Court hears antiwar protestor acted 'on philosophies of Isaiah'

One of the five protestors charged with damaging a US aircraft at Shannon Airport has told the jury that "acting on the philosophies of Isaiah rather than pissing off George Bush" was the motivation behind their actions.

One of the five protestors charged with damaging a US aircraft at Shannon Airport has told the jury that "acting on the philosophies of Isaiah rather than pissing off George Bush" was the motivation behind their actions.

He also said they hoped gardaí would join them in their protest similar to the way police and civilians joined together to chip away at the Berlin Wall and bring about its eventual fall in 1990.

Mr Ciaran O’Reilly, aged 45, an Australian national living in Dublin and working with homeless people under the Catholic Worker Movement, said "turning swords into ploughshares" was the inspiration behind him attacking the US aircraft on February 3, 2003.

He told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that for them it was a choice of doing what they did at Shannon or travelling to Baghdad to act as human shields.

Following a visit to Glenstal Abbey in Limerick during which they discussed the issue, they chose not to travel to Baghdad as they did not speak Arabic.

Mr O’Reilly said, in reply to his counsel, Mr Hugh Hartnett SC (with Mr Giollaiosa O Lideadha BL), that Shannon Airport had become "a pit stop for death" and by damaging the aircraft he wanted to prevent the death of thousands of Iraqis and the destruction of property and of the infrastructure that kept the Iraqi society functioning.

He also told the packed courtroom that when he used a pickaxe to attack the aircraft, he had a genuine belief, honestly held, that by doing so he was going to protect "other people and property".

Mr O’Reilly was giving evidence on day four of the trial in which he, along with Mr Damien Moran a student priest with the Holy Ghost Fathers in Dublin, sharing an address with him on South Circular Road, Rialto; Ms Karen Fallon a Scottish marine biologist, also living on South Circular Road; Ms Nuin Dunlop, from the United States of America, a trained counsellor who lives in Dublin city centre; and Ms Deirdre Clancy, a copy editor, of The Spinnaker, Alverno, Clontarf are accused of criminal damage.

They all plead not guilty to one count of damaging a US naval plane and to causing similar damage to two glass door panels at Aer Rianta at Shannon Airport on February 3, 2003.

Mr O’Reilly told the jury of nine women and three men that he was informed and educated on the consequences of sanctions imposed on Iraq following the 1991 war through material such as the television documentary "Paying the Price" by renowned journalist Mr John Pilger.

He said he and his co-accused left a copy of Mr Pilger’s documentary as well as a documentary produced by Jesuits in the US on the effects of the Iraqi war at the "shrine" they erected at Shannon Airport, along with a cope of the Koran, the Bible and prayer beads.

Photographs that he said depicted Iraqi civilians injured during a missile attack on Basra in January 1999 were also left at the ‘shrine’. He said the pictures had been given to him by someone who had travelled to Iraq and was travelling onto Baghdad to be a human shield.

He denied, in cross-examination by prosecuting counsel, Mr Conor Devally SC (with Mr Luan O Braonain BL), that he damaged the aicraft in Shannon to publicise to maximum effect his position on the war by getting himself arrested and by bringing about his trial.

He also denied Mr Devally’s suggestion that he had used his incarceration following the incident at Shannon to generate further publicity but, when pressed further, conceded that he had written letters that could not be described as "addressed to your mother", as Mr Devally called them.

He agreed that he knew another person had been arrested for damaging a US aircraft at Shannon a few days previously and had considered that arrest might be "a possibility" rather than a likelihood.

What he had been hoping for, he said, was that instead of arresting them, gardaí would join them in the protest, much the same way that people chipping away at the Berlin Wall had inspired police and civilians to join in and eventually bring about the fall of the wall in November 1989.

He denied Mr Devally’s suggestion that he had acted the way he did in Shannon "because it was politics and this was an expression of your politics".

He agreed he had given a live interview on Monday this week to an American broadcaster in which he said: "…and so we are hoping to put the war on trial."

He said, however, the phrase did not refer specifically to the proceedings at the courtroom where the five are being tried.

Asked by Mr Devally if he had been in trouble with authorities in any other country before travelling to Dublin, he replied: "Not any more than Jesus."

The hearing continues before Judge Frank O’Donnell.

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