Tuesday 20 March 2018

Water balloons, eggs and colourful language hurled at Tánaiste, court hears

From the left: Paul Murphy, Michael Murphy, Scott Masterson, Frank Donaghy and Kieran Mahon arrive at court. Photo: Collins
From the left: Paul Murphy, Michael Murphy, Scott Masterson, Frank Donaghy and Kieran Mahon arrive at court. Photo: Collins
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The trial of Solidarity TD Paul Murphy and six other men for the false imprisonment of former Tánaiste Joan Burton and her special advisor has been told of the dramatic moments they were surrounded by water charges protesters.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court was told how Ms Burton was first hit with a water balloon and later how she and advisor Karen O’Connell were trapped in a number of garda vehicles for three hours as they attempted to leave.

Opening the trial this morning prosecution counsel Sean Gillane SC said Ms Burton and Ms O’Connell were in Jobstown, Tallaght for a graduation ceremony at the An Cosan further eduction centre when a large number of protesters surrounded their vehicle as they sought to leave.

They had arrived at a ceremony to mark the graduation in a nearby Catholic church around 11am on November 15, 2014.

Mr Gillane told a jury that the issue of water charges was the subject of “fierce debate and comment” at the time.

He said a number of people arrived at the graduation who were “exercised and animated by the issue”.

Counsel said strong language was directed at Ms Burton and her advisor.

On their way to the church water balloons and eggs were hurled in their direction and the then Tánaiste was forced to change her jacket after being hit by a water balloon.

The jury was told the number of protesters grew while they were inside.

“A mood of hostility began to develop and deepen,” he said.

Arrangements were made for them to leave by a side entrance and to get into a garda car, but it was immediately surrounded. The vehicle was banged on by protesters and there was shouting and roaring, Mr Gillane said.

Items were thrown in the direction of the car.

Mr Gillane said the jury would hear evidence that 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 approximately and hour, he told the court.

By that stage members of the garda public order unit had arrived and the Tánaiste was moved to a garda jeep “by means of a human cordon”.

But this jeep was also surrounded, Mr Gillane said.

He told jurors they would be shown footage of what unfolded. The jeep was banged on and “language of a particular colour” was directed at Ms Burton.

Attempts to move the jeep were frustrated as it was surrounded and the then Tánaiste and her advisor were trapped in it for around two hours.

Mr Gillane told the jury they would hear that one of the accused, TD Paul Murphy was heard saying: “If they withdraw the public order unit, will we let her go?”

He said that ultimately the jeep was moved very slowly and at approximately 3.45pm Ms Burton and Ms O’Connell secured their departure by running from the jeep to two different garda cars.

Mr Gillane said Ms Burton would be the first witness they would hear from. She is due to give evidence tomorrow.

Earlier the prosecution counsel told the jury of five women and seven men that they must leave prejudice and sympathy out of their deliberations.

Paul Murphy (34), together with South Dublin councillors Kieran Mahon (39), Michael Murphy (53) and four other men have entered not guilty pleas on charges of falsely imprisoning Ms Burton and Ms O'Connell by restricting their personal liberty without their consent at Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Tallaght.

Paul Murphy of Kingswood Heights, Tallaght, Mr Mahon of Bolbrook Grove, Tallaght, Michael Murphy of Whitechurch Way, Ballyboden, Dublin, Frank Donaghy (71) of Alpine Rise, Tallaght, Ken Purcell (50) of Kiltalown Green, Michael Banks (46) of Brookview Green, Tallaght, and Scott Masterson (34) of Carrigmore Drive, Tallaght were all arraigned on Monday and entered not guilty pleas.

The trial continues tomorrow before Judge Melaney Greally.

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