Garda witness called a 'woman beater' and 'uniformed scumbag' during protest, court told
A garda witness has said he was called a “woman beater, a disgrace, a uniformed scumbag and a coward” after he helped a woman who fell over during the Jobstown water charges protest.
Garda Jonathan Ryan took the stand on day 22 of the trial of Solidarity TD Paul Murphy and six other men who are accused of falsely imprisoning former Tánaiste Joan Burton and her aide Karen O'Connell by restricting their personal liberty without their consent at Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Tallaght on November 15, 2014.
The men have denied the charges at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
Today, Gda Ryan told Tony McGillicuddy BL, prosecuting, that he arrived at the scene to see Ms Burton and Ms O'Connell in the back of a car that was surrounded by protesters. He said he recognised Paul Murphy among the protesters.
Gda Ryan said some of the protesters were banging on the car, which was shaking. “It wasn't a nice situation at all,” he said.
Gda Ryan said he was at the scene about three-quarters of an hour when a decision was made to move the women to a garda jeep. He described gardaí forming a cordon of two lines to protect the women, but it dissolved “in a matter of seconds”.
“She was protected by the guards and then she was swarmed by protesters,” Gda Ryan said of Ms Burton. He described the situation as “extremely hostile” and aggressive.
Once the women were in the jeep, Gda Ryan described how a bottleneck formed among the crowd, causing him to fear for the safety of those present.
“People very deliberately stationed themselves in front of the jeep to make sure it couldn't move even though people were being caught up in the squeeze,” Gda Ryan said. Protesters who sat in front of the jeep were “creating a very dangerous situation”, he added.
Gda Ryan said at one point, a woman fell over and he helped her up. He said one of the defendants, Michael Banks, then called him a “woman beater, a disgrace, a uniformed scumbag and a coward”. Gda Ryan said Mr Banks had seen what happened and was just trying to “goad” him.
Gda Ryan went on to describe how later when the jeep had made its way onto Fortunestown Rd “inch by inch”, he saw Paul Murphy hold a vote among protesters as to whether Ms Burton should be kept there or marched out of the area.
He said there was a “unanimous decision” to keep her there and that Paul Murphy “appeared very very pleased with this”.
“He appeared to be enjoying himself,” Gda Ryan said of Paul Murphy. “He was smiling and chuckling away.”
Under cross-examination from Sean Guerin SC, representing Paul Murphy, Gda Ryan was shown video footage of the vote being taken by protesters. The footage, which has been played several times in court, showed Paul Murphy and Michael Murphy voting to march Ms Burton's car out of the area. The majority of the crowd voted to keep Ms Burton there.
Mr Guerin put it to Gda Ryan that his evidence was “wholly incomplete and misleading”. He said his recollection of events was “such to portray Paul Murphy in the worst possible light”.
“I don't remember everything that happened,” Gda Ryan replied. He said he did not hear everything that was said on the day, but he reiterated that he saw Paul Murphy “smiling and laughing” during the vote.
The court heard that in his statement, Gda Ryan described Paul Murphy as being “in charge”. Mr Guerin put it to Gda Ryan that he “toned down” his evidence by not saying this to the jury.
“You're a dishonest witness to whom terrible things may have happened that day, but who made a false statement that Mr (Paul) Murphy was in control of the crowd that day which you have not been willing to confirm under oath to the prosecution and only done so reluctantly when put to you by the defence in the teeth of evidence to the contrary,” Mr Guerin said.
Gda Ryan denied this, saying his evidence to the jury was honest.
Paul Murphy (34) of Kingswood Heights, Tallaght; Kieran Mahon (39) of Bolbrook Grove, Tallaght; Michael Murphy (53) 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 pleaded not (NOT) guilty to 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 trial continues before Judge Melanie Greally and a jury.