A PROTESTER has been spared a jail sentence but was fined €250 today for throwing eggs at Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore's ministerial BMW, which was cleaned at a cost of €9.
On October 5 last, the Tánaiste was attending an event to promote the children’s rights referendum when his car was surrounded by protesters at about 11am at the Blackditch Road, in Ballyfermot, in west Dublin. Seventy children were in the The Base, a childcare centre, for a Unicef event in support of a Yes-vote.
Mr Gilmore was with Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald and had been due to attend but had to abandon the event. A demonstration was staged by the socialist republican party Éirígí following reports that the Government planned to cut children’s allowance payments.
Later that day, protester Dónall Ó Ceallaigh (29), an Éirígí member, who lives at Harold's Cross Road, Dublin 6, was charged with criminal damage to a 5-Series BMW belonging to An Garda Síochána's transport section, and breach of the peace.
Dublin District Court heard that no physical damage was caused to the ministerial care but it was rendered inoperable for a couple of hours as it had to be cleaned at a cost of €9. The unemployed father-of-three had pleaded not guilty to the charges but was convicted at his hearing yesterday (MON).
Judge Catherine Murphy rejected claims by Mr Ó Ceallaigh that throwing eggs was an acceptable form of protest.
Mr Ó Ceallaigh gave evidence and said that he went around to the right hand side of the car, and claimed Garda Trevor Mallon flung him down to the side and handcuffed him.
“I had a placard in me hand just in front of the windscreen and saying 'shame leave our child benefit alone',” he said adding, “it only takes one hand to throw an egg”.
He described the evidence that protesters were using foul language as lies but agreed that he had brought an egg with him and he maintained that throwing one is a legitimate form of protest around the world
Judge Murphy disagreed and convicted him of both offences but she said it gave no pleasure as he did not have any prior criminal convictions. She said he admitted bringing the egg in a premeditated fashion and throwing it, as she fined him €150 for the criminal damage offence and €100 for the breach of the peace.
In court Garda Brian Martin said when he drove into The Base centre he was surrounded by a large group shouting abuse at the Tánaiste and banging on the doors and roof of the ministerial car.
Most were carrying Éirígí banners and flags and some were using the banners to bang the car as well. Six eggs were thrown and hit the windscreen and roof of the car. He said there was scratches on the ministerial car but he could not say whether they were caused by the events at the demonstration.
Garda JJ Walsh, of Clondalkin station said there 40 to 50 people roaring abuse at the and he saw the defendant throwing an egg. Meanwhile other gardaí were trying to restrain the crowd.
The Tánaiste could not get out of the car as people were kicking it, and gardaí tried to call the crowd back so the BMW could leave.
Garda Thomas Finnerty said the crowd was shouting, “Gilmore you're a scumbag” and "out out out".
He saw Mr Ó Ceallaigh throw an egg at the ministerial car and Garda Trevor Mallon arrested him. Garda Mallon said, “I observed the defendant throw an egg at minister's vehicle and I told him to desist,” however he proceeded to slap the bonnet of the BMW at which point he was arrested.
He said Mr Ó Ceallaigh “struggled with me slightly” but was restrained and handcuffed and became “timid”. He alleged that Ó Ceallaigh used foul language in a public place where children were present.
His lawyer argued that a case for criminal damage had not been made by the prosecution. But Judge Murphy told the defence barrister Leo Mulrooney, “To remove an egg from a windscreen, one simple wipe of a cloth would not remove it.”
The defence handed in a magazine article with a headline saying “Egg causes €9 damage child offers to wash it for a fiver” but the judge said, “I do not consider the Phoenix an authority to hand into the court”.
Defence witness Daithi O Rian said he had known Mr Ó Ceallaigh for six months and they were both members of the Éirígí party taking part in a peaceful protest and did not see him throw an egg.
Another defence witness Joseph Keegan said Ó Ceallaigh had a placard in his hand and was showing it to the people in the ministerial car and he appeared to be calm, not aggressive.