Belfast Telegraph

Garda review: We should have predicted Joan Burton water charge protest

Six people were found not guilty of falsely imprisoning the ex-Labour Party leader and an assistant in 2014 in Dublin.

Garda intelligence should have predicted the risk of the water charge protest involving Ireland’s former Tanaiste, the force said.

Solidarity’s Paul Murphy and five others were found not guilty of falsely imprisoning ex-Labour Party leader Joan Burton and her then assistant Karen O’Connell on November 15 2014, at Fortunestown Road in Jobstown, Dublin.

A review said there was little evidence of a Garda strategic assessment before the trouble.

It said: “From the benefit of hindsight. it is clear that the risk of a serious outburst of public disorder was likely to occur around this time as demonstrated by the considerable number of public order incidents surrounding the installation of water meters in October and November 2014, coupled with the two specific incidents in the days immediately preceding this visit of the Tanaiste to Jobstown.

“These events should have increased the level of risk and been picked up by Garda intelligence.”

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Paul Murphy, third from right, and five others were found not guilty (PA)

Ms Burton was leaving an adult graduation event when she was heckled by protesters opposed to water charges being introduced on the back of government-imposed austerity measures.

Along with her adviser Ms O’Connell, the then Labour leader was placed in a Garda car which was subsequently surrounded by demonstrators for a number of hours.

Ms Burton, whose party was the junior partner in a coalition government with Fine Gael at the time, claimed she was trapped in the car for up to three hours.

The Garda review said the force should ensure that robust structures and processes are in place to monitor levels of public order.

Although not all of the existing policies and procedures were followed to the letter, there was more than sufficient compliance and in cases where non-compliance was encountered, this did not affect the overall outcome of the investigation Garda report

Its policing response was a “qualified success” as the Tanaiste and assistant were extricated without physical injury.

The event lacked strategic direction and various tactical options do not appear to have been explored, the report said.

It said a draft policy on public order incident command should be urgently published.

“The opinion of the review team is that although not all of the existing policies and procedures were followed to the letter, there was more than sufficient compliance and in cases where non-compliance was encountered, this did not affect the overall outcome of the investigation.

“However, when set against the benchmark of court outcomes it is questionable as to how successful this investigation actually was.”

The report said the introduction of a Major Investigations Management System should be identified as a key strategic imperative and introduced at the earliest juncture.

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