13 February 2006

Row over jailed trio

Daily Ireland

by David Lynch

Concern has been raised about the jailing of three bricklayers in Dublin yesterday for their part in a protest against a Dublin building firm which they claim refuses to employ local union workers.
“This is a basic case of displacement that we are all talking about at the moment. There are 200-odd bricklayers in this city out of work,” said another Dublin-based bricklayer who contacted Daily Ireland, but did not want to be identified.
“Across Dublin they [the employers] do not want to employ union labour, because if they do they have to look after such luxuries as toilet facilities, holidays, things like that.”
Billy McClurg, Keith Kelly and Andrew Clarke, three union members, were imprisoned for the weekend after admitting their roles in an ongoing community protest at a site in Ballybrack.
All three told Dublin’s High Court they would return to the picket line following the hearing, despite an official warning from trade union bosses, to desist from any action on the site.
Sentencing the men for contempt, Justice Mary Laffoy ordered them to reappear before the court on Monday morning.
The three men have been unemployed since November. They began their protest last Thursday at the Laurel Avenue site amid claims that Collen Construction and its subcontractors refused to employ workers from the local area and trade union members.
The construction company is building 70 new homes for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.
Senior Counsel, Roddy Horan, representing Collen said ‘mob rule’ was running Ballybrack with workers being threatened and abused by the protesters.
He added that the site will be closing next week because of public safety concerns.
Refuting the allegations, Mr McClurg denied any bricklayers were threatened.
He added that he and his co-accused only wanted the chance to work on the site.
Members of their families shouted from the public gallery as the three were led away.
Political reaction was swift with Dún Laoghaire Sinn Féin representative, Michael Nolan, decribing the jailing as an “unjustifiably harsh action against what many will see as a legitimate protest”, and he called for their immediate release.
The Labour Party TD for Dún Laoghaire, Eamon Gilmore, also expressed “grave concern” about the jailing yesterday of the three men.
“The use of the courts is not an appropriate way to deal with problems of this kind,” he said.

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