A 71-year-old man charged with the false imprisonment of Joan Burton during a water charges protest in Jobstown told gardaí he had joined the protest while in the area getting petrol.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard Frank Donaghy told gardaí who explained to him that the maximum sentence for the offence was life imprisonment: “That wouldn't be long for me. How could protesting be false imprisonment?”
Mr Donaghy of Alpine Rise, Tallaght, Dublin along with Solidarity TD Paul Murphy and five other men, have denied falsely imprisoning Ms Burton and her adviser Karen O’Connell by restricting their personal liberty without their consent at Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Tallaght on November 15, 2014.
Garda Chris Moylan agreed with Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, that he was one of a number of gardaí who attended at Mr Donaghy's home on February 12, 2015 at 7.21am to arrest him. He said they rang the doorbell and the door was answered by Mr Donaghy.
The court heard they were invited into the house and Mr Donaghy was cautioned before being brought to Tallaght garda station where he was interviewed.
Mr Donaghy told gardaí he was a member of the Anti Austerity Alliance. He said he had been in the area getting petrol and had not known there was a protest going on.
He said he had stopped, joined in “a peaceful protest” and had been there for a few hours. He said that all he remembered was taking part in a sit down protest and sitting down with others behind Ms Burton's car until the gardaí came and pulled them away.
“It was a sit down protest. People have been doing it for years. I think it's fairly legitimate,” he told gardaí. Gardaí asked him what his intention was and he told them that he did not recall.
He told gardaí that the atmosphere was peaceful and said he felt safe. He said gardaí had tried to pick someone up from the back of the car “and that's when the trouble started.”
He described that “people came from everywhere.”
Gardaí asked him to describe the “trouble” and he said it was “people pulling and pushing and shouting”, adding “I forget most of it really.”
The garda agreed during cross examination by defence counsel, Padraig Dwyer SC, that it was never suggested during questioning that Mr Donaghy had directly stopped Ms Burton and Ms O'Connell leaving the car.
He agreed with Mr Dwyer that Mr Donaghy, who has no previous convictions, had been up front, frank and gave complete explanations about how long he was there, what he did there and when he left.
Mr Dywer said the bottom line thrust of Mr Donaghy's position had been that he did not think he had done anything wrong by joining a sit down protest.
The garda agreed rights of personal liberty and security outlined in the Irish Constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights had been put to Mr Donaghy during interview but that there were also rights to associate and hold and express opinions.
He agreed with Dwyer that he was aware rights often compete and have to be balanced.
Paul Murphy (aged 34) of Kingswood Heights, Tallaght; Kieran Mahon (aged 39) of Bolbrook Grove, Tallaght; Michael Murphy (aged 53) of Whitechurch Way, Ballyboden, Dublin; Ken Purcell (aged 50) of Kiltalown Green; Michael Banks (aged 46) of Brookview Green, Tallaght; Scott Masterson (aged 34) of Carrigmore Drive, Tallaght and Mr Donaghy have pleaded not guilty to falsely imprisoning Ms Burton and her adviser Karen O’Connell by restricting their personal liberty without their consent at Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Tallaght on November 15, 2014.
The trial continues before Judge Melanie Greally and a jury.