Former Tanaiste Joan Burton has told a court she did not think she had the alternative of being able to get out of a car during Jobstown protest writes Tom Tuite.
She was giving evidence on day one of the trial of a Dublin youth accused of falsely imprisoning her and her advisor Karen O'Connell during the water protest at the Fortunestown Road in Jobstown in Tallaght, Dublin, on Nov. 15, 2014.
The teen was aged 15 at the time and is being tried before Judge John King at the Dublin Children's Court. He denies the charges.
The prosecution alleges that the Tanaiste and her entourage were trapped in a ministerial car for about three hours after they had attended a graduation ceremony at the An Cosan education centre.
She told prosecuting counsel Tony McGillicuddy that she arrived at about 11.30 am for the ceremony.
She said now Minister for Children Katherine Zappone, and former Minister Kevin Humprhies as well as several academics were also there.
The former Labour leader and Minister for Social Protection described the graduation ceremony as having a “happy atmosphere”.
She said that when she arrived she noticed some protesters. A young male in a clean blue tracksuit was holding a phone close to her face trying to take a photo and saying “Talk to us Joan”, she said.
The defence said that she was referring to the defendant who was accompanied to the court by his mother and his legal team.
She said that she as advised that she would have to leave. On exiting she was hit with a water baloon, she said adding that it hurt and her clothes were wet. She said that is when the hassle started.
Her advisor gave her a jacket to wear.
She said she made haste to a garda car. She sat in the back with Ms O'Connell and she said there was a lot of noise and offensive language.
There was a large number of children present and she was concerned about them.
She said that there was a lot of vulgar abuse and she was called a “fucking cunt and stuff like that”. She said she was annoyed that the graduation was disrupted.
One person behind the car had a megaphone and she said that at this point she wanted to be able to leave as early as possible. She said the crowd was pushing and was “very wild”.
She said she feared what would happen if they got the car door open.
Gardai moved her to a second vehicle, described as being like a jeep. She said the officers were around her like a screen and the crowd was pushing. She said they were very aggressive and there was a lot of pushing.
Plastic bottles and eggs were being thrown she said.
She said that when she reached the Garda jeep she flung herself into the back seat. She felt “menaced” and added “I worried what will happen if they manage to open the car doors”.
When she was being moved from that car she worried that she would not be able to run because she lost her shoe, she said.
There were more protesters around and the jeep moved slowly. After what seemed she described as a long time, she was transferred to a another gardai vehicle which rushed her away.
In cross-examination Giollaoisa O Lideadha SC, defending , put it to her that gardai made an operational decision to progress the situation. “Are you suggesting I had an alternative, of leaving the car? Because I don't think I had,” she replied. Cross examination will continue this afternoon.