Saturday 17 March 2018

Burton adviser says protest 'scariest experience' of life

Labour TD Joan Burton arrives at court. Photo: Collins
Labour TD Joan Burton arrives at court. Photo: Collins

Andrew Phelan

Former tánaiste Joan Burton's adviser has described the Jobstown water protest as one of the "most scary experiences" of her life.

Karen O'Connell told a jury she felt like she was in a "maul" when an "angry mob" swarmed around her and Ms Burton.

She said protesters ran at them, shouting "get the c***s" as they fled from one car to another.

A windscreen was smashed, cans of beans and eggs were thrown and she was hyperventilating and crying, she said.

Ms O'Connell was giving evidence in the trial of Solidarity TD Paul Murphy, councillors Michael Murphy and Kieran Mahon and four other men, who all deny falsely imprisoning her and Ms Burton.

Ms O'Connell said they attended an adult education graduation ceremony at Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Tallaght, on November 15, 2014.

Karen O’Connell. Photo: Collins
Karen O’Connell. Photo: Collins

While walking, Ms O'Connell said protesters came close to them and started screaming at Ms Burton.

"They were using horrible language towards her - you f***ing b***h, I hope you die," Ms O'Connell said.

They were pushed and shoved and an egg was thrown at Ms O'Connell, hitting her hair and her coat. A water balloon hit the back of Ms Burton's head.

After the ceremony at a church, they both ran to a garda car, which became surrounded by protesters.

"They were banging on the bonnet, they were banging on the windows, they were banging on the roof and screaming at us. I was petrified … (Ms Burton) was very scared, she was trying to calm me down," she said.

Ms O'Connell recognised Paul Murphy, who was taking photos on his phone. They got out to go to another car and were surrounded by what was like a "scrum" of gardaí.

"If the guards weren't there, I don't know what would have happened," Ms O'Connell said.

"We were almost carried by the gardaí to the car that was waiting at the gate of the church grounds."

One of the protesters smashed the Jeep's windscreen, and it felt like they were trying to get in, she said.

Ms O'Connor recognised Paul Murphy in front of the Jeep with a megaphone.

A garda told them to "get out of the Jeep very quickly and run."

She was led to one "getaway car", with Ms Burton going to another. Ms O'Connell told Kerida Naidoo SC, for Kieran Mahon, she had been involved in Shell to Sea protests but added "there is a distinct difference from preventing people from entering a site, we certainly didn't deprive anybody of their ability to leave".

Earlier, cross-examination of Joan Burton TD concluded.

While viewing one clip of the protest, she became emotional and the jury was asked to leave while she watched it in private.

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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