Saturday 16 December 2017

Man who interrupted ceremony before being tackled by Canadian ambassador given suspended sentence

Brian Murphy (47) twice shouted
Brian Murphy (47) twice shouted "this is an insult to all those who died for Irish freedom" and "free the Craigavon two" before Ambassador Kevin Vickers wrestled with him and brought him behind a stand Photo: Tony Gavin

Eimear Cotter

A community worker who interrupted a solemn ceremony to honour British soldiers killed in 1916 was tackled to the ground by the Canadian Ambassador to Ireland, Kevin Vickers.

Brian Murphy (47) twice shouted "this is an insult to all those who died for Irish freedom" and "free the Craigavon two" before Ambassador Vickers wrestled with him and brought him behind a stand.

Mr Vickers was previously hailed a hero when he took down a terrorist gunman in his native Canada.

The ceremony at Grangegorman Military Cemetery was attended by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan as well as the British Ambassador Dominick Chilcott and members of the Irish and British armed forces.

The defendant, of The Heights, Newcastle Manor, Newcastle, Co Dublin, was found guilty before Blanchardstown District Court of threatening and abusive behaviour.

He had denied the charge.

Judge David McHugh imposed a two month sentence which he suspended for 12 months, saying he was satisfied Murphy's behaviour was "greatly insulting" and had "infringed the constitutional rights of others" attending the ceremony.

Garda John Cahill said he was on duty at a memorial service for deceased British soldiers at Grangegorman cemetery on May 26 last when he saw a man stand up from a tiered seated area shortly after 12 noon.

Gda Cahill said the man unzipped his jacket, showing a t-shirt which read "Justice for the Craigavon Two", who were jailed for life in 2012 for killing a PSNI constable in 2009. He then started shouting "free the Craigavon Two" and "this is an insult, this is an insult."

The garda said he saw Ambassador Vickers tackle Murphy and bring him behind a stand, where he was assisted by plainclothes gardai.

The court heard that the event was invite only, was a solemn occasion and was televised live.

Gda Cahill said Murphy was amongst 25 to 30 invited guests, who were seated on a tiered stand reserved for family members and relatives of deceased British soldiers.

The garda also said that when Murphy stood up and started shouting the service stopped for a short while and the band stopped playing.

In his evidence, Murphy said his great grandfather was a member of the British Army, who died before 1916 and who is buried in Grangegorman.

He also said that his paternal grandfather fought at Boland's Mill during 1916, was involved in Republican politics and was elected as a TD in 1921 and 1923.

He claimed the event was "insensitive to all whose who had fought and died for Irish freedom", as the event was commemorating "those who may have been responsible for their deaths".

In cross examination, he denied his behaviour was insulting to those who were attending the ceremony.

Defence lawyer Jennifer Jackson said Murphy, who has no previous convictions, was engaged in "peaceful protest", to which he is entitled to do under the Constitution, and he did not intend to cause a breach of the peace.

Finding him guilty, Judge McHugh said he was satisfied Murphy had intended to cause a breach of the peace.

Ms Jackson said the defendant is married with five children, and has a very responsible job as the manager of the John Bosco Youth Centre in Drimnagh.

She asked the judge to be as lenient as possible, saying Murphy did not resist gardai when they arrested him.

Judge McHugh imposed a two month suspended sentence, saying he believed Murphy's behaviour was "greatly insulting".

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