Solidarity Appeal – Protesters threatened with cautions for anti-fees occupation

FEE (Free Education for Everyone) activists in Ireland involved in an occupation of Paul Gogarty TD’s offices (Green Party Education Spokesperson) in December 2008 have now been threatened almost a year later with “adult cautions” by the Gardai. This is an appeal for solidarity emails and phone calls to remove that threat.

The occupation was a peaceful protest (pictures and story here http://www.indymedia.ie/article/90082 update here http://www.universityobserver.ie/2009/09/15/file-sent-t…ge-1/) against the threat to re-introduce full third level fees. The threat of “adult cautions” under the Public Order Act is an attempt to intimidate these students to prevent them protesting again in the future, as well as to deter others from engaging in protest.

Adult cautions are something that is usually applied within days of the offence. The fact that this is now happening almost a year late is, we think, a result of pressure from Paul Gogarty TD to ensure that some punishment is given.

We are calling for emails and phone-calls of protest from people who are outraged at this assault on the right to protest, to demand that this matter is dropped. A model email of protest is below. Emails should be sent to: lucan_DS@garda.ie , paul.gogarty@oireachtas.ie and copied to defendrighttoprotest@gmail.com . Emails should be marked “FAO: Inspector Pat O’Sullivan, Sgt. Paul Curtis & Paul Gogarty TD”.

Phone calls are much more effective than emails so we encourage people to ring these numbers (including Paul Gogarty’s mobile number!):

Lucan Garda station: +353 1 6667300
Paul Gogarty TD: +353 87 2752489

The time is short on this as the first students are meant to report to receive their cautions on Tuesday – so please do anything you can over the weekend, on Monday and on Tuesday morning.

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to you regarding the student occupation of Paul Gogarty’s Office in December 2008 by the FEE (Free Education for Everyone) campaign for which the students involved are now being threatened with “adult cautions”. This protest at the Green Party Education Spokesperson to try to stop the re-introduction of third level fees was an entirely peaceful protest.

The threat to caution these students is an outrageous attack on their right to protest and an attempt to intimidate others considering protest.

I demand the removal of the threat of these cautions. All of the students in question simply exercised their right to protest and should suffer no consequences for this. The matter should simply be dropped by the Gardaí.

Yours faithfully,

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One Response to “Solidarity Appeal – Protesters threatened with cautions for anti-fees occupation”

  1. Paul Gogarty TD Says:

    I am not pursuing anything or putting pressure on anyone, contrary to what those in FEE are saying.

    Attempts are being made to intimidate me into doing something I am not able to do and anyone contacting me will therefore be wasting their time.

    For the record, I was not there on the day in question. I was in the Dáil, it being a Wednesday during a sitting of the Houses of the Oireachtas. The students in question seemed not to understand this, given the day in question, and they refused to leave my constituency office until I agreed to meet with them. As they had taken the effort to travel out so far, an offer was made by me to meet them another time to listen to their views. This was rejected.

    It is ludicrous for FEE to suggest that the potential issuing of an Adult Caution has something to do with me. On their website and elsewhere they state: “The fact that this is now happening almost a year late is, we think, a result of pressure from Paul Gogarty TD to ensure that some punishment is given.” That shows little understanding of how a legal process works. I have no power as a TD to influence such legal proceedings and, as outlined further on, have no power to do so as a non-witness either. And for the record, I have had absolutely no communications with the Gardai on this matter.

    There are two conflicting views as to whether what happened went beyond ‘peaceful protest’. I have my own opinion on this, but it is up to the authorities to decide what the truth is following their lines of investigation. Although I was not in Lucan, I was of course in a position to speak with members of staff inside and outside the office during and immediately after the protest, as well as to members of the Garda Siochana. This gave me a good insight into what happened but it certainly did not give me the right to press any charges relating to the nature of the protest, were such charges deemed justified.

    Any potential charges arise solely out of investigations into complaints made by an individual working in my office on the day in question, as well as the reports of Garda witnesses who were in the vicinity. Upon receiving a complaint, the Gardai are legally obliged to carry out an investigation into what constitutes peaceful protest and what, if anything, crosses over that line. That is their duty and their call. There were and are no attempts to intimidate on my part, because I have nothing to do with it, nor does the Green Party.

    What does have something to do with me, which I did witness personally but did not pursue, is the misappropriation of State computer equipment, containing sensitive constituency documentation. At least one of those occupying my constituency office accessed my computer and used it to carry out a number of activities, evidence of which I personally viewed, along with two members of my staff and a member of the Garda Siochana. This outrageous invasion of privacy would of course have probably led to more serious charges, had such abuses been formally reported. However I had no personal interest in making an example out of this bunch of particularly immature students. They were evidently well able to do that themselves.

    Despite the interruption to the work carried out by my office, it was amusing in one sense to see them put a photograph of their occupation on their website, complete with unfurled banner, and to scribble their logo in marker on my noticeboard. It was ironic in a funny sort of way, that so much time and effort was put into convincing an elected representative to support a cause that he was already publicly committed to. Their passion for the cause is clearly strong, admirable even, but strategy is obviously not their forte.

    I have been working hard within the Green Party to prevent the reintroduction of third level fees (our policy for years) both before the FEE stunt and indeed afterwards. I have met with student representative bodies and individual students over the past year in relation to their concerns about the reintroduction of fees. I am grateful for their ongoing interest, engagement and indeed assistance in helping us to take fees off the agenda in the new Programme for Government and will continue such work throughout the current term of office.

    Ongoing student pressure certainly helped me to persuade some of the unconverted in my party. But please be assured, however, that this had absolutely and utterly nothing to do with anything that may have been said or done by FEE.

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