Updated: 30/06/17 : 07:27:37
Printable Version   Bookmark and Share Share This


No winners in the Jobstown Trial

By Declan Foley
Berwick, Australia

In the 21 century to witness the recently completed Court Trial of those involved in a political protest: protest bearing similarities to trials of protesters in the days of British rule, is indeed surreal.

Despite all protests from government Ministers that they played no role whatsoever in the prosecutions: there is now a perception that this was political payback. Perception does far more damage than fact.

That the case came to trial is beyond belief. Whilst we must respect the independence of the DPP,  the DPP should have taken into account the fact that the case would be turned into a political trial. There are times when democracy and separation of powers are best served by inaction, rather than action, particularly legal action. Historically called 'giving a fool's pardon'.

Enormous video evidence was available. The prosecution had one Senior Counsel: the defendants had seven Senior Counsel. Surely, someone could have foreseen the shambles the one versus seven legal minds could create. There were far worse political protests in the 1970-80s, yet no charges were ever laid.

There are no winners in the "Jobstown Trial".  The Labour Party have suffered enormous damage, as has Fine Gael, not to mention an Garda Siochana. In effect the biggest loser is democracy, because it now places the Garda Siochana in an invidious position when it comes to policing future political protest.

Frances Fitzgerald did no one any favour, when she said in the Dail '. . . .as in many court cases there is always the possibility of appeal,. . . ".  Cynics may well ask: 'Was this why Maire Whelan was appointed to the Appeal Court?"

Judge Melanie Greally is to be congratulated for her decision to allow the jury to do their duty, albeit with proper judicial advice. Some will say Judge Greally should have thrown the case out in the beginning or even part way through. We should be thankful she allowed the case to run its course, and to allow the jury to make the decision. By doing so, Judge Greally removed any perception of "political interference".

I witnessed far bigger demonstrations here in Melbourne in 1990, and there were no criminal proceedings against anyone, even when the car containing  Premier of Western Australia was blocked at a street junction  for an hour. He read his papers and waited for the mob to let him go. In 1998 the Liberal Party of Australia, then in Federal government, tried to use the Victoria Police to break up a protest on Melbourne docks. As a large body of police in riot gear approached the striking dockers they were surrounded by more than a thousand Trade Union members. The Police Superintendent in charge turned to his officers, and said "Let us get out of here, we are not political tools", and they disbursed.

There is a time to pick a fight; the Jobstown protest was not the time. The only injury that day was to the pride of a politician, her adviser and a few police officers. Surely when Health Services are in dire straits this is not the time to waste millions of Euros on childish antics.

Irish politicians of all parties need to wise up to the needs of the majority: not just the needs of their, minority financial supporters. They also need to wise up smartly that the days of having a particular news outlet on your side is not alone passe: it has been completely overtaken by social media.

Perhaps "The Jobsotwn Trial" will be the wake up call to Irish politicians in love with austerity, that the tragic loss of life in the Grenfell tragedy has been to British, and some EU leaders.

In the end people matter far more than money.