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They Didn’t Read The Script…

They didn't read the script

They Didn’t Read The Script….

Dave Carr opines about last week’s early morning arrests and the media’s approach to Irish Water narrative


At one point during the week of November 9th, a sixteen year old was awoken early by the Gardai entering his bedroom.  He was then arrested and led out the front door of his Jobstown home by ten members of the force. At this point the facts of the case are a little unclear. Was he considered a flight risk? Were officers of the law present when he changed out of his Jim – Jams?

It seemed the state has either developed a new and novel method of getting teenagers out of bed in the morning or something more sinister is happening. If you’re not sure of the answer to this, then ask yourself a simple question. Would any of this have happened in Blackrock?

This incident occurred in the middle of a week of other such similar early morning arrests. It started with TD Paul Murphy and three other anti austerity campaigners and as each day passed the circle widened to include more and more of the Jobstown protesters. Much of the area were involved in the original demonstration and are now left in fear of an early morning visit from our men in blue. One is left with the impression that fear is the very idea of the exercise. Stay in line or we might just come for you.

In this life things happen twice, once in real life and once again in newsprint. These arrests were deemed newsworthy on day one, before hastily slinking out of the headlines, and into the inside pages. Through all this the usual round of commentators remained largely silent, the only noise heard was the sound of the inevitable Garda sources. Those sources stuck to the usual line of ‘its jail just normal procedure’. So arresting teenagers in dawn raids might not look good, and if it doesn’t look good, don’t look.

Compare this to the end is nigh hysteria surrounding the original Jobstown town protest and a pattern emerges. March and protest in a peaceful manner and you’ll be ignored, but if your deemed to step out of line you’ll be left hanging on the front pages for all to see. So while it took a hundred thousand  peaceful protesters for public anger to finally be deemed newsworthy, it only takes a handful to heckle the president, in one ill advised demo for column inches to explode.

There’s always likely to be a tension between the nature of protest and the law. If marching up and down and chanting does not get you noticed then tactics change. People sit down and will not be moved, they occupy buildings and scale walls, and they dress up in funny outfits and find innumerable ways of drawing attention to their cause. Policing is about keeping things moving, protest is about drawing things to a halt. In a country where a water bomb can make the front page, this is not that easily understood.

What type of message are these arrests meant to send out? They appear to be part a process of demonizing the protesters and of associating protest with criminality. Complain in any way that’s not easily ignored and the law might just come knocking. And the next time you march on the capital, don’t even think about bringing the kids.

The water charge protests disrupted a narrative, a story of a people who have made brave sacrifices and are now marching into a bright new dawn of economic prosperity. Just one more push, the people are told and the future is yours. That image of a self sacrificing public is then in turn sold on to the markets as a people who don’t just pay their own debts but might just pay yours too.

Except that’s all it is, an image, a fairy tale designed to calm children before they sleep at night, and If they should stop believing in tall stories and still manage to sleep, come the dawn, the bogie man might just come knocking.

One Response

  1. eileen says:

    very well written.

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