I’m a 17 year old student from Jobstown studying Arts. I can’t speak to you today or be identified because of the seriousness of the charges against me in court tomorrow.
Since I was 14, I’ve been involved in trying to make improvements in my community. I’ve been involved in Young Social Innovators, residents associations and I received the Gaisce silver medal for my community work.
I attended the protest against Joan Burton in Jobstown two years ago to express my opposition to water charges and austerity. Isn’t it significant that where the protest took place was outside a food bank. This is what Joan Burton’s Labour Party promises did to Jobstown and the rest of the country.
This was a protest that hundreds of people attended, but only 23 people were charged. One of them is in the Children’s Court on Monday – which is me. The trials of the others start next April. The total cost to the public will be millions of euros to pursue these prosecutions.
I’m charged with false imprisonment. This time next week I could be sentenced to prison. This would have a major impact on my future, including my career choices – with a serious criminal conviction for the rest of my life. How many other 17 year olds do you know who are facing prison for standing up for their rights?
Over the past year, this has had a major impact on my studies. It’s impacted on my Leaving Cert. All because I expressed my political beliefs at a peaceful protest!
A lot of people have said to me, “it’s not going to happen.” In my mind, it’s not going to happen, means it’s not going to happen at all. But it is happening now. The dawn raids happened, the arrests happened, the summons happened, the courts happened and now the trial is happening. It is happening! Now people are still telling us that “you won’t go to prison”. Well isn’t that what they said about me not getting arrested.
I don’t believe this is just about me. It’s a much broader issue. It’s about the right to stand up for your beliefs. If you don’t have the right to protest, what other rights will be taken away?
I need your support to ensure that an injustice isn’t done to me and all of us next week. I want to appeal to everybody here today to do your utmost to come to the protest on Monday at 10am outside the Children’s Court at Smithfield. I also want to appeal to people to go online now to the Jobstown Not Guilty facebook page and donate to the bail fund because we need €2,000 for next Wednesday.
I’d like to thank everybody for their ongoing support and hope to see you on Monday morning.
I want to finish with the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”