A mass spontaneous community protest against the visit of the then deputy prime minister – Joan Burton – to the Jobstown area of Dublin in November 2014, led to the arrest and charging of 19 people. They include Socialist Party member and TD (MP) for the Anti-Austerity Alliance, Paul Murphy, and two AAA councillors, Mick Murphy and Kieron Mahon, as well as members of the Jobstown community. Charged with false imprisonment, the trials of seven defendants will begin in April. These trials are set to be the biggest in decades. International support and solidarity is vital. Emma Quinn, a member of the Socialist party in Ireland, reports.
The trial of the first grouping of adult defendants begins on the 24 April. Ironically, this is the same day as the trial of former Anglo Irish Chief Executive, David Drumm.
The trial is comparable, in significance and potential impact on society, to the Arms Trial of the 1970s, which took place in a period of heightened tension around the national question. The political context of the Jobstown trials is one of increasing inequality and a growing alienation from the establishment amongst broad sections of the working class and young people.
The striking class divide between Drumm and the hard pressed working-class community of Jobstown, is actually quite symbolic of the sentiment felt by many in the anti-water charges and anti-austerity movement. In fighting the water charges, ordinary people were not only showing their opposition to the charges and austerity generally, but also to the huge injustice of working-class people being forced to pay the price of an economic crisis caused by bankers like Drumm.
The stitch-up continues
The judge presiding over the case of the 17 year-old charged with the “false imprisonment” of Joan Burton, duplicitously described him as having led “a blameless life” before promptly finding him guilty. This was despite any allegations or indication of violent or aggressive behaviour being made against the student.
This verdict and with it the sentence – a “conditional discharge” with no prison time – was an obvious attempt to minimise outrage and eradicate any doubt whatsoever that these trials are politically motivated. It also indicates an attempt to create a precedent for guilty verdicts for the adults charged.
As well as having a huge impact on the defendants and the community of Jobstown, these trials have major implications for working-class people generally and particularly those who want an alternative to the inequality imposed by the capitalist system. Through these trials and the threat of significant jail terms, the political establishment and the state are trying to intimidate people away from protesting. This is precisely at a time when there is bubbling industrial unrest, a horrendous housing crisis and a radicalisation of young people demanding a woman’s right to choose.
Attacks on right to protest
Attacks on democratic rights, including toughening up anti-trade union legislation and the introduction of new laws criminalising protest is an increasing international trend. In 2016 Sharan Burrow General Secretary of ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) commented that:
“We are witnessing the closing of democratic space and an increase in insecurity, fear and intimidation of working people. The speed at which attacks on rights are being forced through, even in democracies, with the Finish government’s proposals and the new trade union law in the United Kingdom, shows an alarming trend for working people and their families”.
These attacks are happening after nine years of austerity and a continuation of economic stagnation. The fear of organised struggle of the working class, defending rights won in the past, is an increasing threat to the capitalist system. The establishment in Ireland and internationally are trying to weaken the potential fight back from those who want to resist growing inequality and the best way to counteract these attacks is the building and strengthening of socialist forces world wide.
Get active in helping to build a strong campaign of solidarity with the Jobstown defendants that can turn this attack into a major victory and a turning point for the working class and left movement in this country.
Upcoming National Events
- Rally for #JobstownNotGuilty
- Liberty Hall, Saturday 1st April
- National Demo to coincide with the first week of the trial Saturday 29th April
- We would appeal to trade unionists and socialists in Scotland to send resolutions from your organisations and messages of support for Jobstown. Send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
- Like the Jobstown Not Guilty Facebook Page