The Dublin born former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations has told a jury that he holds the UN responsible for killing many thousands of people, including children, in Iraq through the imposition of sanctions.
Mr Denis Halliday, who headed the "oil for food" humanitarian programme in Iraq before his resignation in October 1998, was giving evidence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in the defence of five antiwar protesters accused of damaging a US aeroplane at Shannon Airport.
Mr Halliday told Mr Conor Devally SC (with Mr Luan O Braonain BL), prosecuting, under cross examination, that he gave up his post as he was constrained by the UN Security Council from using Iraq’s oil revenue to rebuild infrastructure within the country which had been destroyed during the 1991 Gulf War.
He said: "I disagreed with what the UN asked me to do. The role was unacceptable to me".
It was day seven of the trial of five accused who 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.
They are Ciaron O’Reilly (aged 45), an Australian national and Damien Moran (aged 25) both of 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.
Mr Halliday told the jury of seven women and five men that he reported the effects of sanctions to the UN Security Council but "the UN did not listen". "Loss of life was apparently not important to New York," he said
The jury heard that Mr Halliday was part of a documentary made by the journalist John Pilger which the five defendants had watched before going to Shannon in February 2003.
The documentary showed him violating UN sanctions by bringing medication into Iraq to a young girl suffering from leukaemia. He said a "vicious game" was played with sanctions by New York, Washington and London during which the only people who suffered were the citizens of Iraq.
Nuin Dunlop, giving evidence in her own defence, told her counsel, Mr Michael O’Higgins SC, that she had wanted to "do something to prevent people dying".
She told Mr Devally, in cross examination, that as an American she had grown up with a notion of Ireland as a peaceful and neutral country which had an affinity with the poor and oppressed.
Ms Dunlop said: "I want to apologise right now for my country, for using your country."
In reply to Mr Devally asking why she felt she had a right to interfere with a plane which the Irish Government had granted permission to be in Shannon, Ms Dunlop said she felt she was acting legally under international law.
All evidence has now been heard for prosecution and defence. The jury has been sent away until Monday morning and hearing will continue in legal argument until then before Judge Donagh McDonagh.