A Prison Of Our Own Making

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From top: Jobstown protest; Dan Boyle

Recently I met up with the woman who ran my constituency office. We meet far too infrequently these days. There’s often a lot of catching up to do, and many memories to reignite.

Those memories, for the most part, have been good. Recollections of characters whose personalities often frustrated us, but always entertained. Few of these people brought with them any political benefit, but that rarely mattered. We had determined that whoever came to the office we would try to help, however we could.

She was excellent at her job. I couldn’t ask for a better representative for whenever I wasn’t there. Nor could I have gained anyone more expert in those areas where we would get frequent requests – health, social welfare or housing.

Of course the memories weren’t always idyllic. Towards the end of our time in government, she became the receptacle of the public anger, and frequent abuse, for things that were not, at all, of her making.

On one occasion that anger, or use of that anger, turned into a physical threat for my Secretary. A group of Social Justice Warriors (I can’t remember which posture politics collection it was) decided one day to occupy my office. They chose to do so on discovering I wouldn’t be there.

I was elsewhere at a Green Party think-in (phones off and on the table), when events started at my office. A gang of four or five invited themselves into the building, proceeding to intimidate my secretary.

Outside of their general ignorance, they had an extremely poor understanding of who a public person was, or indeed what a public place was. My secretary felt threatened and certainly felt imprisoned, during what ended up being a six hour ordeal.

I continue to feel guilty about my negligence to her, as her employer then, in ensuring that she operated in a safe work environment. I decided not to contact the Gardaí, feeling that drawing attention to this would have been to justify the action in the eyes of the perpetrators.

I now regret not having done so. There are many legitimate reasons to protest. There are similar number of ways to engage in protesting. This flexibility should not presuppose that any form of protest, using whatever form of trite sloganeering, in whatever location, is always acceptable.

I recount this experience so that it can be contrasted with events, that have followed in the aftermath of the Jobstown trial.

There’s no denying that the response of the State in this trial – the investigating and arrest procedures of the Gardaí and the direction by the office of the Director of Public Prosecution – was completely over the top. Nor can it be argued that a certain level of vindictiveness accompanied this decision making.

The purpose of protest should be firstly to identify inequity. To highlight the failure of those with the means and resources to tackle such inequities. Ultimately the aim should be towards eliminating such inequities.

Those who engage in posture politics seek to freeze their protest at the intermediate level. Ending inequities removes the need for permanent protest.

It also eliminates the ego driven nature of some organisers of protests, where their self perception sees themselves as enemies of the establishment, but the establishment often views them as useful idiots, used to deflect more serious damage being caused to the body politic.

The questions we should be asking isn’t whether protest is legitimate, but whether it is effective.

Neglected communities in our society have seen their labour, their access to opportunities and need for resources undermined. These days it is their anger that is being abused, and not for their betterment.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

61 thoughts on “A Prison Of Our Own Making

  1. Daisy Chainsaw

    Can’t remember, or not bothered to? A lot of us remember the Green’s collusion with fianna failure to keep those expenses flowing. The plug was only pulled on the govt when pensions were guaranteed.

    1. Dan Boyle

      Wrong. We never knew when pensions would kick in. It a year and half before we left government they were effective, but keep peddling that myth. My confusion is that I can’t remember if it was the Judean People’s Front or the People’s Front of Judea.

      1. Daisy Chainsaw

        That’s a first! A politician not knowing what the next stop on the gravy train was? And the “protest” can’t have been that big an “ordeal” for your “threatened and imprisoned” friend at the time if you can’t remember who it was, or that you or she weren’t bothered calling the gardai about it.

        1. Lord Snowflakee

          Would you ever give over Daisy?It’s like Angry Birds every day with you.

          1. Dan Boyle

            Do I care whether yo believe me or not? It happened for the woman concerned it was pretty traumatic.

        2. Dan Boyle

          I wasn’t there. It was my responsibility to call the Guards. I chose not to. I don’t care what labels they were promoting.

          1. realPolithicks

            Were any of these “protesters” carrying a couple of pints in their hands Enda, sorry Dan?

  2. blueswannabe

    “The questions we should be asking isn’t whether protest is legitimate, but whether it is effective.”

    If it wasn’t effective Irish Water would happily be charging what they want and the French would have abandoned protest as a political tool decades ago. Protest is quite effective, it must suck to be on the end of it but probably not suck as much as being on the end of stupid or heartless policy decisions that caused people to protest in the first place, Irish people don’t protest in large numbers without a good reason, if they’re protesting en masse or occupying your office, you’re probably doing something wrong (not always but generally). Why did they occupy your office? For such a frightful incident you don’t seem to remember who they were or what they were protesting, seems odd if you actually listened to them and if you didn’t and just ignored them as anonymous rabble-rousers, speaks volumes of a disconnect/level of hubris.

    1. Dan Boyle

      One I wasn’t there. Two I would never engage with anyone who behaved like that. I’ve always engaged. I’ve always be open.

  3. Lord Snowflakee

    Fair play Dan

    Excellent points and also great trolling

    Frilly – THIS is how you do it!

    1. Frilly Keane

      here
      go back over there to your own parish
      the v- Dublin thread still needs a few hundred more posts

      and mind your own business

      1. Lord Snowflakee

        I don’t know what you’re talking about, I’m not in here every day mooching about, too much to do.

        However I did enjoy your insights on depilation, thought-provoking and insightful

  4. Dan Boyle

    Debatable. The issue had many opponents many of whom didn’t engage in physical confrontation. It’s just as likely that Irish Water would have collapsed under its own contradictions. My argument isn’t about whether maintaining a status quo position on water is sustanable, it is on whether these campaigns have improved the lot of neglected communities. They don’t seem to have.

    1. Lord Snowflakee

      It’s a bit silly to analyse the matter in those terms as it speaks to a bias on your part that people always act to further their own self interest in a rational way, whereas we all know that is simply not the case.

  5. AndrewSB49

    Well this started badly, tailed off just a tad in the middle and the finale … well, what can I say! The writer wanted to get a dig in but ended up knocking himself out.

    1. Lord Snowflakee

      It also eliminates the ego driven nature of some organisers of protests, where their self perception sees themselves as enemies of the establishment, but the establishment often views them as useful idiots, used to deflect more serious damage being caused to the body politic.

      – Harsh, but true.This kind of seemingly throwaway cynical remark is what elevates Dan beyond the other bullspooers here

  6. Sheik Yahbouti

    Dan, this is very poor indeed. However, thank you for your Counsel of Despair. Nothing can be done, or should be done, to try and effect change. “Resistance is Futile” says the Boyle.

    1. Dan Boyle

      Not saying that at all. I’m all for effective protest. Protest for protest sake I see as being counterproductive.

      1. JIMMYJAMES

        When by no degree of separation, austerity measures equate to Violence against the people .The ‘common man’ isn’t obliged to be consistently conscious of his specific cause in the fog of protest.

        Was every cobble stone flung at garda during the attempted orangemens parade done in protest at their visit?

        Burton trapped in her car of few hours par rapport à thousands in poverty traps for decades.

      2. Sheik Yahbouti

        OK, Dan, I’ll bite (for the last time). Given the state of democracy in this country, what form should public protest take in order to be effective and bring about change. Serious question.

        1. Dan Boyle

          We may not agree. I see the Tax marches of the 1980s as having been effective. The anti war march of 2003 while unsuccessful did accurately express public opinion. The ‘success’ of the water campaign has only been to delay the eventual direct for water, for another five to ten year. The attention given to the issue has sidelined many of the actual issues brought about by austerity, and has done nothing to improve the economic or social well being of neglected communities.

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            People have a right to express their anger, whether it affects change or not. Seeing others affected by the same issues as you can provide comfort.

          2. Sheik Yahbouti

            Dan, you are correct – I disagree with your reply. I took part in both the marches you have relied upon – what has really changed? Further, you have totally ignored my actual question. We may be forgiven for concluding that you are a poseur and a dilettante, who bizzarely seeks to preserve the status in quo. Could it be that you desire a return to the cheap pantomime that is the Dail?

          3. Dan Boyle

            Moyest not what I said. Not all campaigns are virtuous. Some are obvious trojan horses.
            Sheik, you’re free to conclude as you want. I announced several years ago I wouldn’t run again for the Dáil. I don’t recognise your definition of poseur or dillitante. I don’t hold a self interest in this. I express opinion based on personal experience that your welcome to take or leave. I more anxious for change than you believe me to be.

          4. Sheik Yahbouti

            I accept your comment. Again I ask, what are your suggestions for “effective protest” which will yield results? I’m prepared to try anything. BTW that was a real ‘politician’s’ answer.

          5. Dan Boyle

            I don’t have answers, but I have a sense that the most effective campaigns are multi faceted, involving tools like economic boycotts. That campaign by Dunne Store staff against apartheid for instance.

  7. JIMMYJAMES

    “Green Party think-in (phones off and on the table)”

    Sounds absolutely & fantastically magical. One can only imagine some of the low energy light bulb moments that you must have known would surely never the light of day, yet you pressed on. Safe to say, lol, you are saving those gems for a chapter in your memoirs.

  8. Frilly Keane

    you were here last week talking all sorts
    about cease and desist n’stuff

    and now you’re in telling us about a 6 hour ordeal in your constituency office
    with 4 or 5 warriors

    and you didn’t report it

    Yeah

  9. phil

    Dan I will never forgive you or your party for propping up FF in 2008 and allowing them to guarantee the banks ….

  10. MoyestWithExcitement

    “The questions we should be asking isn’t whether protest is legitimate, but whether it is effective.”

    Why even ask that question if not to propose the idea that people shouldn’t bother?

    “The purpose of protest should be firstly to identify inequity. To highlight the failure of those with the means and resources to tackle such inequities. Ultimately the aim should be towards eliminating such inequities.”

    It *really* looks like you want to discourage a lot of protest. You don’t get to tell people why they should protest. People have a right to express their anger. It can be cathartic. It can remind people they’re not alone in their anger and so provide comfort.

    This piece is just dodgy looking.

  11. nellyb

    “Neglected communities in our society have seen their labour, their access to opportunities and need for resources undermined.” – undermined by some natural phenomenon? potato blight again? you think it’s morally acceptable obfuscating grievous matters? do you think this type of obfuscation has nothing to do with Jobstown events? You have no respect and appreciation for history. Nicolas f&*&ed with middle class, they got fed up and joined in with peasants and proletarians. it did tip the balance. There are mountains of dead written into history now. ‘neglected communities’ – don’t pretend you give a proverbial.

  12. Dan Boyle

    How very absolutist of you. I have no respect and appreciation for history. You expect me to debate about that??

  13. curmudgeon

    The water protesters essentially did my part for me. I arrived home from work one day and lo and behold the meter had been installed with no forewarning. The entire road had been done, with zero protest. Sure I could default on the payment but that doesn’t have the same impact or visibility. Those protests were needed.

    1. Sheik Yahbouti

      Well said. Curmudgeon. There is a water meter outside my gaff. I never interfered with the installation, working stiffs same as me. However, I have taken part in every Dublin protest march, against privatization. And the dodgy, defective meter installed by ‘redacted’ and his merry men will, ironically, provide a good defence for me in any proceedings.

  14. Dan Boyle

    I also oppose privitisation. The Greens were the first to propose a constitutional amendment. The Siteserv deal was rightly exposed through Catherine Murphy in the Dáil not by marches. I didn’t pay my water charges either, but mine was a protest against not paying on the basis of usage. The fact that the debate continues to be centred on water shows how not about austerity many of these protests have been.

    1. Sheik Yahbouti

      Wrong, Dan, wrong yet again. The water debacle provided an avenue for protest which had not previously existed.

  15. rotide

    You’re off the mark here Dan.

    While I agree completely with you that ,
    A. The Jobstown protest was clearly over the top and unnacceptale
    B. The response was just as unacceptable ,

    It is also just as clear that the water protest movement as a whole was a succesfull one.

    Protest works, if only just to highlight public dissatisfaction with any particular issue. Regardless of the behaviour of the Jobstown protesters (and various others in the water movement), the public made their feelings clear and the government listened. Water charges will be back eventually, but at least the next govt to implement them will have the lessons of the past few years too look back on.

  16. RuilleBuille

    If Dan doesn’t know what the protest was about I suspect his description of this event is vastly exaggerated to pander to his ego. And the Greens hung in with FF long beyond when it was obvious matters were going disastrously wrong and the only logical explanation for this was pension enrichment for the TDs.

    As for Irish Water it was clearly constructed in such a way for it to be privatised for FGs favourite businessperson.

  17. Dan Boyle

    It may be logical to you but pension never a factor. It takes two years to qualify for pensions. Our intention was to serve a full term in government. That became impossible. We left with eighteen months remaining in that term.

  18. KM

    “posture politics” – pretty rich coming from a Green and pretty astounding coming from a Green who sat during the banking crisis.

    As for your useful idiot comment, i believe you are speaking from experience and can identify such. Perhaps you can give us some examples?

  19. Lord Snowflakee

    Wow the level of non engagement with what Dan actually says and the wilful straw manning proffered as counterpoint is literally staggering.

    1. realPolithicks

      The problem I have with Dan is not that he writes his pieces and then engages with people in the comments, its the tone he takes. His attitude appears to be “I’m right, you’re wrong and you’re also a dope for disagreeing with me” and he comes across as condescending.

      1. Dan Boyle

        Hah. As opposed tto capitulate to what you believe is right? Your problem is that I won’t agree with you.

  20. realPolithicks

    “Hah. As opposed tto capitulate to what you believe is right? Your problem is that I won’t agree with you.”

    Thanks Dan, you just proved my point.

  21. Dan Boyle

    That you don’t want to engage in debate or accept alternative points of views? You certainly have….

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