Wednesday 24 January 2018

Strong language, water balloons and eggs all hurled at Tánaiste, court told

Paul Murphy arriving at court yesterday. Photo: Collins
Paul Murphy arriving at court yesterday. Photo: Collins
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Former Tánaiste Joan Burton had eggs and water balloons thrown at her before being "trapped" in two Garda vehicles for around three hours by anti-water charges protesters, a court had heard.

Opening the trial of Solidarity TD Paul Murphy and six other men for the false imprisonment of Ms Burton and her special adviser Karen O'Connell, prosecution counsel Sean Gillane SC described how protesters refused to disperse even when a Garda public order unit arrived on the scene.

The demonstrators first surrounded a Garda car and later a Garda jeep containing Ms Burton and Ms O'Connell, with some people sitting on the ground so the vehicles could not drive away.

Mr Gillane told a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court they would hear evidence that Mr Murphy (34) had addressed protesters, saying: "If they withdraw the public order unit, will we let her go?"

The TD and his co-accused all deny charges of falsely imprisoning the two women at Fortunestown Road, Tallaght, Dublin, on November 15, 2014. The other defendants are councillors Kieran Mahon (39) and Michael Murphy (53), and Tallaght residents Frank Donaghy (71) of Alpine Rise, Ken Purcell (50) of Kiltalown Green, Michael Banks (46) of Brookview Green and Scott Masterson (34) of Carrigmore Drive.

Ms Burton had been invited to a ceremony marking the graduation of 60 students from the An Cosán adult education service when the trouble flared.

Mr Gillane said the issue of water charges was the subject of "fierce debate and comment" at the time and a number of people "exercised and animated by the issue" arrived at the graduation.

On her way into a church where the graduation ceremony was being held, "strong language" was directed at Ms Burton and eggs and water balloons were thrown in her direction. She had to change into a clean jacket after being hit by a water balloon, he said.

While they were in the church, the number of protesters outside grew and a "mood of hostility began to develop and deepen", counsel said.

Arrangements were made for the two women to leave by a side entrance and to get into a Garda car, but it was immediately surrounded. The vehicle was banged on and there was shouting and roaring. Items were thrown in the direction of the car, the jury heard.

The prosecution barrister said efforts by gardaí to get the protesters to leave were ignored and attempts to remove people were interfered with. The two women got into the car at 12.45pm and were stuck in it for about an hour.

Members of the Garda public order unit helped form a "human cordon" to get the two women from the car into a waiting Garda jeep.

But it too was surrounded and banged on and "language of a particular colour" was directed at Ms Burton.

She and her adviser were trapped in the jeep for about two hours before they managed to climb out and run to two waiting Garda cars which brought them to safety.

Mr Gillane told the jury a person was guilty of false imprisonment if they intentionally or recklessly obstructed the personal liberty of another without that person's consent.

He said people were entitled to express their political views, but a particular cause or grievance, no matter how honestly held, did not make anyone immune from the law.

Ms Burton will give evidence when the case resumes today.

Irish Independent

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