Saturday 29 November 2014

Activists claiming boost to cause after Sabina Higgins jail visit

Published 23/01/2014 | 02:30

Supporters of Margaretta Darcy at Ennis Court
Supporters of Margaretta Darcy at Ennis Court
President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina (centre) with Hugh Lane Gallery director Barbara Dawson and deputy director Margarita Cappock
Margaretta D’Arcy arrives at Ennis Court

THE visit of the President's wife to jailed activist Margaretta D'Arcy has been a huge boost to their cause, her co-accused said.

Niall Farrell (60) spoke out for the first time about the controversy where Sabina Higgins visited Ms D'Arcy at Limerick prison over the weekend.

He appeared in court yesterday in relation to an illegal incursion at Shannon in October 2012, which resulted in 79-year-old grandmother Ms D'Arcy being jailed.

Four supporters of the anti-war activist were forcibly removed by gardai from court after holding up banners.

Mr Farrell said that he chose to sign a bond that allowed him to avoid jail "because first of all, I wouldn't give Fine Gael and Labour the satisfaction of having me behind bars".

Dressed in a Guantanamo-style orange jump suit, he added: "I wouldn't be getting writers and artists writing into newspapers and Sabina Higgins visiting me. Margaretta is achieving something through the issue being raised about Shannon."

The decision by the President Michael D Higgins's wife to visit her old friend in a "private and personal" capacity has been hugely controversial because it could be interpreted as a PR coup for the Shannonwatch group, which has been campaigning to end foreign military use of Shannon Airport.

FRAIL

Speaking outside court, Ms D'Arcy's son, Finn said that his mother was "looking very frail, withdrawn, pale and haggard. I hope she is looking after herself".

Mr Arden said that his mother was currently being treated for bladder cancer and suffers from arthritis around her neck.

He said: "My mother is not signing the bond because it mentions Shannon Airport. She would sign a bond if it didn't."

Yesterday was Ms D'Arcy's first public appearance since her jailing last Wednesday for not signing a bond, which resulted in her suspended three-month term being activated.

A large number of Ms D'Arcy's supporters had gathered in court including her son and broadcaster Lelia Doolan.

Representing herself in court, Ms D'Arcy remarked to Judge Patrick Durcan when her case was called: "I'm surprised to see you there, I thought you might be with me in the dock."

She added: "It would save time if you threw the case out of court. It costs a lot of money and there was nothing broke."

Insp Tom Kennedy said that he wished to make an amendment to the charge and Judge Durcan said Ms D'Arcy was representing herself and should be put on notice of any change.

The judge said the case should be adjourned to February 13 to Ennis District Court when any preliminary issues relating to the case will be addressed.

The case of Mr Farrell, of Ballynacloghy, Maree, Oranmore, Co Galway, was also adjourned to the same date.

As Judge Durcan concluded the short hearing, Maura Harrington – best known for her opposition against Shell's Corrib gas development – chanted 'Free Shannon Airport from the US military' with others quickly joining in and standing up to display anti-war posters.

Gardai immediately removed Ms Harrington from court along with her husband, Naoise O'Mongain, and two others.

Shortly after, Judge Durcan said: "There has been so much disturbance in court today that a number of people have left the courtroom out of fear."

Insp Kennedy said: "Never in my time here have I witnessed the disruption that was evident here today."

Judge Durcan ordered Mr O'Mongain and Ms Harrington down to the cells.

He later told Mr O'Mongain that he did disrupt proceedings, but that he was free to go.

And he said Ms Harrington's time in custody "fairly balances out what occurred earlier".

Judge Durcan said that he accepted that Ms Harrington was coming to the aid of her husband earlier "and that is to be commended".

He said: "I regard the matter as terminated."

Meanwhile, protesters gathered outside the Dail in Dublin yesterday in support of Ms D'Arcy.

Gordon Deegan

Irish Independent

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