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Socialist Irish TD and five activists found not guilty in water-charges protest trial

Socialist Paul Murphy TD and five other men have been found not guilty of falsely imprisoning former Tanaiste Joan Burton and her adviser during a 2014 water charges protest

Socialist Paul Murphy TD and five other men have been found not guilty of falsely imprisoning former Tanaiste Joan Burton and her adviser during a 2014 water charges protest.

The court room, which was packed to capacity, erupted in cheers and shouts of of “No way, we won’t pay” as the verdicts in the highly politicised case were handed down shortly after midday.

The six — Paul Murphy and South Dublin County Councillors Michael Murphy and Kieran Mahon, all of the Solidarity Party, eirigi activist Scott Masterson, Frank Donaghy and Michael Banks — were arrested in controversial dawn raids, some of them orchestrated for the benefit of the mainstream media. They were put on trial in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court for over two months amid protests. Today they nodded and smiled as the not guilty verdicts were handed down. They were found to have been wrongly accused of falsely imprisoning the then Tanaiste and her adviser Karen O’Connell by holding a protest in front of their car in Dublin in November 2014. The charge carried a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The charges against a seventh activist accused was dropped after Judge Greally ruled that the extension of his garda detention in February 2015 was unlawful. The 40 day trial, which started on April 26, quickly descended into farce as evidence mounted to show that Burton, who was surrounded by police at all times, made no effort to leave her vehicle or redirect it away from the peaceful protest. However, serious questions of perjury remain unresolved, not least by members of the Gardai who backed the claims of Burton and O’Connell. Before the jurors resumed their deliberations this morning, they asked for footage taken above the protest by a Garda helicopter to be replayed. The video showed the vehicle carrying the former Labour leader and her advisor could have simply reversed away from the area.

There were further cheers in court as she told the six men they were free to go. Mr Murphy and his co-accused raised their fists as they emerged to supporters, some of whom held a banner reading “No faith in the system”. In the Dail today, fellow socialist TD Mick Barry read the names of the people acquitted in the Jobstown Trial and asked if was there an orchestrated conspiracy by Gardai to attempt to jail Murphy and the other five.
Mr Murphy has branded the evidence against him as “rubbish”. “You saw Garda witness after Garda witness have their testimony shredded by our defence counsel,” he said.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams also welcomed the not guilty verdicts. “The verdict is victory for the right to protest. The charge of false imprisonment was clearly trumped up. There were charges with an obvious political purpose – to demonise water charges protesters”. Adams added that “The right to protest is a democratic and hard won right. It cannot be brushed aside or diluted to suit a political agenda. This is good news – he concluded – for everybody who holds that right dear. I want to send my good wishes to the protesters and their families.”

 

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