All of This Has Happened Before - Garda brutality, from Rossport to anti-water charges protests


Garda assaulting community protesters and the media not reporting? Politicians spinning greater and greater lies about 'sinister fringes' and dissidents? What's happening now to Water Charge resistors happened to the people of Rossport a few years back and we can learn from their determined resistance.

Scenes of Garda violence being used against water charge resistors have come as a shock to many people. Ten years ago if this had happened most people elsewhere might only have heard rumours and assumed that something must have been done to deserve the response. Today however the prevalence of camera phones and the ease of sharing photos and video on Facebook has meant one video after another showing disproportionate violence from the Garda has ‘gone viral’.

By the weekend when water charge resistors surrounded Joan Burton’s car in Jobstown the level of Garda violence captured on video looked a lot like the videos coming out of Rossport in 2007-9. Garda were using levels of force that could have been lethal if the people they threw into objects had landed badly. Most strikingly outside the Mansion House where 3 Garda threw a women into a metal pole with considerable force. 

That same week the media changed its reporting on the water charge resistance from a sometimes sympathetic ‘they have a point’ approach to serious of hostile smears. As with the Rossport protests of 2007 a number of stories were published suggesting that the protests were controlled by a ‘sinister fringe’ and included ‘dissident republicans’ determined to bring down the state. And as with Rossport while incidents of Garda violence against protester were downplayed, explained away or even ignored the few instances where someone snapped and fought back were magnified out of all proportion. The Jobstown brick which bounced harmlessly off a Garda car was turned into a major news story. In both cases this is done to create a false division into ‘good protesters’ and ‘bad protesters’ to weaken the resolve of those resisting.

The struggle against Shell in Rossport involved a community of a couple of hundred people subjected to years of such intimidation. Their resistance taught Shell a lesson, the project that was meant to cost 600 million and be finished in five years is still not completed and will cost over 3.4 billion. That project was imposed through Garda violence, a hostile media and craven politicians working in the service of big business. Exactly the same range of forces that are imposting Irish Water and trying to destroy our resistance. But in Rossport they were beating down 200 people and their supporters, now they are trying the same tactics against hundreds of thousands. 

If we stay united we will defeat them.


To understand the level of Garda violence used to suppress the Rossport protests view some of these incidents at

Words: Andrew Flood