Closing arguments have begun in the trial of six men accused of the false imprisonment of former tánaiste Joan Burton and her adviser at a water charges protest in 2014.

Prosecuting Counsel Sean Gillane told the jury the central question they had to answer was not a political one.

He said although many political topics were brought up during the trial, the jury was there to decide on the facts of what happened on 15 November 2014 and if there had been a transgression of criminal law.

The offence of false imprisonment required total restraint of a person's liberty but did not require violence, he added.

It could take place in a public place, a private place or in a vehicle. It was not enough merely to establish obstruction or inconvenience.

He said the prosecution was not arguing against the right to protest but it had its limitations.  

Ms Burton was entitled to be in Jobstown that day to attend by invitation what was essentially a non-political event.

It was the prosecution's case that the liberty of Ms Burton and her adviser Karen O'Connell was restrained and they were trapped for three hours as the cars they were in were surrounded.

The purpose of surrounding the vehicles was to prevent the women from leaving the area, he said.

Mr Gillane said there was no shortage of anger about a whole range of things but what was required of people is that they control that anger and if not then be responsible for it.

"Adults must be responsible for their actions and being angry about something does not change that.

"We ask you to reject the proposition that this was somehow inevitable because people were angry about water charges."

He said "political context or motivation simply did not allow for the restraint of the liberty of other people - how could it?"

The Constitution guaranteed "the right to protest and express ourselves but also gave us the right to be free. If the organs of the State such as judges, gardaí, the army or men in white coats were not allowed to detain people because they did not agree with their politics then why would we allow Paul Murphy or the other defendants to do it?" 

He said Solidarity TD Paul Murphy was one of those who surrounded both cars carrying Ms Burton and had gestured to others to do so.

He was also instrumental in taking a vote on the day "to keep her here or let her go".

Mr Gillane said this was a vote on what to do with another human being.

It did not matter that Mr Murphy voted for the second option, to slow march in front of the car.

This, he said, was another form of confinement. It was not democracy it was a betrayal or inversion of democracy.

He said Mr Murphy gave an interview to RTÉ afterwards in which he said Ms Burton had been "detained".

He also outlined the involvement of the other five defendants, including two county councillors, who he said could be seen on video footage around the cars containing the former tánaiste and her adviser and taking part in the protest. 

Mr Gillane reminded the jury that six people were on trial and all six must have their case decided separately.

He said a finding of guilty or not guilty against one did not mean the others were guilty or not guilty.

This afternoon, defence counsel Sean Guerin, representing Paul Murphy, said the events that day were marred sporadically by the behaviour of others to whom Mr Murphy lent no support and gave no encouragement.

He said the working poor of Jobstown had been afflicted by austerity measures and people had turned away from politicians and the political system.

He said they had turned away from established parties because trust had been broken and faith in the system had been tested.

That is why he had spent time cross-examining Ms Burton about politics and about things that might seem irrelevant but were absolutely crucial, he said.

Mr Guerin said the Labour Party had promised to protect people from austerity measures and cuts that would hurt them.

There was a "deep pool of corrosive cynicism" behind election promises because some believed no one would remember by the next election.

He said those who do remember, who are hurt by the measures and unwilling to wait five years for another election, "the people of Jobstown and their leaders who say I gave you my vote and I want you to honour your pledge and when that happens they are maligned as a community and their leaders denounced as criminals. That is what this case is about," he said.

He said here was a gap in the prosecution's case that Paul Murphy had engaged in a joint enterprise. The concept required participation and encouragement, he said.

He said the prosecution had ignored the fact that Paul Murphy had advocated and encouraged the passage of Ms Burton from the area.

If the jury was satisfied that his efforts to move the protest along amounted to discouragement then there was no way he could be convicted of false imprisonment, Mr Guerin said.

He said the protest was spontaneous and had no control or direction.

Any criticism of the way it was handled by gardai could be taken in that context, he said.

However, he said it was a significant feature that most gardaí said they did not expect a protest that day, given that hundreds of thousands had been protesting against water charges in the previous weeks.

There were violent acts, the throwing of missiles, the pushing and perhaps punching of gardaí and virulent abuse of Ms Burton and Ms O'Connell. He said that is what caused fears for the women's safety and not Paul Murphy's standing at the back of the car or sitting in front of the jeep.

"It was the fear of violent acts perpetrated by others that created the fear for her safety ... it was only that fear of violence which could be the basis of any charge of false imprisonment and Paul Murphy is not charged with violent disorder."

He said it was the fear of violence that was the cause of her being kept in the vehicle and not  the "peaceful act of protest" engaged in by Paul Murphy and the other defendants. "Their protest was a political one," he said.

He said the events that day were marred sporadically by the behaviour of others to whom he lent no support and gave no encouragement.  

Garda decision to keep women in car

Mr Guerin said it was a Garda decision to keep the women in the car outside the church and Paul Murphy standing behind it amounted at worst to obstruction of a vehicle but not false imprisonment.

The real explanation for the delay was simply that gardaí had inadequate resources and having realised that, instead of waiting until they had the numbers, launched into an ill-advised course of action and having done so immediately realised and left them in the car for the hour or so, he said.

Mr Guerin said a sit down protest was a classic form of obstructive or disruptive protest and was not an act of imprisonment.

It was at worst an act of obstruction of a vehicle but not false imprisonment.

"It is not the responsibility of the peaceful protesters to ensure that others behave themselves, that is the responsibility of the gardaí".

Others were awaiting trial in relation to that day for violent disorder and Paul Murphy was not one of them.

He said Mr Murphy had not supported, encouraged or in any way participated in any violence.

"He said not a word nor a syllable that provoked violence or threat of violence against those two women," Mr Guerin said.

What he was advocating was a slow march, inconvenience and disruption, so much less than the offence charged. He can only fairly be seen as having discouraged any act of imprisonment.

"He was not the organiser, he had a megaphone but he is an activist and a megaphone, no more than a tool of the trade of political activism. He had no moral obligation to address the crowd but did so at request of gardaí.

"How can it be that a person willing to help the gardaí can be tarnished with the brush of criminality on account of that same assistance which he offered?"

The crowd was under no obligation to do what he said, counsel added.

Mr Guerin said they exercised political leadership in a responsible way at the request of gardaí. It was perfectly clear the crowd did not agree with him or Councillor Murphy and it was a craven position for the prosecution to adopt now to criticise them for the assistance they gave to gardaí.

Mr Guerin said it was hard to avoid the conclusion that Paul Murphy was being prosecuted not for what he did or said or even for what others did but for who he is and what he represents.

"The first person on the indictment is a public representative elected by the people to campaign on this issue and in the prosecution's closing address the focus was almost entirely on Paul Murphy and his actions.

The authorities have sought to use the acts and threats of violence of others to discredit him, his associates and the campaign he leads and the people he represents

The violence of others is often used to discredit political leaders whose message is inconvenient to the establishment."

Mr Guerin urged the jury to return a unanimous not guilty verdict, saying it was not just Paul Murphy's freedom and rights at stake but about issues which will protect all citizens rights and freedoms to hold elected leaders to account.

"By your verdict you will fix the limits of our freedom to hold our leaders to accounts ask you to say with one voice that his peaceful behaviour on the day merits no condemnation and merits no punishment, to say he is not guilty of the offence as charged."

The prosecution alleges Ms Burton and Ms O'Connell were trapped in garda cars for up to three hours during the protest. 

At the start of the trial seven men had pleaded not guilty to falsely imprisoning Ms Burton and Ms O'Connell in Jobstown in Dublin on 15 November 2014.

The charges against 50-year-old Ken Purcell from Kiltalown Green in Tallaght were dropped at an earlier stage in the trial following legal argument in the absence of the jury.

The remaining six defendants are Solidarity TD Paul Murphy, 34, from Kingswood Heights in Tallaght, Councillor Michael Murphy, 53, from Whitechurch Way in Ballyboden in Dublin, Councillor Kieran Mahon, 39, from Bolbrook Grove in Tallaght, 34-year-old Scott Masterson, from Carrigmore Drive in Tallaght, 71-year-old Frank Donaghy from Alpine Rise in Tallaght, and 46-year-old Michael Banks from Brookview Green in Tallaght. 

The trial is entering its eighth week. The prosecution's closing arguments will be followed by six defence counsel, before the jury is instructed on the law by Judge Melanie Greally.