In a shocking move Ireland’s Directer of Public Prosecution has ordered 20 Irish water protesters be charged and tried under an array of offences ranging from false imprisonment to violent disorder to criminal damage and offences under the public order act. Even more concerning is the office of the DPP choosing not to bring the charges within the 6-month limit, which would permit the case to be heard in the smaller district court. The result is now the cases will be heard in the much more heavy handed circuit court where they will face not only a judge as is the case in the district court but also a jury.
False imprisonment, the more serious offence can, in theory, carry a sentence of up to life. Anyone convicted for violent disorder can face a fine or a prison term not exceeding 10 years, or both.
The charges arise from a protest in November 2014 where Tánaiste Joan Bruton was the focus of a Direct Action that saw her held up in her car for two hours surrounded by protesters. 40 people were arrested that day including three public representatives: Mick Murphy and Kieran Mahon of the Anti Austerity Alliance and Paul Murphy of the Socialist Party.
Mr Murphy told the Irish Times that “The whole thing is politically motivated. It’s no coincidence that on the day the first arrests were made, all four people arrested were political activists.” Mr Murphy also claimed that the first time he heard about the charges was on the news meaning somehow the charges were leaked to the media before the activists. He has since put in complaints to the governing bodies of the DPP and the Gardaí, the only two sources the leaks could have come from.
In a twist that seemingly confirms the accusations of political policing. An assistant Garda Commissioner has claimed that he was subjected to uncomfortable questioning about ‘left wing political extremism’ by Garda Commissioner Noreen O’Sullivan, while interviewing for the position of Deputy Garda Commissioner. John Fintan Fanning has begun a high court action alleging the process was unfair. Claiming Ms O’Sullivan should have recused herself from the process.
Ms O’Sullivan had also come under fire over nepotism after assigning her superintendent husband to investigate contact between a senior garda and journalists. Ms O’Sullivan is also responsible for the over policing of peaceful protests including a justice protest where a very small group of protesters were faced with up to a hundred gardaì and riot police, bollards and public order barriers.