Paul Gogarty: 'intimidation'

It has in the past been synonymous with demonstrations and anti-establishment marches, in the process earning itself a reputation as a party of protest.

But now one of the Green Party's TDs, Paul Gogarty, has been criticised for failing to intervene after gardaí moved to issue cautions to student protestors who occupied his Lucan constituency office almost a year ago.

The students in question have claimed the garda action was politically motivated and represented an attempt to discourage them from protesting in the future. Gogarty has strongly denied any involvement and maintained he had no role in influencing any garda investigation.

The protestors, from the Free Education for Everyone campaign, occupied Gogarty's constituency office for three hours last December to highlight their opposition to the reintroduction of third-level fees. They then voluntarily left the office. In recent weeks, they say they were contacted by gardaí and informed they would be issued with "adult cautions" for their part in the protest –almost a year after the occupation took place.

Paul Murphy, one of those involved in the campaign, said he believed the decision to pursue the protestors at this time was part of a broader agenda which seeks to "criminalise protests and discourage people from protests".

"An adult caution would certainly discourage you from protesting again," he said.

The protestors say they have since been told by gardaí that the planned formal cautions have been reduced to an "informal caution".

But Murphy said Gogarty could have contacted gardaí to ask them not to pursue the protestors. "Paul Gogarty refused to make any representations on our behalf to the gardaí... he should have intervened," Murphy said.

Gogarty, who was not in his office at the time of the protest, claimed he had been the victim of a "campaign of intimidation" aimed at "blackening my name," and said he had been a vocal opponent of plans to reintroduce fees.

He said one of his employees was present at the time of the protest and had been traumatised by the action, although protestors claim they at no stage sought to stop anyone from leaving the office. He also claimed that his office computer had been interfered with during the protest.

"The gardaí haven't asked my opinion, and I have not given it," he said. "If I had the power to drop the charges I would. But I don't have that power and I certainly don't intend to contact the gardaí on behalf of the protestors."