Court hears plain clothes and armed Gardai were ordered to leave Jobstown protest

By Declan Brennan

Gardaí were ordered to leave a water charges protest because some of them were armed, the trial of seven men accused of falsely imprisoning former Tánaiste Joan Burton has heard.

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy (34) along with South Dublin Councillors Michael Murphy (53) and Kieran Mahon (39) and four other men have pleaded not guilty to falsely imprisoning Ms Burton and her advisor Karen O'Connell by restricting their personal liberty without their consent at Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Tallaght on November 15, 2014.

Criminal Courts of Justice

The two women were attending a graduation ceremony at An Cosán adult education centre when demonstrations broke out around them. The jury has heard evidence that they were held in two vehicles for around three hours.

On day 14 of the trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court,  Garda Brian O'Connor testified that he took up a position around the unmarked patrol car the women were sitting in which was surrounded by protesters.

He said he saw eggs and water balloons being thrown and said he was being pulled and dragged by people who were trying to get him out of the way so they could bang on the car.

He later told Conor McKenna BL, defending Paul Murphy, that this took place around six times while he was at the car.

Mr McKenna put it to him that in his official statement Gda O'Connor had said he “constantly had people dragging and pulling out of me” and that this was incorrect.

Counsel said: “I put it to you that not only was it not constant, it didn't happen”. The witness said it did happen, and said he wouldn't be giving it in evidence if it didn't.

He also described how gardaí formed a human cordon from the car to escort the women to a nearby Garda Jeep. He said that when the women began moving through this cordon around 50 protesters ran towards it.

“It was highly aggressive. They were running in and pulling at us. I was hit. They were trying to remove the two lines, in my opinion,” he said. It took around 30 seconds to get the women into the Jeep, he added.

He said that as protesters surrounded the Jeep it became “chaotic”.

“You were being pushed around. You couldn't stand still. I was being punched continually. It was from behind so I couldn't see who was doing it,” he testified.

He said he left around this time because an order was issued to all plain clothes gardaí to leave the scene. He said the reason for this was because there were some armed gardaí present.

He said later that evening there was a “giving out” or venting session by gardaí in a conference room at the Plaza hotel in Tallaght.

He said he himself wasn't impressed by what had happened on the day and said he felt that garda members weren't protected enough.

He told Michael O'Higgins SC, defending Ken Purcell, that he couldn't remember exactly what was said but it was possible that somebody criticised how gardaí had managed the situation.

“We were covered with water, eggs, we were out there for three hours taking serious abuse,” he said.

Paul Murphy of Kingswood Heights, Tallaght; Kieran Mahon of Holbrook Grove, Tallaght; Michael Murphy of Whitechurch Way, Ballyboden, Dublin; Frank Donaghy (71) of Alpine Rise, Tallaght; Ken Purcell (50) of Kiltalown Green, Tallaght; Michael Banks (46) of Brookview Green, Tallaght and Scott Masterson (34) of Carrigmore Drive, Tallaght have denied the charges.

The trial continues before Judge Melanie Greally and a jury. 

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