August 2017        

Opinion

Jobstown activists vindicated

Paul Doran

The verdict by the courts in the politically motivated trial of the Jobstown Six was warmly welcomed among the many tens of thousands of people who are involved in the Right2Water movement.
      Our protests have taken on many forms. In my own area of Clondalkin, for example, a group of women from Rowlagh decided that they had had enough, came together, and formed a group that attracted thousands of neighbours, from all walks of life.
      If there was news that builders were coming to install water meters, dozens of activists would gather in a given estate, day or night, to resist their encroachments. Text messages would be spread around, children would be given to grandparents, school runs would be disrupted. Getting youngsters to extracurricular activities would be a secondary consideration, such was the determination to prevent the state from imposing its undemocratic will.
      The very fact that, for the first time in many decades, trade unions led from the front in this campaign, organising community groups and holding countless public meetings and political education forums, was the key to its success, giving the struggle a lucid and accessible ideological foundation, alerting the people to the ways in which the state set about undermining the interests of the citizens it supposedly represents.
      Through its deployment of its police force, its judicial arm, and a barrage of restrictive, anti-democratic legislation, the state sought to intimidate and ultimately lock up innocent protesters trying to exercise their rights. The name of Joan Burton will be forever etched in our minds as the embodiment of this vicious, “official” response to the water movement, the then leader of a party that showed itself to be more vengeful towards the Irish working class even than its bigger Blueshirt sibling.
      The campaign also demonstrated the glaring shortcomings of Dáil Éireann and the political parties within it as vehicles for advancing the cause. Despite having many eloquent opponents to the charges in its ranks, Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin shamefully fluffed his lines over whether he would pay his water bill—a fiasco that cost his party the Tallaght by-election.
      What Jobstown represented was just. The Jobstown Six have been put through a political show trial, backed up by crass attempts at deception from gardaí in the witness box. Such fabrications brought back memories of the Sallins train robbery and the Garda’s underhand practices at that time.*
      Jobstown is not an isolated incident: we must not forget the coming trial of another eleven activists.
      Essential to winning the publicity war in the months ahead is reiterating the central demand of the Right2Water campaign: that a referendum must be called to enshrine public ownership of our water resources in the Constitution, lest it be robbed from us by multinational conglomerates that have no interest in providing clean water to our homes and businesses.
      Lessons have been learnt along the way, and that is perhaps the most invaluable kind of education we could have: forged in the heat of struggle against a seemingly all-powerful adversary, determined to destroy us at every turn.
      To the thousands of men and especially women of Ireland, this writer salutes you and your efforts, and asks you to recall the tireless maxim for the road ahead: “Educate, agitate, organise, to advance the interests of the working class!”

*The Sallins train robbery took place on 31 March 1976 when the Cork to Dublin mail train was robbed near Sallins, Co. Kildare. It was also the period of the “Heavy Gang,” when a group of Special Branch detectives systematically engaged in the beating of people in custody, not only suspected republicans but also left, trade union and unemployed activists.

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