I opposed water charges and did not pay my own water bill. Not only have we all been paying for our water via our taxes all of this time, I knew from my work in international law that introducing water charges is a typical IMF austerity policy that often leads to privatization of, and overcharging for, water.
From talking to people at the doors, I gather that many of you feel the same, and I continue to oppose water charges in Ireland.
However, even more concerning than the water charges themselves was the trial for false imprisonment that resulted from the Jobstown protest in which Minister Joan Burton was temporarily prevented from leaving the site of the protest in her vehicle. This was a wholly disproportionate reaction and one that seriously infringed on our basic right to protest. Even if you don’t much like taking to the streets yourself, that is still an alarming development.
At the time, I decided to get this issue on the map by writing an op-ed for an international news outlet on the subject. I also phoned the production team of an international television channel that I had reason to believe would be interested in covering the story (which they did).
In addition, I also made a submission to the Law Reform Commission with a proposal to change the law so that a blockade protest could in future at most be considered a form of ‘intimidation’ with a much, much lower sentence, and not in any event, unto itself, an action constituting false imprisonment.
I feel that putting people on trial for false imprisonment merely for detaining a politician at a protest, showed a concerning level of contempt for those people and their fears and sufferings. My personal policy is, of course, to engage with people all of the time through digital democracy, but even if I were the type of representative who believed I was entitled to make decisions on my constituents’ behalf, then as an unavoidable corollary of that I would also have accepted responsibility for ensuring their welfare and happiness. It might be unpleasant when people are very angry, but then again, whatever made them angry was probably pretty unpleasant for them, too. Seeking to suppress that anger by having people locked up for expressing it is a point-blank dictatorial approach to government and one which I strongly condemn.