Tuesday 20 March 2018

I only joined water protest while getting petrol, says accused (71)

Joan Burton had attended a graduation ceremony. Photo: Collins
Joan Burton had attended a graduation ceremony. Photo: Collins

Fiona Ferguson

A 71-year-old man charged with the false imprisonment of TD Joan Burton told gardaí he had joined the water protest while in the area getting petrol.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that after gardaí told Frank Donaghy that the maximum sentence for the offence was life, he replied: "That wouldn't be long for me. How could protesting be false imprisonment?"

The jury also heard details of co-accused Michael Banks's (46) interview with gardaí, which took place at Crumlin garda station on the same day, three months after the alleged events.

Mr Banks maintained throughout his questioning that the protest in Jobstown had been peaceful and told gardaí: "Joan Burton wanted a story and she got it."

Mr Donaghy, of Alpine Rise, Tallaght, Dublin, and Mr Banks, of Brookview Green, Tallaght, along with Solidarity TD Paul Murphy and four other men, have denied falsely imprisoning Ms Burton and her adviser Karen O'Connell by restricting their personal liberty without their consent at Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Tallaght, on November 15, 2014.

The two women were allegedly trapped in a car outside a local church and subsequently in a Garda Jeep for up to three hours by a crowd of water charge protesters after the pair had attended a local graduation ceremony in An Cosán adult education centre.

Garda John Tuthill told Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, that Mr Banks was arrested on February 12, 2015, and brought to Crumlin garda station for interview.

Mr Banks said he was aware that the protest was going to be on and told gardaí it was against austerity measures. When asked about the atmosphere he said there had been heckling, booing and jeering.

Mr Banks agreed he was present when Ms Burton was moved to the Jeep. He told gardaí that at this point the crowd had swelled to about 250 to 300 people. He did not accept the women's liberty was restricted or that they were frightened. He said they could have left the area.

During the interview gardaí asked Mr Banks if there had been any hostility and he said there had been children throwing eggs and sticks. He later said: "Unfortunately with a crowd like that you will always get one or two idiots."

The court heard Mr Donaghy was arrested the same day and brought to Tallaght garda station for interview. He told gardaí he had been in the area getting petrol and had not known there was a protest.

He said he had stopped and joined in "a peaceful protest".

"It was a sit-down protest. People have been doing it for years. I think it's fairly legitimate," he told gardaí. He said that the atmosphere was peaceful and he felt safe. He said gardaí had tried to pick someone up from the back of the car "and that's when the trouble started".

Padraig Dwyer SC, defending Mr Donaghy, said the bottom line of his client's position had been that he did not think he had done anything wrong by joining a sit-down protest.

Paul Murphy (34), of Kingswood Heights, Tallaght; Kieran Mahon (39), of Bolbrook Grove, Tallaght; Michael Murphy (53), of Whitechurch Way, Ballyboden, Dublin; Ken Purcell (50), of Kiltalown Green; Mr Banks of Brookview Green; Scott Masterson (34), of Carrigmore Drive, Tallaght, and Mr Donaghy have pleaded not guilty to falsely imprisoning Ms Burton and her adviser Karen O'Connell by restricting their personal liberty without their consent.

The trial continues before Judge Melanie Greally and a jury.

Irish Independent

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