Saturday 23 September 2017

'Frightened' Burton denies she was 'relaxed' in back of Jeep during protest

Joan Burton arrives at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday Photo: Collins Courts
Joan Burton arrives at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday Photo: Collins Courts
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Former tánaiste Joan Burton rejected suggestions she was "relaxed" while she and an adviser were allegedly falsely imprisoned in a garda Jeep surrounded by anti-water charges protesters.

A jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court was shown a video clip in which Ms Burton could be heard laughing and another clip in which she was holding a newspaper article, which she read while trapped in the Jeep.

Ms Burton insisted she had "laughed in apprehension" after a garda helicopter operator suggesting over the garda radio that the Jeep, which had been inching forward slowly due to being blocked by a large crowd of protesters, would be better off reversing. Laughter was heard in the Jeep and Ms Burton was heard exclaiming: "You must be joking."

Ms Burton was cross examined about this and other video clips during her second day in the witness box at the trial of Solidarity TD Paul Murphy and six other men for the false imprisonment of her and her special adviser Karen O'Connell.

All seven deny the charges, which arise out of a protest which took place when Ms Burton attended a ceremony for graduates of the An Cosán adult education centre in Jobstown, Tallaght, Dublin, on November 15, 2014. The event turned sour after protesters converged and first surrounded a garda car containing the two women and later a garda Jeep. It would be three hours before they were able to leave.

Throughout the afternoon various video clips were played, showing crowds surrounding and blocking the path of a garda vehicle containing Ms Burton and Ms O'Connell, as well as footage recorded inside the Jeep on the former Labour leader's phone.

Padraig Dwyer SC, for one of the accused, Frank Donaghy, suggested some of the clips showed that Ms Burton was relaxed as events unfolded.

But Ms Burton said despite appearances, she was far from relaxed. "I certainly was trying to keep my composure and to keep my demeanour as pleasant as possible as I felt that might lower the anger of the people around the car," she said.

Ms Burton was questioned at length as to whether she had heard any political slogans being shouted by protesters while she was in the vehicles.

The Dublin West TD said she had only heard the words "peaceful protest" being shouted through a megaphone.

The only other political slogan she said she heard was when people shouted "shame on you" during an earlier flashpoint when she was struck on the head by "a water bomb".

Ms Burton said she could mainly hear "hubbub and noise" and that when people were shouting and roaring it was the curses and bad language that tended to stand out.

"It was a very, very frightening and tense situation. I am telling you what I heard. They could have been saying a hundred other things," she told Mr Dwyer.

The court was then played footage in which protesters could be seen surrounding one of the garda vehicles chanting: "You can stick your water meters up your arse". Other slogans sung by the crowd were "They say cut back, we say fight back" and "Joanie in your ivory tower, this is called people power".

Ms Burton said she didn't accept that the chant about water meters was "political at all".

Asked if she was saying she didn't hear the slogans while she was in the garda vehicle, she replied: "If I did I had forgotten about it." She said there was intense banging on the car and she didn't have the best hearing in the world, which made it difficult for her to distinguish what was being said.

Ms Burton also told the barrister she spent a year after the events "trying to forget" what had happened and that she had suffered from nightmares.

Her cross examination continues on Tuesday.

Paul Murphy (34) of Kingswood Heights, Tallaght; Kieran Mahon of Bolbrook Grove, Tallaght; Michael Murphy of Whitechurch Way, Ballyboden, Dublin; Frank Donaghy (71) of Alpine Rise, Tallaght; Ken Purcell (50) of Kiltalown Green; Michael Banks (46) of Brookview Green, Tallaght; and Scott Masterson (34) of Carrigmore Drive, Tallaght, have all denied charges of false imprisonment.

Irish Independent

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