Five water protesters jailed as Dublin city centre brought to standstill
DUBLIN city centre was brought to a standstill for a time last night as hundreds of people demonstrated against the jailing of five water charge protesters.
Over 50 protesters marched from the Criminal Courts of Justice to the city centre, blocking traffic for a short time on O'Connell Bridge and outside the GPO as the evening rush hour began.
The demonstrators were then joined by more individuals before moving to Mountjoy Garda station to mark their opposition to the jailing of three people for 28 days and two others for 56 days for contempt of court.
The protesters, amounting to almost 200 people, blocked the gates to the car park at Mountjoy station preventing garda cars from entering or leaving for some time.
The High Court committed the five protesters to prison for breaching an order restraining them from coming within a 20-metre exclusion zone surrounding installation works.
Damien O'Neill (46) of Greenwood Park, Coolock and Paul Moore, of Mount Olive Grove in Kilbarrack were sentenced to 56 days in prison when the judge took into account it was the second finding of contempt against them.
Mum-of-three Bernie Hughes of McKelvey Avenue, Finglas and father-of-two Derek Byrne (36) of Streamville Road, Donaghmede were sent to prison for 28 days.
A fifth man, father-of-three Michael Batty (64) of Edenmore Avenue, Raheny, had a stay put on his committal to prison until Tuesday because he is currently out of the country for health reasons.
Dad-of-three Batty (64), whose chronic athsma requires him to be in a dry and sunny climate, has not had contact with the criminal jsutice system before, the High Court heard.
His solicitor, Cahir O'Higgins told Mr Justice Gilligan that Mr Batty is "eager to purge his contempt".
Derek Byrne, who wore a 'Je Suis Derek' baseball cap to court, is the same protester who apologised after calling President Michael D Higgins a "midget" at another demonstration last month.
Lawyers for GMC Sierra, the company which has a contract to install water meters around the country, had already secured injunctions preventing a number of individuals or anyone who had notice of the order from assaulting, intimidating or interfering with workers installing the meters.
The company secured the order on November 5 last after its lawyers told the High Court that its workers had been harassed and threatened while installing meters in certain areas.
GMC subsequently moved contempt of court proceedings against seven protesters on grounds that they allegedly breached the November 5 order in the Phibsborough and Stoneybatter areas in December.
In his ruling delivered yesterday, Mr Justice Paul Gilligan said he was satisfied that the protest actions represented "harassment and intimidation" of GMC Sierra's workers.
The five respondents had legal costs awarded against them.
Mr Justice Gilligan said the protests were being carefully organised and carried out by persons "whom I have found to have been in contempt" and were "designed to provoke civil disobedience", the judge said.
He distinguished their actions from the "many people in the country" who have carried out peaceful protests to the imposition of water charges.
Mr Justice Gilligan said that a distinct small group of people who consistently move in and around protest circles on occasion "manhandled" the workers, and the same people appeared to be involved in the instances of December 8 and 9 last.
"The court cannot stand idly by while those who defy its orders go free and those who seek its protection lose out," he said.
Richie Larkin (40) from Kilbarrack, Dublin, was one of the two people whom the courts found to be not in contempt. He joined the city centre protest and sat down on O'Connell Street yesterday afternoon.
"We intend to continue with our protests," he said.
Paul Kiernan (38) from Tallaght said he was arrested last Monday and questioned about the alleged false imprisonment of Tanaiste Joan Burton in the Jobstown protest and was released without charge.
"We intend to stand united together tonight. We also want to protest against what we consider to be political policing of our movement," said Mr Kiernan.