Wednesday 25 April 2018

Supporters cheer as sneering Byrne is imprisoned

Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

Derek Byrne ambled into Court 22 with the air of a man without a care in the world.

Smiling broadly, the father of two from Donaghmede in Dublin, appeared to revel in his newfound notoriety, as he passed a small group of supporters on the way to his seat.

There was standing room only in the Criminal Courts of Justice, as the clock ticked down to the moment when the group of five protesters would learn their fate.

However, the prospect of prison didn't seem to faze Mr Byrne, as he laughed, joked, and exuded an air of complete indifference.

Water Protester Derek Byrne arriving to the high Court in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Collins Courts
Water Protester Derek Byrne arriving to the high Court in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Collins Courts

The 36-year-old shot to national prominence last month for calling President Michael D Higgins a 'midget parasite' and 'traitor' at a protest. But it was clear the public backlash which ensued had little impact.

Minutes before Mr Justice Paul Gilligan returned from his chambers to pass sentence, Mr Byrne set the tone when he rose from his seat, and turned to address a 50-strong group of supporters scattered around the court.

"Now, I don't want to see any tears," he quipped, smiling broadly.

"You won't see tears, you'll see cheers," someone replied.

"Whatever happens here, we've already won," he continued.

He then slumped back into his seat, threw his outstretched arms over the back of his seat, and proceeded to smile and wink at friends and family.

It required the intervention of solicitor Cahir O'Higgins to try and put a halt to some of the laughter and asides coming from the public benches.

"You are in a court room, dignity is an important word.

"Please be respectful of where you are," he said.

Addressing the group, he made it clear their actions were an affront to democracy and common decency in court.

Meanwhile, Mr Byrne bit nervously on his lip, but he kept wearing his black baseball cap, emblazoned with the words 'Je Suis Derek'.

His contempt for the judicial system was palpable.

As he was led away to an awaiting prison van, Mr Byrne threw Justice Gilligan a withering look, before final inaudible mutterings were drowned out by loud and prolonged applause.

But for 28 days, at least, the highly voluble demonstrator has been silenced.


Irish Independent

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