herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Paul Murphy fears losing Dáil seat if jailed over Burton protest

Paul Murphy TD.
Paul Murphy TD.

SOCIALIST TD Paul Murphy said he fears he will lose his seat if he is convicted and imprisoned in relation to an anti- water charges rally last year.

The TD is among more than 20 people set to face charges over the protest that saw Tanaiste Joan Burton detained in her car in Tallaght.

Arrests are expected to take place in the next 10 days after the Director of Public Prosecutions decided to charge 23 people in relation to the incident.

Among the charges expected are false imprisonment, violent disorder, assault and criminal damage, though not all those set to be arrested will be charged with all of the offences. Some may be charged with only one.

It is understood that the charge against Paul Murphy will be limited to false imprisonment.

But Mr Murphy said the decision to charge the demonstrators is an attack on the right to protest and fears he may lose his seat in the Dail.

“I’m likely to be charged with false imprisonment,” he said on Newstalk today. “It carries a likelihood, if convicted, of time in prison.

“If I was imprisoned for six months or more, my understanding is that I would automatically lose the Dail seat.”

The Anti-Austerity Alliance deputy also said questions must be asked about why the information was leaked to the media before those people facing the charges have been told.

Mr Murphy said that he had not been contacted in relation to the charges: “The first I heard of it yesterday was when a radio station rang me shortly after the nine o’clock news went on.”

Ms Burton is due to be the key prosecution witness for some of the charges and will have to take the stand at any trial. All the charges are due to be dealt with at the Circuit Court, before a jury, where penalties are potentially more severe.

A car carrying Ms Burton was blocked by protesters for more than two hours as she attempted to leave a graduation event in a college in Jobstown in Tallaght on November 15.

Defiant

The investigation subsequently led to almost 40 arrests. Among those arrested in February were Murphy, and two Anti-Austerity Alliance councillors, Kieran Mahon and Mick Murphy.

The two councillors are also set to be among those charged.

Mick Murphy was defiant last night.

“Let the law take its course,” he said. “They arrested us before, but we weren’t expecting this. It’s hard to see where this is going, but it sounds like an own-goal decision for the Government.”

The Tanaiste met gardai for more than an hour on November 20 and “gave her version of events as they unfolded” according to her spokesman at the time.

Her spokesman said: “The gardai and DPP are independent in their functions and it would be inappropriate to comment on ongoing proceedings.”

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