burton did which is why she was so deserving of the reception she received in Jobstown.

Garda have a massive stake in securing Jobstown convictions

Under normal circumstances one would think that having fifty Gardaí lined up to testify against you would be a public demonstration by the prosecution of the strength of their case.

But the trial of the Jobstown protesters is not normal circumstances and the particular juncture in which the Gardaí will be giving their evidence is likewise far from normal.

We know what individual members of the force are capable of from the point of view of falsifying evidence and going so far as to frame one of their own as seen in the Sergeant Maurice McCabe case. More than that the organisation as a whole, from the very top, is capable of directing institutional wrongdoing. What other explanation could there be for the scale and breadth of the falsifying of statistics of all manner of crimes including homicide but also almost a million breath tests?

The stock of the Gardaí as an organisation has plummeted in the eyes of wide sections of the society in recent years. It is not the case that the organisation has fundamentally changed for the worse. As far back as the 1970s the notorious ‘heavy gang’, were relied upon to torture and beat confessions out of republican activists.

Republican activists were relatively isolated in Irish society at that point in time and the widespread revulsion at the campaign of the Provisional IRA fed a tolerance of extreme and illegal repressive measures by the Gardaí.

Garda JNG In the 1980s Garda conduct in the Kerry Babies case and the infamous Derek Fairbrother beating which was raised in the Dáil be none other than the then Labour leader Dick Spring  were still commonly viewed as exceptional aberrations in an otherwise upstanding force.

It took the McBrearty case in Donegal from which the Morris Tribunal ensued where a father and son were the subject of persistent harassment by the force up to and including the planting of evidence and framing Frank McBrearty Senior for the death of Richie Barron to give us our first real insight that corruption could go beyond individual handfuls of Gardaí and span a whole district.

Since the turn of the millennium the greater availability of video camera devices, independent news sources such as Indymedia and subsequently social media has fostered a common understanding of the repressive role of the police the world over when it comes to protest movements.

Two prominent examples in this country include the Reclaim the Streets demonstration in 2002 which was savagely battoned off the road by Gardaí, some of whom removed their shoulder numbers to avoid detection as well as the brutal policing of the Shell to Sea Protest movement in Mayo.

However the water charges protest movement has brought people’s understanding of the political role of policing to a new level. Here we witnessed sizeable daily Garda mobilisations into estates both low and middle income in order to repress the spontaneous grassroots community based campaigns to prevent water meter installation.  Here it became clear to thousands more people who up to that point gave the Gardaí the benefit of the doubt that from the point of view of the state, the allocation of Garda resources for policing austerity trumps that of policing crime.

This realisation coincides with the recent revelations by whistleblowers and their victimisation alongside the falsification of crime statistics. It is our hope that a jury representative of wider society that knows what the Gardaí are capable of as described above do not view Gardaí testifying as dispassionate witnesses in the Jobstown case. They are representing an organisation that clashed time and again with the water charges movement.

The fifty Garda witnesses and their superiors have a stake in the conviction of the Jobstown protesters. The last thing they want is an emboldened working class which has just come through a successful campaign of civil disobedience against the water charges to go on to fight with confidence other issues from housing, repeal the eighth and industrial struggles on the basis of effective, militant, peaceful by not necessarily legal tactics including occupations, solidarity pickets outside of the terms of the Industrial Relations Act and flagrant open use of the safe abortion pill.

They desperately want a conviction that they hope will induce a general chilling effect upon people. We hope the jury take on board this very background political context and treat the testimony of the fifty Gardaí with the appropriate scepticism.

Labour’s role in the Jobstown Prosecutions – another betrayal of the legacy of their founders

Former Táiniste and Labour leader Joan Burton TD will take the witness stand this week in the Jobstown protester trials where defendants including Paul Murphy TD are facing charges of her ‘false imprisonment’.

Last weekend saw her party’s annual conference in Wexford where an amount of sham reflection on their electoral decimation of just over a year ago took place. Their strategy for their party’s recovery “#labourrebuild” amounts to saying some of the right things in this Dáil about issues such as workers’ rights and repeal of the eighth amendment and hoping that the passage of time will help people who supported them in the past forget their betrayals on both these issues while in government and many more besides.

The reality, despite Brendan Howlin’s admission over the weekend of unspecified ‘mistakes’ in government, is that he, Joan Burton and the Labour Party are fundamentally unrepentant for their coalition with Fine Gael and frankly feel aggrieved with the hundreds of thousands of former Labour voters who refuse to accept that the savage austerity visited on working people and working class communities like Jobstown was somehow unavoidable. This sense of grievance still manifests itself as we saw recently during the wrangle over the water charges where their representatives still clung to the position harder than even Fine Gael that charges in some form remain.

fgeverylittlehelps

Unfortunately for Labour their recovery strategy has not translated into the opinion polls and is being hindered by inconvenient reminders about their past role in government. Their tantrum over the water is a case in point but when Burton takes the stand and tells the court of the inconvenience she suffered for two hours in November 2014 our response has to begin with cataloguing the daily ‘inconveniences’ that were experienced by people who suffered at her hands and those of her fellow Labour Ministers.

When Joan Burton visited Jobstown in November 2014 we were more than three and a half years into that government. Under her watch we had cuts in Special Needs Assistants, carers allowance and benefit, the household benefits package for our elderly and disabled and a decimation of traveller education supports. We had the imposition of the property tax and the imposition of the USC by revenue. We had jobbridge (scambridge!). Furthermore there was a reduction in rent supplement caps which as early as 2013 directly contributed to a spike of homelessness cases.

That a Labour Minister and her party could stand over all of this and the imposition of water charges in flagrant disregard for their 2011 election promises which saw them record their highest ever Dáil representation caused undeniable widespread anger. The hammering taken by Labour in the May 2014 local and European elections did not cause them to alter their course one jot.

The logic of the prosecution case against the Jobstown defendants is that working class people and the real representatives like Paul Murphy should have swallowed Labour’s betrayals and bided time until the 2016 elections. The reality is that there was and is a struggle for economic survival for hundreds of thousands of people taking place and effective, militant but peaceful protest became not merely an option but a necessity in the face of Fine Gael/Labour policy.

Therefore it is entirely appropriate that a Labour Minister responsible for the above mentioned should not be permitted to go about their day to day work relatively undisturbed by the people who in large number voted for her party only to be stabbed in the back.

Connolly and Larkin in whose tradition the Labour Party still claims to stand understood that the boundaries of protest and strike action had to be pushed when the economic survival of working people was at stake. They ended up in the dock on more than one occasion precisely for this reason which is why it is the Jobstown protesters who really stand in their tradition not the Labour Party which a long time ago integrated themselves fully into the capitalist establishment.