Below is just a sample of the media comments in the fallout as a result of the acquittal of the Jobstown lot.

What is now certain as a result of this protracted trail the notoriety of the few has increased, the trail was used to enhance the political profile of many. The evidence of Gardaí was scrutinised and analysed from all angles. What it proved is that Gardaí are human and where their evidence varied is down to how the individual perceived the particular situation. In the past where evidence of Gardaí was so similar it was attacked as being rehearsed and false.

Garda Video coverage was discounted in many instances; Garda Helicopter coverage again was questioned and discounted. While on the other hand snippets of phone videos with selected coverage was given as the facts,  Likewise as the trial progressed it seems it is acceptable to abuse ; spit at and assault Gardaí.  Not all the evidence given in the trial, for the prosecution, was from members of An Garda Siochana – please bear this in mind.

Calls now for an Inquiry are laughable are we to spend more public money on a wasted cause?

In conclusion, I will say it has been proved down through the years as a Society we are prepared to “waste” public money in the Courts, by way of fees for the fat cats, while at the same time ignoring investment in Garda Training and much needed equipment for our law enforcers.

Now is the time to reverse this trend, equip all Uniform members going on duty with Body cams, after all they need protection too.

Fitzgerald tells Dáil claims by Solidarity TD are ‘quite simply untrue’

Marie O’Halloran – Correspondent

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has described as “quite simply untrue” claims by Solidarity TD Mick Barry that the Government had an agenda in the Jobstown trial.

Mr Barry congratulated the six defendants who were found not guilty of the false imprisonment of former Labour tánaiste Joan Burton and her assistant during anti-water charge protests in 2014.

He read out each of the their names in the Dáil and said “not guilty” after each name.

The Cork North-Central TD described the verdict as “a stunning defeat for the political establishment” which he claimed wanted “to create a powerful chill factor” to stop protests.

And he claimed “an orchestrated conspiracy” by An Garda Síochána to pervert the course of justice.

Mr Barry also claimed more than €10 million is being spent on trying to make out that Jobstown protesters were guilty.

“Let’s save money here. Let’s be prudent. Let’s drop all remaining charges,” he said.

Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan intervened to say “the House cannot instruct the courts” to which Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl replied: “There’s nobody instructing anybody, as far as I can see.”

Ms Fitzgerald said however that the Dáil should not “rerun the evidence”.

She said: “We respect the court decision, of course. This was a jury trial. The jury makes its decision and justice takes it course.”

The Tánaiste added: “We can discuss a lot of things in this House but we certainly do not rerun the evidence that is given in a trial and I certainly do not intend to do that now.”

‘Shabby attempt’

Mr Barry then described Ms Burton as the “star witness for the State” and he hit out at the Labour Party, claiming it had engaged in “a shabby attempt to frame socialists for standing up for their communities and against austerity”.

When Labour leader Brendan Howlin described his comments as “shocking”, Mr Barry said ordinary people would look at the role of the Labour Party in this as “shocking”. Mr Howlin said that was “an outrageous argument”.

Mr Barry called for Ms Fitzgerald to comment on “the appalling vista that now opens up” about the the role of An Garda Síochána in the case, and he claimed that it was based on 180 statements by gardaí, which the jury rejected.

The Solidarity TD said that in three of the statements – from a chief superintendent, an inspector and a sergeant – they said they heard Solidarity TD Paul Murphy say: “Will we let her go or will we keep her all night?”

Mr Barry said that claim was completely contradicted by the video evidence.

“Can the Tánaiste deny that there was an orchestrated conspiracy by the Garda Síochána to pervert the course of justice?”

Mr Barry claimed the Government used the Jobstown case in an “attempt to gain revenge against those of us on the left who have defeated you on the issue of water charges”.

Tone of Jobstown trial was both modern and alarming

Video footage, claims of ‘fake news’ and tweeting by defendant in court anchor case in contemporary Ireland

Colm Keena- Correspondent

There was something very contemporary about the Jobstown trial.

For a start, the principal evidence presented by the prosecution was video evidence, much of it filmed by protesters on smartphones who were at the scene and who posted the footage on Facebook and YouTube.

There was also footage from Garda CCTV cameras, a Garda helicopter, and even footage taken by Joan Burton and her then assistant, Karen O’Connell, from inside the Garda car and Garda 4×4 in which they were detained, first in one vehicle then in another, for approximately three hours, after an angry crowd surrounded first the Toyota Avensis they were in, and then the Jeep.

There was footage of the moment when gardaí formed a cordon to allow the two women to run from one vehicle to the other. The crowd surged up against the two lines of gardaí, which quickly collapsed. “Get the c**ts” someone could be heard shouting. The dash took approximately 30 seconds and, from what the two women said in evidence, was a particularly terrifying moment.

Across the western world since the economic crisis , people have been turning against centre-left parties and drifting towards the harder left and harder right. It was interesting to sit in court number 13 and see the former leader of the now much reduced Labour Party describe how scared she was by what happened in Jobstown on Saturday, November 15th, 2014, while Paul Murphy sat in the dock, listening closely, poker-faced.

His seat was the closest to the witness box, so he was just a few feet away from Burton as she sometimes struggled to hold back her emotions as she described being inside the Avensis while people hurled violent personal abuse at her. Bitch. Whore. C**t. People shouted they wished she would die. A woman standing beside the car was, she said, beside herself with rage. Burton said she sometimes wondered where all the hatred came from.

Video evidence

The video evidence was sometimes used by defence counsel to challenge testimony from Garda witnesses, but each time the video footage was shown, especially if the volume was turned up, you couldn’t help but be convinced that what had happened on the day had been terrifying. The women said they were afraid of what would happen to them if the protesters had managed to pull them from either of the Garda vehicles. The proposition was made on behalf of the accused that they could have got out of the Avensis but chose not to. It seemed farcical. Another very contemporary aspect of the trial was the role played by social media. Right from the moment charges were brought, a JobstownNotGuilty campaign was run online, despite the normal practice that people do not comment in the run-up to, and during, jury trials. Astonishingly, Murphy even tweeted, and retweeted others’ tweets, from the actual courtroom. Just last Monday he published a retweeted that contained a seemingly libellous observation about some of the evidence, while sitting in the courtroom a few feet from where Judge Melanie Greally was charging the jury.

Much of the commentary on social media was shocking in its verbal violence and unconcealed hatred. The JobstownNotGuilty Facebook page posted a request on the day Burton was due to begin evidence, that people should not picket her home. This would not be helpful, it said, to which someone responded that it would be playing “into the bitch’s hands”.

The social media content, in its disturbing tone, seemed to mirror some of the shouting and venom that could be seen on the video footage. It was also easy to imagine it had bled into the courtroom. There was a strong attendance most days, especially when Burton and O’Connell were in the witness box.

The mostly JobstownNotGuilty supporters often made their views of the evidence known by way of snorts and not-so-quietly whispered swearing. The lack of sympathy for the two women as they spoke of their ordeal was unsettling.

Another contemporary aspect of the trial was the social media campaign’s relentless attack on the “mainstream media”. There were repeated allegations of bias leveled against particular media outlets. Without a hint of embarrassment, these attacks were accompanied by hugely partisan commentary on the evidence as it unfolded, some of which was libellous, and some of which seemed to constitute contempt of court. It was hard not to think of fake news, and US president Donald Trump.

Hate speech

In a speech in Dublin today the secretary general of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, will explore the threat to the rule of law that arises from fake news, hate speech and populism.

Jagland defines populism as an emotional appeal that harnesses grievance against the establishment.

“Its leaders claim moral authority to act on behalf of the people, thereby delegitimising any opposition, institution or dissenting voice.”

During the trial the argument was put that Burton, then Tánaiste, wasn’t welcome in Jobstown in November 2014, not by the community nor its political leaders. The anger that resulted when she did choose to take up an invitation to speak at a ceremony for back-to-education graduates, it was argued, was her own fault.

One day in the courtroom, I overheard a middle-aged man observe that Burton had not come from a privileged background. “I know I shouldn’t say that,” he quickly added to his female companion.

The constitutional right to freedom of expression was one of the arguments with which the accused contested the charges against them. But watching the case it was hard to not to feel that the anger so much to the fore in the events of November 2014, and in the online campaign against the charges, was itself inimical to freedom of expression.

Which is another very contemporary phenomenon.

Colm Keena is Legal Affairs Correspondent

Jury trials under strain

Jobstown acquittals

The acquittal of six men accused of falsely imprisoning Joan Burton and her assistant brings to an end one of the most surreal legal spectacles of recent years. Surreal not because the trial took place. That decision was taken by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, a scrupulously independent and respected institution, and the claim by supporters of the defendants that the charges were a politically motivated attempt to stifle protest should be treated with the derision it deserves. What made the trial surreal, not to say disturbing, was how so many of the conventions that have developed around jury trials were flagrantly ignored.

Public commentary on ongoing trials is heavily circumscribed. The media reports only what the jury can see and hear. Until a trial concludes, a veil is drawn over legal argument that takes place in the jury’s absence, and care is taken not to comment in a way that would influence the jury. These ground rules are there for a reason: to ensure the integrity of the jury trial, a centerpiece of our justice system. Those who breach them can find themselves in contempt of court.

In the so-called Jobstown trial, in which Solidarity TD Paul Murphy and five others were found not guilty of charges arising from an incident in Tallaght in 2014, the normal rules apparently no longer applied. Campaigners produced partisan running commentary on the trial. Activists systematically used social media to criticise and impugn the motives of those who gave evidence.

Advances in technology have long put a strain on the jury trial. We were always asking a lot of jurors by expecting that they cloister themselves away for the duration of their service. In the age of Google, Facebook and Twitter, when everyone is a publisher and information is more accessible than ever, that expectation has become increasingly untenable. But the Jobstown trial highlighted the challenge more sharply. By harnessing social media on such a scale, systematically chipping away at one of the pillars of our jury system, those campaigners have done themselves and their cause a great disservice.