Latest: Joan Burton denies laughter in car reflected 'relaxed' atmosphere

Latest: Joan Burton denies laughter in car reflected 'relaxed' atmosphere

Update 6.47pm: Former Tánaiste Joan Burton has denied that she was “relaxed” in the car in which she was allegedly falsely imprisoned during a water charges protest.

Ms Burton told the trial of Solidarity TD Paul Murphy and six other water protesters that she suffered nightmares in the wake of the alleged event in November 2014.

The jury was today shown several video clips of the protest, including one that appeared to show Ms Burton reading a newspaper article and another in which she told her adviser she should put out a message about the number of children “roaming” around.

Mr Murphy (aged 34), together with South Dublin Councillors Kieran Mahon (aged 39) and Michael Murphy (aged 53) and four other men, are charged with falsely imprisoning Ms Burton and her adviser Karen O’Connell by restricting their personal liberty without their consent at Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Tallaght on November 15, 2014.

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

It was Ms Burton's second day giving evidence in the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court trial, which is set down for six weeks. She will continue giving evidence on Tuesday when the trial resumes.

The trial has heard Ms Burton was trapped in a car for one hour and a Jeep for a further two hours with Ms O'Connell after they left a graduation ceremony at An Cosan education centre in Tallaght.

Under cross-examination from Padraig Dwyer SC, representing Frank Donaghy, Ms Burton was shown phone film clips in which she appeared to be reading a newspaper. In another, she could be heard telling Ms O'Connell that she should put a message on social media describing the number of children who were “roaming” the area.

Mr Dwyer put it to Ms Burton that she suggested a message should be put out “to the effect that the children were running wild”.

Ms Burton replied, “It was just conversation, to have conversation with Karen”. “Nothing was done about it,” she added.

On several occasions, she said she was extremely concerned for the safety of the children present at the protest.

Ms Burton also said she was not reading a newspaper, but a page from a newspaper that she found on the floor of the car containing an article about Michael Collins.

“To be honest, I read that article,” she said. “I looked at it and I thought: 'What would Michael Collins think of this?'”

Laughter broke out in court at this statement, before Mr Dwyer told Ms Burton that whatever Michael Collins might think about the situation was irrelevant.

“Well I had a lot of time to reflect,” Ms Burton replied.

In another clip, Ms O'Connell could be heard saying, “This always happens at the end of protests. The f***ing dregs decide not to finish it.”

Ms Burton agreed with Mr Dwyer that this was “completely unacceptable” but said they had been in the car for three hours at that stage and they were “stressed out”.

“She's not a person who uses bad language,” Ms Burton said.

In another clip, filmed on Ms Burton's phone, laughter could be heard inside the car after a suggestion was made that perhaps the car should reverse.

Ms Burton conceded that she did laugh at one point when she saw a woman wearing “leopard-print pyjama bottoms”.

“Under extreme pressure, people do laugh,” she said. But she rejected Mr Dwyer's suggestion that the atmosphere inside the car was one of “relaxation, if not some sharing of jokes with Ms O'Connell”.

It was not a “fear-filled atmosphere”, Mr Dwyer suggested.

“I tried as hard as I could to keep my composure, to keep looking straight ahead, to look as benign and pleasant as possible so as not to aggravate the people who were there even further,” Ms Burton replied.

“If you show fear, people can smell fear and it can get a lot worse potentially.”

Mr Dwyer put it to Ms Burton that the conversation recorded in the car did not reflect this.

“Are you suggesting I was happy with the events? That is so far from the truth,” Ms Burton said, adding she suffered nightmares in the wake of that day. Earlier she told the court she tried for a long time to avoid thinking about the events of that day because she had “some difficulty” with it.

The entire time in the car was not recorded, Ms Burton added.

“To be honest, there was a lot of silence in that car,” she said.

In another clip filmed outside the car, protesters could be seen surrounding the car shouting slogans including, “Enda Kenny in your ivory tower, this is called people power”, and “Stick your water meters up your arse”.

Ms Burton said she considered this last slogan a “human rights issue” rather than a political slogan. She said she did not hear any political slogans except “peaceful protest” and “shame on you”.

When asked about one element of the protest that involved a seated protest, Ms Burton told the court that she believed in peaceful protest but “not if it restricts ability of movement”.

The cross-examination became heated at times, with Mr Dwyer moved to remind Ms Burton that “This is not the Dáil”.

Judge Melanie Greally also asked Ms Burton to allow Mr Dwyer to finish his question before answering.

Earlier:

Former Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has told the trial of Solidarity TD Paul Murphy and six other water protesters that, “you wonder in times like that where this hate is coming from”.

“My politics is not about hating anybody,” Ms Burton told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court today.

It is Ms Burton's second day giving evidence in the trial, which is set down for six weeks.

Latest: Joan Burton denies laughter in car reflected 'relaxed' atmosphere

Mr Murphy (aged 34), together with South Dublin Councillors Kieran Mahon (aged 39) and Michael Murphy (aged 53) and four other men, are charged with falsely imprisoning Ms Burton and her adviser Karen O’Connell by restricting their personal liberty without their consent at Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Tallaght on November 15, 2014.

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

When asked if she heard people shouting “traitor” at her, Ms Burton said: “No, not particularly”.

“Perhaps when people are shouting and roaring it's probably curses and bad language standing out,” she said.

Ms Burton was responding to questioning from Padraig Dwyer SC, representing Frank Donaghy, on what exactly she heard when she was in the car.

“I'm sitting in the back of a car,” she said.

“I'm cold and I'm hungry and I'm thirsty. I actually asked a guard what would happen if I needed a toilet. My colleague who was sitting beside me was extremely upset and weeping a lot. I was trying to comfort her.

“I was listening to statements wishing me dead and so on, illnesses. I heard those maybe because they were more personal.

“You wonder in times like that where this hate is coming from. My politics is not about hating anybody.”

Mr Dwyer put it to Ms Burton that in 2014, sections of Irish society were angry with the Labour Party and “the perceived treachery on the part of Labour.”

“Only partly,” Ms Burton replied, adding large numbers of people were “very supportive of the fact the economy was starting to recover”.

“The response to me was mixed,” she said.

Ms Burton denied that her party had been “wiped out” in the 2016 general election but conceded it was “hugely damaged”.

Ms Burton agreed that by the 2016 General Election, support for Labour had fallen in the polls. She said the Labour Party was affected “by a strong campaign by people who were out to destroy the Labour Party and destroy social democracy in Ireland.”

“There is a group of people who would like to destroy the party,” she said.

The trial continues before Judge Melanie Greally and a jury of seven men and five women.

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