Friday 2 December 2016

Cranberries singer Dolores O'Riordan admits 'air rage' incidents

Published 16/12/2015 | 15:51

Cranberries singer Dolores O'Riordan arrives at Ennis District Court
Cranberries singer Dolores O'Riordan arrives at Ennis District Court

Cranberries singer Dolores O'Riordan has pleaded guilty to headbutting and spitting on a police officer following an alleged air rage incident, a court has heard.

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The multi-million selling artist told officers during her arrest at Shannon Airport in Ireland on November 10 last year that she was an icon and the Queen of Limerick.

O'Riordan, who has since been diagnosed as suffering bipolar disorder, admitted four offences including assault and obstructing a Garda during the incident following a flight from New York's JFK airport.

Ennis District Court in Ireland was told she accused a Garda officer of groping her and sexually assaulting her during the arrest, a claim which has since been retracted.

The court heard O'Riordan, who medics have suggested was suffering hypomania, sleep deprivation and paranoia at the time of the incident, threatened to sue arresting officers.

She also told them she paid their wages when they attempted to take her out of first class after flight EI 110 landed at 4.45am.

In evidence read to the court, Inspector Tom Kennedy said the singer-songwriter's behaviour was at first erratic, then unruly, irate, threatening, irrational and aggressive.

"Ms O'Riordan was very belligerent," he told the court.

"She said 'you are not going to arrest me. I am an icon. I'm the Queen of Limerick, I pay my taxes, I pay your wages. I'm going to sue you'."

Alcohol was not a factor, the court was told.

O'Riordan, dressed all in black and wearing black sunglasses on her arrival at the courthouse, did not give evidence in person.

She was supported for the hearing by her mother Eileen and one of her brothers.

Judge Patrick Durcan ordered O'Riordan to write letters of apology to all those affected in the incident while he considers sentencing.

The 44-year-old mother of three children aged 18, 14 and 10, who now lives in New York and is back working in the music business, will be sentenced at a date to be fixed next year.

With an address at Friarstown, Kilmallock, Co Limerick, the singer is renowned for her distinctive singing voice.

She separated from her husband in the year before the incident, the court was told.

O'Riordan's solicitor Bill O'Donnell did not contest any of the evidence given to the court and said the marriage break-up put her under huge emotional stress.

"At the time of the incident Ms O'Riordan was going through a very, very difficult period, having separated from her husband of 20 years," the lawyer said.

"She had not seen her children for two months."

It is understood the couple's children are living with her ex-husband, Don Burton, in Canada.

O'Riordan twice tried to flee custody after being arrested at the airport, once from an ambulance and once while in a patrol car.

Garda Shane Dawson revealed that the singer managed to free herself of one handcuff and forced open the door of a Garda car while he wrote up his notes on the airport apron.

When she was restrained after a short chase, she headbutted the officer and spat in his eye, the court heard.

Garda Dawson suffered a swollen cheek and eye and took five days off work after the attack but an X-ray and blood tests showed there was no long-term injury or infection.

"I have dealt with severe situations over the years but this ranks as one of the worst I have had to deal with," Garda Dawson said.

The officer, who has 14 years' service, said he has had to change how he polices after O'Riordan made allegations in front of people of sexual assault, claiming he had "grabbed her tit" and "groped her breasts".

"I was very shocked," he said.

The court heard that O'Riordan attempted a second headbutt and again tried to spit on Garda Dawson.

"it was a very nasty situation for all concerned," Inspector Kennedy said.

O'Riordan had been travelling home to Ireland at the time of the incident to attend Mass to mark the second anniversary of her father's death.

A number of medical reports were handed to the judge detailing treatment she had received in St Patrick's Hospital Dublin, which deals with mental health patients, and on assessments from a GP who has known her for years, a doctor in Los Angeles and medics who examined her in the hours after the incident in Shannon.

O'Riordan, who has no previous convictions, was treated in an ambulance, from which she made her first attempt to flee, and had been given oxygen on the plane in an attempt to calm her.

Airport police believed her behaviour was irrational but could not identify an explanation, the court heard.

O'Riordan was treated in University Hospital Limerick following her arrest and spent three weeks in St Patrick's.

Her lawyer, Mr O'Donnell, said: "These were the actions of a very, very ill person.

"Clearly from the evidence that has been given at this time she was somewhat out of control."

Mr O'Donnell said O'Riordan was showing symptoms of hypomania when she boarded, and in a paranoid state.

"She does not remember an awful lot of what happened after coming off the plane," he said.

"All her actions were reactions and she did not set out to cause any harm or assault. She genuinely felt she was under attack."

Mr O'Donnell told the court that medical reports from the hours and days after O'Riordan's arrest revealed she was unkempt, exhausted, delusional, paranoid and agitated.

The court heard one doctor state that her condition was consistent with someone with a psychiatric illness.

The lawyer said the singer is remorseful and regrets the incident and offered apologies to all those affected.

O'Riordan left the court grounds in a blacked-out off-road vehicle without commenting.

The assault charges O'Riordan admitted can result in up to six months in jail or a maximum fine of 1,850 euro (£1,343).

Judge Durcan said he did not accept argument that the assault charges were at the lower end of the scale.

Asking for letters of apology ahead of the sentencing, he said: "It is important that the victims of crime know that the perpetrator apologises for the crime that was committed."

The court was told the incident began shortly before landing when O'Riordan's behaviour became erratic, and later as the plane came in to land in Shannon when she got out of her seat and tried to open the overhead luggage bins.

Aer Lingus flight attendant Carmel Coyne was injured trying to calm O'Riordan and encourage her to take her seat, the court heard.

"As the plane came into Shannon her behaviour became more difficult and unruly," Inspector Kennedy said.

"She was walking about the plane making her presence felt, speaking loudly and generally being a little rude, if I can put it that way, in her contacts with other passengers."

Ms Coyne suffered a swollen ankle after O'Riordan stood on her when she attempted to get her to take her seat during the final approach to Shannon.

The captain called in airport police to meet the plane when it came to the stand but the court heard there was a 15-minute delay in getting stairs to the aircraft to allow passengers to disembark.

Airport police inspector Ronan O'Reilly and officer Eamon Power boarded the plane and, after failing to calm O'Riordan, attempted to restrain her.

At one point the singer was released and she kicked Inspector O'Reilly in the waist area, attempted to hit him in the face and slapped him on the shoulder.

"That's where the assault comes in," Inspector Kennedy told the judge.

She spat at Mr Power and kicked his shin, causing a graze after he released her from a restraint.

"My reaction at the time was disappointment," Mr Power, who has worked in Shannon for 15 years, told the court.

"I would not have dealt with something to this extent before."

The case will be mentioned in Ennis District Court on January 20.

Press Association

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