Friday 21 July 2017

Garda 'hit in the head with can of Red Bull' while moving Joan Burton through anti-water charges protest crowd

Paul Murphy, Michael Murphy, Scott masterson, Ciaran Mahon, Frank Donaghy, Ken Purcell and Michael Banks
Paul Murphy, Michael Murphy, Scott masterson, Ciaran Mahon, Frank Donaghy, Ken Purcell and Michael Banks

Isabel Hayes

A garda has told a court he was hit in the head with a can of Red Bull while moving former Tanaiste Joan Burton through the crowd at an anti-water charges protest in 2014.

On day 18 of the trial of Solidarity TD Paul Murphy and six other men, Sergeant Michael Phelan described how gardaí were hit with “missiles” thrown by the crowd at the protest in Jobstown.

Mr Murphy (34) together with South Dublin Councillors Michael Murphy (53) and Kieran Mahon (39) and and four other men, are charged with falsely imprisoning Ms Burton and her adviser Karen O’Connell by restricting their personal liberty without their consent at Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Tallaght on November 15, 2014.

The men deny the charges at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

The two woman were allegedly trapped in a car outside a local church and subsequently in a garda jeep for up to three hours by a crowd of water charge protestors after they had attended a local graduation ceremony.

Under questioning from Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, today/yesterday (TUES), Sgt Phelan said a crowd of protesters ran at Ms Burton and Ms O'Connell as they left the church following the graduation service.

“It happened so quickly,” he said. He said the crowd then surrounded the Avensis car containing the women and started banging it with placards, shouting and chanting. He said he saw one of the accused, Scott Masterson, “striking the boot with two open hands”.

Read more: Juror discharged in trial of TD Paul Murphy and six others accused of falsely imprisoning Joan Burton

Former Tánaiste Joan Burton Photo: Collins Courts
Former Tánaiste Joan Burton Photo: Collins Courts

Sgt Phelan said the crowd was “jostling” and “shoving” gardaí as officers tried to provide cover for the car doors and windows. He said he issued cautions to the crowd to “cease and desist” a number of times to no effect.

He said when gardaí tried to move protesters who were sitting on the ground he saw a female colleague being “shoved from behind,” he said. She fell on people sitting on the ground, the court heard.

Sgt Phelan said gardaí then formed lines in an attempted to protect the two women as they moved from the Avensis car to the jeep. “The two lines just disintegrated” he said, adding gardaí were “shoved together” by the crowd.

“We just had to force our way from the car to the jeep,” he said, adding there were a number of “missiles” being thrown, including a cigarette lighters, branches and twigs.

“I was struck in the back of the head with a can of Red Bull that burst open on impact and landed near my feet,” he said.

Sgt Phelan said he remained by the jeep as it moved “inch by inch” through the crowd. “Everywhere I looked, gardaí were being struck with items,” he said.

Defence counsel Roisin Lacey SC, representing Mr Masterson, told the court her client accepts that he was there for a “peaceful protest” that day, that he was at the rear of the Avensis car, that he was chanting “political slogans” and that he sat down beside the car.

“He emphatically denies that he, at any stage, struck the boot of the car or any part of the vehicle,” Ms Lacey said. The court was then shown footage of Mr Masterson at the rear of the car, in which he had his phone in his hand.

Ms Lacey said none of the extensive video footage from that day corroborated Sgt Phelan's account of Mr Masterson striking the car.

“That's what I personally witnessed on the day,” Sgt Phelan said.

Paul Murphy 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 the charges.

Earlier, Judge Melanie Greally told the jury she was discharging a female juror who was absent, and that the trial will now proceed with 11 jurors.

The trial later finished early for the day after it emerged one of the jurors was feeling unwell. It is expected to resume on Wednesday.

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