Protester suffered ‘three or four fast ones’ from garda

A fisherman has told the High Court he suffered “three or four fast ones” to the face from a garda using closed fists and wearing leather gloves during a protest against the Shell gas refinery in Mayo.

This happened as he went to aid a neighbour who was struck by the same garda, Patrick O’Donnell said.

A Garda video recording of the protest was played to the jury on the second day of the civil actions for damages by Mr O’Donnell and two others over alleged assaults on them by gardaí during the protest between 7.30am and 9am on January 19, 2007.

The recording begins about 7.38am and stops around 7.43am before resuming about 7.50am.

Just after 7.38am, the garda doing the recording, named as Greg Burke, says there are 35 gardaí present and “it’s peaceful so far”.

He notes the presence of a US film crew, remarking that “we can expect a bit of action”, “back to the same old rubbish”, and “Willie Corduff will stage a show for us”.

When the recording resumes at 7.50am, Garda Burke says “peace has been restored” and “we have moved on from the skirmish”.

The recording was played in court in the actions by Patrick O’Donnell and his brother Martin, fishermen with addresses at Porturlin, Shore, Ballina, and Patrick Coyle, a farmer from Barnatra, Ballina, against the Garda commissioner and State.

In evidence, Patrick O’Donnell said Garda Burke laughed when Mr O’Donnell showed his face to the camera after the alleged assault on him and said: “Are you happy, I’m all bursted.” Garda Burke did not seem interested in his injuries, he said.

There were about 100 people involved in the protest held as a convoy of workers and others were heading towards the Shell refinery at Bellanaboy, he said.

Mr O’Donnell claimed he was assaulted when he went to help Patrick Coyle who was struck on the head by a garda later identified as Peter Lee.

As he went to help Mr Coyle, two gardaí held his hands while Garda Lee gave him “three or four fast ones” to the face, Mr O’Donnell claimed.

In the recording, Mr O’Donnell is seen looking into the camera and saying: “Hey Greg, take a look at my face.”

He also says: “I’m bursted, I have a tooth loose, what kind of effing men have you down here?”

Under cross-examination, Colm Smyth, for the defendants, said their evidence would be that gardaí had only engaged with protesters when they tried to break the white line on the road and cross into the section of road used by the convoy.

Garda Marvin Lee, son of Garda Peter Lee, would say he was pulled by protesters into the crowd and Patrick O’Donnell had grabbed his jacket, counsel said. He feared he would be pushed over the bridge. The evidence would be that his father and another garda went to aid him.

The case continues.

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