The date was September 17, 2016. I got the Luas with my wife and our two young children to Heuston Station, which was one of the meeting places for the latest Right2Water march. We all set off towards the centre of town, and there were thousands gathered in just our section and the various groups from around the city were to converge at St Stephens Green.
As we walked along the quays, I’d say it was probably around Ormond Quay, a man walked up to my wife as she pushed the buggy carrying our then 17-month old daughter and stuck a microphone in her face. Behind him was a cameraman with his device pointing at her.
“So why are you marching today?”
“I don’t want to talk.”
“But I thought you cared about water changes? Why are you marching then if you don’t want to talk about it?”
To be clear, I am paraphrasing the man, but that is definitely the gist of the exchange.
Needless say I wanted to throw him into the Liffey. On a more sensible level, I wanted to give him a piece of my mind. My wife does not feel comfortable in those situations. And why should she. All she wanted to do to lend her support for something she believed in was march, and it is as much her right not to talk as it is to talk.
How dare you confront a peaceful protester in this manner? Would you not at least ask permission for the interview first? Identify yourself and the broadcaster or publication for whom you are reporting first? This is what I wanted to say to the man. But I knew it wouldn’t come out that way so I took her hand and led her away from him.
I don’t want to give the impression that I go to these marches all the time. That’s not because I’d be ashamed if I did, in fact it’s more to the contrary…I’m ashamed that I had somehow managed to be elsewhere each and every time such activism was going on, no matter how much I believed in a particular cause. My “excuse” for the past year or so has been that I have been more interested in the US Presidential campaign plus my online time has been taken up by running a monetised sports blog.
None of that really matters, though. You either show up for events like this or you don’t. And on this day I honestly thought showing up was enough. I should have been more prepared for a moment like this one. I should have known to confront this asshole with a clear head and using accurate language to give him a proper soundbite and I should have also known to use my phone to record my own words as well.
Anyway, here’s my point that relates that incident above to this article.
Do you believe my recollection of what happened? Or do you think I’m exaggerating the reporter’s aggressiveness and/or lack of professionalism for the sake of the cause I was marching for? Your honest answer to that question is very important when it comes to contemporary Irish politics.
— JL Pagano (@JL_Pagano) September 17, 2016
Something else happened to me on the day of that protest. As we waited at Heuston Station for the march to start, I was handed a placard. I looked at it. It read “Jobstown Not Guilty”. I handed it back to the man.
The reason I wouldn’t take it was not that I was opposed to the Jobstown cause, rather that on this particular day, while I did know about the incident in question involving then-Tánaiste Joan Burton, I was unaware of the specifics of the pending legal case, and also the organisation to back the defendants.
Basically I didn’t want to be going around with my children holding a placard for a cause I knew little about. And truth be told, in the short amount of time between receiving the placard and handing it back, I didn’t have time to check whether or not it was somehow connected to Sinn Féin, which was my greatest fear.
Since then of course, I have gotten to know more and more about the #JobstownNotGuilty cause. Again because of other distractions, I never managed to get too involved in the activism, but you can be sure I was delighted when the defendants were found not guilty at the end of June.
Was the delight down to my thoughts on the actual events which transpired on that fateful day in Jobstown in November 2014? Of course not. I wasn’t there. My delight stems from the fact that this was way, way more than a court case. This was actually the coal face of modern Irish society. People’s approach to the topic could not illustrate more where they stand with regard to the “haves vs have-nots” nature of public opinion these days.
And am I a fan of Paul Murphy? I can’t answer. I don’t know the guy personally. But I do know that he was elected by the people of Dublin South-West on a ticket which couldn’t more clearly define his mandate if it tried : “Anti Austerity Alliance”.
I have certainly read multiple attempts to smear him though. Like this op-ed by Philip Ryan in the Irish Independent over the weekend.
Paul Murphy really fancies himself as Ireland’s modern day Nelson Mandela with a megaphone
Here’s a thought…instead of slagging the man off for his megaphone, why not ask yourself why he feels the need to use it? Or better still…give him the megaphone YOU’RE using. Let HIM write a piece in the Indo and let your readers form their own opinion?
No – it’s much easier to hide behind your column and slag the man off along with half-truths and tenuous associations.
And while we’re on that subject…a few points. The pro-establishment media are very concerned with the fact that a water balloon was thrown. So much so, they make it sound like it was a Molotov cocktail. If that’s the extent of the violence that took place, then that’s surely enough to question the general narrative for starters.
They are also very concerned with the fact that Joan Burton is a woman. Why? She was the Tánaiste at the time. It shouldn’t matter a jot what gender she is. There was nowhere near this level of hysteria when President Higgins had a similar in-car experience a couple of months later, although the mainstream coverage was still very much anti-protester.
And as for “kidnapping”, well that one’s easy. The court has decided it wasn’t. Therefore it wasn’t.
But we had the ultimate side-taking just recently in the Dáil by our new Taoiseach.
Asked by Deputy Murphy if there would be a public inquiry into false statements made by gardaí throughout the course of the trial, Varadkar replied thus…
Deputy, you had a fair trial…
…so we’d best leave it at that.” Had that been the Taoiseach’s point, even it it meant brushing Murphy off on the Garda thing, I would have understood to an extent. Remember…“Taoiseach” is supposed to mean “leader”, and one every bit as much of the people who voted for Murphy as those who voted for Fine Gael.
But he couldn’t resist going on…
…you were acquitted, but that doesn’t mean that your behaviour was right. And it may well be the case that you weren’t engaged in kidnapping, but it was thuggery.
…and his good buddies at BlueshirtFM, aka Newstalk, were on hand to provide plenty of “huzzah!” for his clearly biased opinion. No fear of asking a Solidarity representative on to provide some kind of balance.
The Jobstown trial and all the pro-establishment opinion surrounding it is not about what took place that day. It was about framing the narrative of Irish political discourse. The country was brought to its knees by the actions of the government, the banking sector and the construction sector and one by one the public are expected to pick up the tab.
Whatever you may think about Paul Murphy, he is merely the latest focal point for the establishment to attack through various means. If it wasn’t him it would be someone like Brendan Ogle. Or Mick Wallace. Or Ruth Coppinger. Or Clare Daly. The way this country is set up right now, it’s remarkably easy for those either wishing to suck up to the establishment or afraid to appear “too left” to play the man (or woman!!!) instead of the ball.
And what is the ball? It’s the true political discussion, one that is not being had anywhere it matters. It’s not about Fianna Fáil vs Fine Gael. It’s not even about “haves” vs “have nots”, at least not precisely.
It’s about three distinct groups….those who speak for the “haves”, those who speak for the “have nots” and the most important of all, those burying their heads in the sand, making countless excuses for not getting involved. Much like I tend to do. At least I find the odd hour or two to voice my opinion here, though that of course is nowhere near enough. JLP