Saturday 23 September 2017

'I was running for my life,' Burton tells Jobstown trial

Former Tánaiste said TD Paul Murphy 'was looking pretty happy with himself' at protest

Former Tánaiste Joan Burton arriving at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday. Photo: Collins Courts
Former Tánaiste Joan Burton arriving at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday. Photo: Collins Courts
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Former Tánaiste Joan Burton felt terrified and as if she was running for her life as she fled anti-water-charges protesters who surrounded her after a graduation ceremony.

The former Labour Party leader told a court that protesters called her a "bitch" and "c***" while she and her special adviser Karen O'Connell were trapped in two Garda vehicles.

Ms Burton said she eventually escaped following a three-hour ordeal by jumping out of a Garda jeep and running up a hill to a waiting Garda car while a group of protesters chased after her. "To be honest I felt I was running for my life," she told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

The Dublin West TD also told prosecution counsel Sean Gillane SC she saw Solidarity TD Paul Murphy holding a megaphone and "looking pretty happy with himself" as she and Ms O'Connell were stuck inside a Garda car.

Mr Murphy (34) and six other men, including south Dublin county councillors Michael Murphy (53) and Kieran Mahon (39), have pleaded not guilty to charges of falsely imprisoning the two women at Fortunestown Road, Jobstown in Tallaght, Dublin, on November 15, 2014.

During sometimes emotional evidence, Ms Burton described being terrified, afraid, menaced and worried during the events that unfolded that day as she attended a graduation ceremony at the An Cosán further education centre in Jobstown.

Ms Burton said she saw a small group of people in the distance holding posters as she arrived at An Cosán.

After meeting graduates and organisers, Ms Burton took part in a graduation procession to the nearby Catholic church.

TD Paul Murphy outside court yesterday. Photo: Collins
TD Paul Murphy outside court yesterday. Photo: Collins

As she walked along near the back of the procession, a number of protesters "crowded around", including a man who put a camera phone up to her face. People were shouting "shame on you", she said.

Ms Burton said she was struck on the back of the head, first by "something like a ball" and then by "a water bomb".

When they reached the church, Ms O'Connell gave her a jacket and she dried her hair as best she could before giving a speech to congratulate the graduates. By this stage, gardaí were growing concerned about the crowd gathering outside and advised her to leave straight away in an unmarked Garda car.

Ms Burton and Ms O'Connell ran out a side door and got into the back of the saloon car, but it could not drive away as it was immediately surrounded.

"There was a great deal of noise and also banging on the car," she said. "From my point of view, most worrying was that there was an awful lot of children around."

Asked by Mr Gillane what people were shouting, Ms Burton said: "People were shouting the usual stuff. Bitch and c***."

Ms Burton said one woman at the side and back of the car "was beside herself with rage" and "baying, wishing all sorts of stuff on me - illness and death".

She said Ms O'Connell was "extremely upset and started to cry".

They were stuck in the car for around an hour before being moved through a human cordon set up by gardaí to a Garda jeep. When they made it to the jeep, it too was blocked and had to move "inch by inch" out of the car park and towards the N81 Blessington Road.

Ms Burton said the shouting and derogatory name-calling continued. Eggs, bottles and other items were thrown at the vehicle and the front windscreen was "shattered". Eventually the jeep managed to pull onto the N81. Prompted by gardaí, the two women jumped out and ran to separate waiting cars. "The crowd was after us," said Ms Burton. "To be honest, I just legged it as fast as I could."

Ms Burton made it to the car and it sped away from the scene.

Her cross-examination will continue today. As well as the three politicians, four other men face charges. They are Tallaght residents Frank Donaghy (71) of Alpine Rise; Ken Purcell (50) of Kiltalown Green; Michael Banks (46) of Brookview Green; and Scott Masterson (34) of Carrigmore Drive.

Irish Independent

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