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Dail demo trio fined after they snubbed gardai

THREE activists arrested at a demonstration outside Dail Eireann have been found guilty of public order offences.

The three, including a woman who was pregnant at the time, were all fined.

Gemma McCallum (31), Terence Barry (40) and Stephen Bennett (41) had all denied the charges against them, their defence arguing that they were exercising their constitutional right to demonstrate.

Judge Michael Walsh convicted them on some counts but dismissed others following the non-jury trial at Dublin District Court.

McCallum, of Killane Road, East Wall, was fined €600 for wilful obstruction, failing to obey garda directions and refusing to give her name and address. A further charge of disorderly conduct was dismissed.

Bennett, of Shanganagh Cliffs, Shankill, and Barry, of Kennedy Park, Thurles, Co Tipperary, were both convicted of failing to obey garda directions.

Bennett had one count of traffic obstruction dismissed, while he was found guilty of wilful obstruction and fined €600.

Barry was fined €300 in his case, but cleared of obstruction.

The court heard the incident happened at the junction of Kildare Street and Molesworth Street on May 5, 2012.

Inspector Gerard Delmar told the court several people had put up a tent on the footpath.

He said they were told they could protest but could not block the footpath. He directed gardai to take the tent away and left. Half-an-hour later he returned and saw crowd control barriers had been pulled across, blocking the roads.

It was dark and Insp Delmar believed this was dangerous to traffic. He spoke to the group again and warned them that firm action would be taken if this behaviour continued.

ARRESTED

He was called back a third time and the protesters were outside the main gate.

Some sat on the footpath, blocking it and McCallum and Bennett were both arrested.

Barry spoke to gardai, saying his co-accused had done nothing wrong. He was arrested after failing to move off the road. Garda David Campbell said he had been putting the barriers back into place when McCallum allegedly tried to pull them back into the middle of the road. When he returned, she was sitting in front of the gates of Government Buildings and Bennett was there too. Of the three accused, only Bennett had a criminal record, with 10 previous convictions.

Barry was an anti-eviction and pro-Palestinian activist and had been part of the Occupy Dame Street movement.

McCallum was the mother of a six-month-old child. Bennett, a single parent and computer programmer, had also been involved in Occupy Dame Streetand Palestinian rights activism.

aphelan@herald.ie


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