Date set for anti-war protesters' third trial

Five anti-war protesters accused of causing millions of dollars of damage to a US military plane in Shannon were today facing a long wait for their third trial.

Five anti-war protesters accused of causing millions of dollars of damage to a US military plane in Shannon were today facing a long wait for their third trial.

The second trial against the Pitstop Plough Shares activists collapsed earlier this week amid allegations that Judge Donagh McDonagh who was hearing the case had links to President George W Bush.

Today, Judge Desmond Hogan set a trial date of July 5 2006.

The five – Ciaron O’Reilly, aged 45, an Australian national and Damien Moran, aged 25, both of Rialto, Nuin Dunlop, aged 34, a US citizen and counsellor living in Walkinstown Road, Dublin, Karen Fallon, aged 34, a Scottish marine biologist living in Rialto and Deirdre Clancy, aged 35, a copy editor from Clontarf, have pleaded not guilty to criminal damage.

They are each accused of two counts of causing criminal damage 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.

It has been claimed the damage could cost around $2.6m (€2.22m) and the protesters could face a maximum of 10 years in jail if found guilty.

Their defence counsel have stressed the activists felt they had a lawful reason to attempt to disarm the plane.

Their first trial collapsed on its sixth day in March when Judge Frank O’Donnell discharged the jury for reasons that were not made public.

On Monday, a second jury was sent home after 10 days when counsel for the protestors alleged Judge McDonagh had been invited to the President Bush’s inauguration ceremonies in 2000 and 2004.

And counsel for the five also allege the judge had posed for photographs with the President at a function for barristers in Houston, Texas, while he was governor of the state.

Michael O’Higgins SC, claimed there might be a perception among the jurors and the public that the judge was biased.

Judge McDonagh said the allegations were half right and half wrong and that he had no option but to dismiss the jury.

The five activists were joined in court today by dozens of their supporters and sympathisers.

Following the short hearing, Mr O’Reilly said he was still hopeful that they would see justice done.

“It will be three and a half years since we did the action before we come to trial.

“This war grinds on and during our last trial 35 US military died and the Iraqi remain uncounted.

“Since our action, Irish complicity has deepened, with 35,000 military going through Shannon a month,” he said.

“We are charged with criminal damage without lawful excuse but we sincerely believe we had lawful excuse and we had a significant effect on deployment.

“No-one regrets the action as we had a significant disruptive effect on the US military,” he said.

Yesterday TDs Joe Cospello, John Gormley, Aengus O’Snodaigh, Finian McGrath, Tony Gregory and Senator David Norris, called for the dropping of all charges against the five protestors and urged the Government to withdraw the services of Shannon airport from the US.

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