Friday 23 March 2018

Burton: I felt menaced and frightened at water protest

Former Tánaiste Joan Burton: said she was struck by two water balloons at the protest Picture: Tom Burke
Former Tánaiste Joan Burton: said she was struck by two water balloons at the protest Picture: Tom Burke

Tom Tuite

Former Tanaiste Joan Burton has told a court she was frightened and did not think she had the alternative of being able to get out of a Garda car surrounded by people shouting abuse during the Jobstown water protest.

She was giving evidence on day one of the trial of a Dublin youth (17) accused of falsely imprisoning her and her adviser Karen O'Connell during the demonstration at the Fortunestown Road in Jobstown, Tallaght, Dublin, on November 15, 2014.

The teen was 15 at the time and is being tried before Judge John King at the Dublin Children's Court. He denies the charges.

The prosecution alleges the Tánaiste and her entourage were trapped for about three hours after a graduation ceremony at the An Cosán education centre.

The former Labour leader and Minister for Social Protection told prosecuting counsel Tony McGillicuddy that when she arrived at 11.30am she noticed some protesters. A young male in a clean blue tracksuit was holding a phone close to her face trying to take a photo and saying "Talk to us Joan", the court heard.

The defence said she was referring to the youth who was accompanied to the court by his mother and his legal team. The teen cannot be named because he is a minor.

Ms Burton said she went to a nearby church for the second part of the ceremony. She walked with her entourage and alleged that she was hit twice with water balloons.

After she made her speech at the church she was advised by a garda that she would have to leave. She said she got into the back of a Garda car with her adviser Karen O'Connell. She said there was a lot of noise and offensive language. Ms O'Connell was upset and she put her arms around her, the court was told.

She said some of the protesters were banging on the windows.

Ms Burton also said the teenager was standing beside the car. She said that there was a lot of vulgar abuse and she feared what would happen if they got the car door open.

Gardaí moved her to a second vehicle, a Jeep. She said the officers were around her like a screen and the crowd was pushing. She said plastic bottles and eggs were being thrown.

She said that when she reached the Garda Jeep she flung herself into the back seat. She felt "menaced" and added: "I worried what will happen if they manage to open the car doors". She said protesters continued banging on the roof and doors and shouting abuse.

She said she was very frightened and comforted Ms O'Connell. There were more protesters around and the Jeep moved off slowly. After what seemed a long time, she was transferred to a another Garda vehicle which rushed her away.

In cross-examination, Giollaoisa Ó Lideadha SC, defending, put it to her that gardaí made an operational decision to progress the situation.

"Are you suggesting I had an alternative, of leaving the car? Because I don't think I had," she replied.

Ms Burton said she made a statement to gardaí but had no knowledge of what charges would be brought. She agreed it was a protest which people were free to do, but she added that "there were features of it which were extremely difficult for myself and other occupants of the car".

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News