When this Act was passed by the Dáil we were assured that its purpose was to clear the streets of drunken gangs, it was not intended for use against strikers or protesters. Yeah, sure. So how come the TEAM Aer Lingus strikers who marched around Dublin airport in 1994 were threatened with it? Or the residents who wanted to protest outside a water charges case in Balbriggan courthouse?
When the government (any government) wants extra powers that might be used against those who are not considered criminals by most ordinary people, they tend to promise that the new powers will only be used against people who are regarded as criminal or anti-social. But soon after the legislation is on the statute books the mask comes off.
Back in the early 1970s non-jury courts were reintroduced to deal with alleged jury intimidation by the IRA. Everyone was assured that nobody else would be denied a jury trial. Yet all sorts of people accused of relatively minor crimes, who have no IRA connections and have never been accused of jury intimidation, have ended up in the no-jury Special Criminal Court.
At the same time a law was passed to prevent homeless families squatting in empty houses owned by private landlords. Again we were assured that only squatters would be effected (as if using the law against homeless people was a good thing!). Yet when striking workers occupied the Liffey Dockyard they were charged under this law.
O'Grady was speaking at an outdoor election meeting on May 17th. When he began talking about the links between Charles Haughey, Michael Lowry and Ben Dunne he was approached by a Garda and told that he "can not say things like that". When he insisted on continuing with his speech he was arrested under the Public Order Act and taken away in a Garda car.
After two hours in Rathmines Garda station they said they were releasing him but as soon as he attempted to lodge a complaint about his treatment, he was re-arrested, inside the station. The Gardaí claim that the 32 year old Child Psychiatrist then assaulted a Garda in broad daylight, inside their station, and in full view of at least three other Gardaí. O'Grady believes that this charge was concocted in an attempt to muddy the waters with regard to the original issue of Garda censorship of political activity.
For nearly two months after the incident the media carried stories about an election candidate charged with assaulting a Garda. Few reported on the political implications of the original incident.
Rather interestingly, the name of Dr O'Grady's workplace appeared in the 'Irish Times' report of his first court appearance - despite the fact that his workplace was never mentioned in court. O'Grady had, however, given the name of his workplace to the Gardaí at Rathmines station because he was asked to.
It seems that, not only do the Gardaí was to use the assault charge to mask their effort to silence free speech during an election campaign, but they want to harm Dr. O'Grady's professional standing and his career as a childcare worker. On September 30th he will be tried in the District Court, without the benefit of a jury. A single judge will hear the case, even through the charges carry a penalty of up to one year in jail.