Sonya Egan “tormented” her victims, one of whom said her life was effectively ruined, court hears
A mother of three was jailed for two years after she waged a terrifying campaign of harassment against a former Sinn Féin TD and a Cork community activist.
Sonya Egan (42) falsely claimed to be the daughter of former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and her relentless campaign of harassment was such that a judge noted it had caused “torment” for her two victims.
She told former Cork TD Jonathan O’Brien she loved him and, having later made serious bullying accusations against the Cork politician, then promised him she would drop all the claims “if he gave in to her feelings for him”.
Egan then waged an alarming campaign of harassment against Mr O’Brien (50) and Cork community activist Laura O’Connell for over a year, levelling false and hurtful allegations against them.
Judge Helen Boyle noted at Cork Circuit Criminal Court the campaign of harassment went on for over a year, it was sustained, targeted not just the two victims but their families, involved multiple routes of harassment and had serious financial consequences for the victims.
Judge Boyle noted that Ms O'Connell said Egan’s campaign of harassment had effectively ruined her life.
“It is so serious it merits a prison sentence,” she said.
Judge Boyle said a psychological report set out that Egan had been raised in State care and had suffered multiple forms of abuse over her childhood. It assessed her as being at a low risk of reoffending.
She had also submitted a letter of apology to the court for her actions.
Judge Boyle said Egan “noted the upset, anguish and torment she inflicted on the victims”.
“She said she genuinely did not realise the extent of her behaviour. She said she is truly sorry.”
Judge Boyle imposed a three-year prison sentence but agreed to suspend the final 12 months of the term.
The judge noted that Egan had a traumatic childhood but said it was “perplexing” that there was no precise conclusion in the psychological report.
Ms O’Connell, who had fought back tears in delivering a victim impact statement at a previous court hearing, said Sonya Egan had ruined her life, left her living in fear and had rendered her financially crippled.
The victim said she was so “torn apart” by Egan’s actions she was now considering leaving Ireland.
The impact of the false claims was aggravated by various conspiracy groups taking Egan’s side.
When gardaí seized Egan’s phone, she was found to have made 5,500 calls, texts and social media messages to the Sinn Féin TD over a six-month period.
Egan also had 16 active Facebook accounts on her phone – including accounts in which she was falsely linked to Jeremy Corbyn and a relative of one of the Birmingham Six.
The woman at various times claimed to be a barrister and an investigative reporter.
She pleaded guilty to two charges of harassment against Mr O’Brien and Ms O’Connell.
Egan, of The Lawn, Lios Cara, Killeens, Co Cork, pleaded guilty to two charges.
She admitted harassment of Mr O’Brien on a variety of dates between January 17, 2018 and January 9, 2019.
Egan also admitted harassment of Laura O’Connell on various dates between April 8, 2018 and June 26, 2019.
However, Sergeant John Sheehy told the court that Egan had alleged to people she had only pleaded to protect someone else – and had contacted several journalists asking if they would tell her story.
Sgt Sheehy said Mr O’Brien became aware of the defendant in April or May 2017 when she made a protected disclosure claiming “a conspiracy to cover up her abuse by members of an gardaí”.
Mr O’Brien, in his role as a TD, offered her advice and moral support.
However, he later became “uneasy” when Egan began to make suggestive remarks to him.
She had also joined Sinn Féin in Cork.
Egan told him her real father was former British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and, later, that she had feelings for the Sinn Féin TD.
Mr O’Brien immediately distanced himself from Egan, at which point she began to make bullying allegations against him and Ms O’Connell.
She accused him of having betrayed her trust and falsely said she had lost a baby because of the bullying.
“On a number of occasions, she claimed that he had driven her to suicide and that she was going to carry it out,” Sgt Sheehy said.
“While all this was going on, she would email him to tell him that she loves him and that she would drop all the claims against him if he gave into his feelings for her.”
Later, Egan would send the politician messages accusing him of being with “a tart” because an unknown vehicle was outside his home.
The Sinn Fein TD was appalled when, in a message, Egan referred to his terminally ill mother.
“Sonya became aware that his terminally ill mother had fallen out of the bed in the hospital and claims that a friend in the hospital had told her,” Sgt Sheehy said.
“The hospital staff confirmed that his mother had fallen out of bed, but it has not been established how she got this information.”
Mr O'Brien eventually notified the gardaí – and revealed there were occasions when he would receive 100 text messages daily from Egan or from social media accounts believed to be operated by her.
On one occasion, Egan turned up at Leinster House while the Dáil was sitting and demanded to speak to the Sinn Féin TD.
On another occasion, she falsely posted on social media that she was pregnant and lost her baby due to the bullying of Mr O’Brien and Sinn Féin.
Egan also approached Mr O’Brien's daughter at her place of work asking questions about him.
After Mr O’Brien referred the matter to the gardaí, she called him “a rat”.
A written victim impact statement by Mr O’Brien was submitted to Judge Boyle but was not read out in open court.
Ms O’Connell, who read out her own victim impact statement to the court, said her life was in ruins because of the actions of Egan.
“She is a menace to society and one that I was and am not being protected from,” Ms O’Connell said.
“Since that day (she met Egan) my life has never been the same. She has mentally broken me, set me back in my health and impoverished me to the point where I now have to engage with the insolvency services.”
Ms O’Connell said she was left facing a €26,000 legal bill because of injunctions she had to secure just to protect herself from Egan.
“Sonya Egan has made every attempt to destroy my good reputation, my hard work efforts, my health including my mental health.”
She said it was very hurtful to realise her son was having to watch “his mother being torn apart”.
“I live in fear. I am stressed. I am overwhelmed. Sonya Egan has ruined my life. Sonya has targeted and victimised several others, broken several others and will not stop,” she said.
“I flinch with every outside noise, panic at the sound of a doorbell in fear it is her or those who follow her. I cannot go anywhere without having to assess who is following me or watching me.”
In one horrifying incident, a person known to Sonya Egan posed as a social worker and gained access to Ms O’Connell’s home.
Ms O’Connell begged the courts to protect her and end Sonya Egan’s campaign against her and other innocent people.
Defence counsel, Anthony Sammon SC, read out a public apology from Egan who said she was “incredibly sorry for my behaviour”.
She acknowledged her behaviour had escalated to the point where it was “out of control”.
“I am truly sorry”.
Egan was emotionless as she was taken into custody.
Jonathan O’Brien served as a Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central from 2011 until 2020 when he opted not to contest the Dáil election. His seat was successfully defended for Sinn Féin by Thomas Gould in 2020.
A graduate of Munster Technology University (MTU), Mr O’Brien is a father of four children and a renowned Cork sports supporter. Mr O’Brien played for the famous Cork junior side Rockmount and was a club mate of Roy Keane, at one point making the Cork Schoolboys team. He is a high-profile fan of both Cork City FC and St Vincent’s GAA.
Before he opted not to defend his Dáil seat at the last general election, Mr O’Brien served as Sinn Féin junior spokesperson on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform.
Mr O’Brien served as a member of Cork City Council for 11 years before his election to the Dáil in 2011.