Friday 23 March 2018

Fisherman tells court garda 'struck him three or four times to the face' during anti-Shell protest

Dublin's Four Courts
Dublin's Four Courts

A fisherman has told the High Court he suffered “three or four fast ones” to the face from a Garda using closed fists and wearing leather gloves during a protest against the Shell gas refinery in Co Mayo.

A Garda video recording of that protest was played today to the jury hearing the case of three local men who have sued for damages over alleged assaults inflicted on them during the protest on January 19th 2007.

In evidence, one of the three, Patrick O’Donnell said another Garda laughed when Mr O’Donnell showed his face to the Garda camera recording the protest, saying : “Are you happy, I’m all bursted”.

Mr O’Donnell said there were about 100 local people involved in the protest held between 7.30am and 9am on January 19th 2007 when a convoy of workers and others were heading towards the refinery at Bellanaboy. Such protests were held daily from 2006, he said.

Mr O’Donnell said he was assaulted when he went to aid a neighbour, Patrick Coyle, after Mr Coyle was struck on the head by a Garda whom he said was later identified as Garda Patrick Lee.

Mr O’Donnell said, as he went to help Mr Coyle,  two gardai held his hands while Garda Peter Lee gave him “three or four fast ones” to the face.

In the Garda video played to the court, Mr O’Donnell is seen looking into the camera and saying: “Hey Greg, take a look at my face.” He also says: “I’m bursted, I have a tooth loose, what kind of effing men have you down here?”.

He also says: “I hope you’re proud of yourselves, take a right look at it.” In a further reference he is seen looking into the camera saying: “Brutality.”

He also says: “You’re supposed to serve the community.” He also referred to gardai serving the interests of Shell. He remained concerned about the gas project and a pipeline was now floating loose in Broadhaven Bay, he said.

Asked about what was happening when he was addressing the camera, Mr O’Donnell said he was shocked and has been eight years “trying to get justice”. He had suffered three broken ribs during another protest and a court case was pending about that, he added.

Mr O’Donnell also says to camera:”Two holding and one belting”. He said that was a reference to two gardai holding his arms and one hitting himn.

He is also videoed as saying “..more complaints, more court cases”. That remark was a reference to the fact he had made complaints about other incidents which involved court cases, he said.

He also says on the video: “I have the number” . That was a reference to the number of the Garda who hit him, later identified as Garda Peter Lee, he said.

Mr O’Donell said the Garda operating the video was a local Garda, Greg Burke, and he believed Garda Burke did not want to hear about his injuries.

He agreed with his counsel Chris Meehan SC there was a “sizeable gap” of about seven minutes in the Garda video recording of the protest of January 19th 2007.

Asked about a comment by Garda Burke about a protester forgetting to say they “pulled the numbers” off two gardai last week, Mr O’Donnell said he had not pulled any numbers off any Garda.

Mr O’Donnell (57), a fisherman and father of four of Porturlin, Shore, Ballina, is giving evidence in the continuing civil action for damages by himself and two other local men - Patrick Coyle, a farmer, Barnatra, Ballina, and Martin O’Donnell, brother of Patrick and also a fisherman, of  Porturlin.

The three have separately sued the Garda Commissioner and State over the alleged assaults. All three cases are being heard together before Mr Justice Paul McDermott and a jury.

The case continues.

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