Thursday 19 September 2019

'I'll be using music to help me move on' - Cranberries star Dolores O'Riordan avoids jail following air rage incident

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

Caroline Crawford

Cranberries singer Dolores O'Riordan has been ordered to pay €6,000 to the court poor box in lieu of a prison sentence following an air rage incident in 2014 which saw her headbutt and spit in the face of a garda.

The 44-year-old singer pleaded guilty to four offences last December including assault and obstructing a garda and two airport police as a result of the incident at Shannon airport in November 2014.

Today at Ennis District Court, Judge Patrick Durcan said he did not believe it was appropriate to impose a criminal sanction in the case in light of the defendants medical records and mitigating factors.

He said her early indication of a guilty plea, the fact that she had no previous convictions and was of "unblemished character" and the medical reports of a number of doctors which suggest Ms O'Riordan was suffering from a mental illness at the time were all mitigating factors in the case.

He added that her celebrity added another factor to the matter, pointing out that as a public figure she was not only subject to the sentence of the court but would also be imposed to a sentence by the public.

"In light of the above I view it would be unfair and would be unjust for the court to criminalise the defendant in this case and I do not propose to do so," added Judge Durcan.

He ordered her to pay €6,000 to the poor box which will be used to assist prisoners prior to their release from prison.

Speaking outside court after the sentencing, Ms O'Riordan said: "I don't really have much to say. I'm glad it's over and I want to thank the doctors who helped me to get back my health mentally.

"I'm feeling very good today, very positive about this upcoming year. I have a couple of albums coming out and I'm going to go back to work."

Asked about the stigma and whether it was time people spoke and opened up more the singer said; "Of course" and urged people suffering similar problems to "Just reach out for help."

Her new album will be out this year. The singer said she would use "music, dancing and performing" to help her move on from this incident.

Ms O’Riordan with an address of Friarstown, Grange, Kilmallock pleaded guilty at Ennis District Court to  assaulting Garda Shane Dawson and two members of the Airport Police at Shannon, Ronan O’Reilly and Eamon Power.

She also pleaded to resisting or wilfully obstructing Garda Dawson in the execution of his duty contrary to Section 19 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994.

The singer was facing a maximum penalty of up to €1,850 or a maximum of six months in jail for the Section 2 assault.

The incident followed the singer’s removal from a transatlantic flight on November 10, 2014 at Shannon Airport during which she shouted “I’m an icon, I’m the Queen of Limerick”.

She had caused a disturbance on the Aer Lingus flight which was travelling from JFK airport in New York and stepped on the foot of flight attendant Carmel Coyne.

Airport police officers were notified and  as she was being removed the singer shouted:  “You can’t arrest me. I’m an icon, I’m the queen of Limerick. You don’t know who you are dealing with. I pay my taxes so I pay your wages and I am going to sue.”

Ms O’Riordan, who was described as quite  irrational, aggressive and difficult by gardai, was diagnosed as bipolar following the incident. The court was previously told that she has since received medical treatment as a result.

As she was being taken to Shannon Garda station in a patrol car, the singer escaped from the vehicle. Garda Shane Dawson apprehended Ms O’Riordan at which time she turned around and headbutted him in the face before spitting in his face.

The singer had alleged that one of the officers had groped her and sexually assaulted her during the arrest, but her legal council later acknowledged in court that there was no substance to the allegations.

A number of medical reports were given to Judge Patrick Durcan following the trial. These suggested the singer was suffering from hypomania, paranoia and sleep deprivation at the time of the incident.

Ms O'Riordan was previously ordered by the judge to write letters of apology to all those affected in the incident while he considered sentencing.

Read more: 'I'm queen of Limerick' - O'Riordan in air rage row

Read more: Cranberries star Dolores O'Riordan claimed garda grabbed her breast and sexually assaulted her, court hears

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