Protest held at "Courts of Justice" in support of MTL striker facing charges for "Floating Picket" in 2009


Around 100 people demonstrated at the “Courts of Justice” in Parkgate St. in Dublin this morning (16/3/11) in support of Gerard McDonnell, who is facing charges in relation to a “floating picket” in Dublin port in 2009 during the drawn out strike at MRL. The case was adjourned until April 1st as the book of evidence was not ready, despite, as the defence solicitor pointed out, over 18 months having elapsed since the alleged offences.

Another protest has been called for 10 a.m. on the morning of April 1st.  The information that follows below was issued to supporters of the MTL strikers:

It is over a year since the strike at MTL/Peel ports ended. Following intervention from the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) an agreement was brokered between the MTL and SIPTU, the trade union representing the workers. While jobs were saved as part of the settlement, some redundancies also took place. A no recriminations clause was an important part of the settlement.

Throughout the 8 month strike, support for the workers was tremendous. The local community, other workers, the trade union movement and political groups all played their part in protests and demonstrations to support the strike.  The role of the ITF was crucial, as was the solidarity of dock workers around the world.

On the 27th of August 2009, a “floating picket” took place in Dublin Port, involving a small number of vessels.  On Wednesday next, 16th March one of the strikers is appearing in court, facing charges in relation to this event. Gerard MacDonnell (now aged 63) is facing 3 separate charges under maritime law). Gerard is contesting all charges.

Last summer, a number of former strikers were interviewed by the Gardai in relation to the “floating picket”, which had taken place the year before. Some of those questioned were visited at home, and one was approached by Gardai while working in MTL. A number of interviews took place following requests from the Gardai (and acting on legal advice). We were led to believe that this was the end of the matter. One of those interviewed was Gerard McDonnell senior.

Gerard was contacted by the Gardai and asked to present himself at the Bridewell on Friday 18th February, which he complied with. Here he was arrested, charged, and taken to the Court of Criminal Justice by van. Here he was briefly handcuffed and spent some time in a cell, before being brought before the court. This was a very short appearance, and a trial date of 16th March was set. Details of the charges being faced by Gerard are set out below. We understand that these charges could result in fines as high as 250,000 euros.  As stated above, Gerard is contesting all charges.

This is a very serious development that cannot go unchallenged. Gerard McDonnell is not a criminal; he is simply a worker who through no fault of his own found himself involved in a trade dispute. There is nothing to be served in dragging him through the courts, and there is nothing to be gained in raising tensions amongst Dublin Port workers. The MTL strike was long and difficult, and its resolution broadly welcomed. Since that time, much work has been done on improving industrial relations issues in the port. This prosecution was not sought by the Dublin Port Company or MTL. The decision seems to have been taken by the Gardai alone, and their agenda in doing so is unclear.

It is important that the support for the Dublin Port Workers shown during the strike continues as long as anyone involved continues to be victimised. It is important that this attempt to criminalise a striking worker is highlighted as widely as possible, and it is vital that the question is asked as to why the Gardai and the Courts time is being wasted in this manner.

WORDS: Eoghan

(See the MTL strike archive for more articles)