Shannon protestor acted to 'protect lives and fulfil Christian teaching'

One of the antiwar protesters accused of the criminal damage of a US naval aeroplane at Shannon Airport has agreed he previously engaged in actions of a similar nature in other jurisdictions.

One of the antiwar protesters accused of the criminal damage of a US naval aeroplane at Shannon Airport has agreed he previously engaged in actions of a similar nature in other jurisdictions.

Mr Ciaron O’Reilly (aged 45), an Australian national living in Dublin, told Mr Conor Devally SC, prosecuting, that his personal view that he had acted legally on such other occasions had "not yet" been vindicated by a court.

Mr O’Reilly was giving evidence on day five of the trial in which he, along with Damien Moran (aged 25) sharing an address with him on South Circular Road, Rialto; Nuin Dunlop (aged 34), a US citizen and counsellor living on Walkinstown Road, Dublin; Karen Fallon (aged 34), a Scottish marine biologist living on South Circular Road, Rialto; and Deirdre Clancy (aged 35), a copy editor of Castle Avenue, Clontarf, Dublin.

They have pleaded not guilty to two counts each of causing damage without lawful excuse to a naval plane, property of the United States Government, and to glass door panels, property of Aer Rianta, at Shannon Airport, Clare on February 3, 2003.

Mr O’Reilly told the jury of five men and seven women that he had been found guilty of the "first incident" in the USA as he had been denied a fair trial.

Mr O’Reilly said his belief that his actions at Shannon were not criminal was informed by the acquittal in Liverpool in 1996 of four women accused of causing £2.5m damage to a plane bound for East Timor.

He said his belief was also informed by a judge in Scotland who directed a jury to reach a not guilty verdict in the case of damage to a "Trident" missile. Mr O’Reilly said the judge made the direction on the basis that "Trident" was an illegal weapon system.

Mr O’Reilly agreed with Mr Devally that the Irish government had given permission for US planes to land in Shannon but said that such permission was "unconstitutional, criminal and immoral".

Asked by Mr Devally if he had "taken the law into your own hands" because of a "profound objection" to government policy, Mr O’Reilly replied that he acted to protect lives and fulfil Christian teaching.

Asked by Judge Donagh McDonagh why he had not taken legal action, the accused said he and other people had complained to gardaí regarding the use of the airport but he believed that "that structure was not listening".

Mr O’Reilly said he had not gone to the courts as the "situation was so urgent" and said it had taken two and a half years for this trial to come to court.

Mr Damien Moran told Mr Roderick O’Hanlon SC, defending him, that he believed United Nations sanctions, in place since 1991, had led to the death of half a million Iraqi children and were "illegal, immoral and criminally negligent".

Mr Moran said he "honestly believed" his actions would save lives and property.

He agreed with Mr O’Hanlon that the action was "public" and said it was in the public interest for the Irish people to know what he had done and why.

Mr Moran told Mr Devally, under cross examination, that he had attended peaceful protest marches in Shannon in December 2002 and January 2003 before "decommissioning" the aeroplane the following month.

Mr Moran repeated he acted to protect his "own" and other lives and property. When pressed as to how his own life was in danger, Mr Moran said he was fearful that Shannon could be made a target as Bali and London had.

Mr Moran said he had only planted the seeds of "non violent resistance" when Mr Devally suggested he had made the airport a target on February 3, 2003.

When asked by Mr Devally if a violent act at the airport would be legitimate, Mr Moran replied "absolutely not".

The hearing continues in legal argument before Judge McDonagh at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

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