Shannon anti-war protestor in tears in court

One of the five anti-war protesters accused of criminally damaging a US aeroplane at Shannon Airport has told a jury she honestly believed that her actions saved lives.

One of the five anti-war protesters accused of criminally damaging a US aeroplane at Shannon Airport has told a jury she honestly believed that her actions saved lives.

Ms Karen Fallon broke down in tears at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court when asked if the placement of a shrine outside the airport hangar was a stunt to gain publicity.

"Not at all. It was a commemoration for the dead," she replied.

Ms Fallon was giving evidence in her own defence on day three of the trial in which she and four co-accused 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 on February 3, 2003.

The accused are Ciaran O’Reilly (aged 46), an Australian national and Damien Moran (aged 26), Nuin Dunlop (aged 34), a US citizen and counsellor, Ms Fallon (aged 35), a Scottish marine biologist, all of Rialto Cottages, Rialto; and Deirdre Clancy (aged 36), a copy editor of Alverno Apartments, Clontarf.

Mr O’Reilly told Mr John O’Kelly SC, defending, that he had lived and worked as a peace campaigner and charity worker in various parts of the world and came to Ireland in 2002 where he became concerned with the "militarisation of Shannon".

Mr O’Reilly, a member of the Catholic Worker Movement, said he decided to take direct action at the airport to "non-violently disarm the war machine deploying from Shannon" and "enact the prophesies of Isaiah to beat our swords into ploughshares and study war no more".

He said the group entered the hangar by breaking a locked side door: "We discovered an emergency door and pressed the bar as we considered it to be an emergency situation. We named the hangar for what we saw it was, a pit stop for death," he said in reference to spray painting done by the group outside the hangar door.

Mr O’Reilly described Shannon as "a place of repair and nourishment for the US military" and said "death seemed to be stopping at Shannon".

He said his intention was to disable the plane, disrupt deployment and preserve life and property. He also expressed a hope that his actions would send out a "call" to others to undertake further non violent action.

He said: "I went to Shannon to stop a crime, not commit one. That was my honest belief."

Under cross examination by Mr Conor Devally SC, prosecuting, Mr O’Reilly denied a suggestion that items were brought to the scene to form a ‘shrine’ "in order to achieve maximum publicity for what you believed in".

He also denied Mr Devally’s suggestion that he had acted violently in hitting the plane with a mattock or axe and said he had used force against a inanimate object in a non-violent act against the "machinery of violence".

Mr Devally put it to Mr O’Reilly that he had taken the law into his own hands and had welcomed his arrest and trial in order to bring attention to the issue. Mr O’Reilly agreed that he had not explored the possibility of taking a legal challenge to the use of Shannon Airport and said he had not as the war was imminent and the legal process would have taken too long.

The jury earlier heard a lone garda was on duty in the hangar at 3.45am when five people came running in carrying hammers and an axe or mattock. They were shouting "some words of God" and went to the front, side and rear of the aircraft using the items to hit the plane. They then kneeled in a circle and prayed until gardai arrived to arrest them.

The jury heard that items including copies of the Bible and Koran, Rosary and Islamic prayer beads, candles, flowers, St Bridget’s crosses and photographs of distressed children were found at the scene in the form of a shrine at the doors to the hangar.

The hearing continues before Judge Miriam Reynolds and a jury of seven women and five men.

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