Burton questioned on Garda statement

Joan Burton

Former tánaiste Joan Burton has denied she left out any reference to “water protesters” in her statement to gardaí because she wanted to make the protesters out as a “disorganised rabble”.

Under questioning from defence counsel yesterday, Ms Burton denied she left any reference to water protesters out of her statement to gardaí because she did not want to give them a “veneer of legitimacy”.

Ms Burton took the witness stand for the third day yesterday in the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court trial of Solidarity TD Paul Murphy and six other protesters.

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 Rd, 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.

The trial has heard Ms Burton and Ms O’Connell were trapped in cars for about three hours after they left a graduation ceremony at An Cosán education centre in Tallaght.

Michael O’Higgins, defending, told Ms Burton he does not defend the behaviour of anyone who threw a water balloon or an egg at her. That is “an indefensible action”, he said, adding that his client had not engaged in such behaviour. He said he is also not defending “anybody who obstructed your path in a way that was unlawful”. However, he put it to Ms Burton that as the leader of the country, being called distasteful names should be “water off a duck’s back”.

“Can I suggest to you for the leader of a country, while it’s thoroughly distasteful and unpleasant to be called these things, a bitch, a c***, that is water off a duck’s back,” said Mr O’Higgins.

“Not necessarily, if it’s accompanied by people raining blows on a car,” said Ms Burton, adding the day of the protest was a “very unusual experience. This particular episode was entirely different to other experiences I had. The venom and the hatred that was part of this particular event was unusual.”

Mr O’Higgins put it to Ms Burton that while name-calling may be ugly, it was also a person’s right to express that view as part of freedom of expression: “You should be big enough and bold enough to take it on board.”

The trial was shown video footage from Garda Air Support at about 2.53pm that day during which a dispatcher could be heard saying the crowd was dispersing.

The dispatcher said they were “making good progress” and Ms Burton’s car should reach the Tallaght by-pass within 20-30 minutes. “There’s no hassle really,” said the dispatcher, adding that there had been a bit of pushing when the Garda Public Order Unit arrived.

Mr O’Higgins put it to Ms Burton that those who engaged in pushing were “a tiny minority and not representative of the group as a whole”. He suggested the situation was “playing out quite placidly”.

“I’m no expert,” said Ms Burton, adding that she had not been party to the conversation from the air: “I wasn’t able to open the car door and get out and go freely.”

The trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court continues tomorrow .

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