Special sitting Sunday morning for activists
The four peace activists who were arrested at Shannon yesterday afternoon, were held overnight in Shannon Garda Station for a special sitting of the District Court in Ennis this morning. The state asked for very strict bail conditions, and for once, Judge Mangan did not grant the State's wishes.
Four peace activists were arrested at Shannon airport yesterday afternoon.
Two of them had taken part in dropping several banners (two of them very large) from the balcony at the front of the terminal while dressed as Guantanamo prisoners and US soldiers.
Two other people who were taking photographs and video footage from the car park were also arrested and had their cameras seized.
They were held in the Garda station and brought to court at 11am this morning (Sunday)
Here is a summary based on notes of Indy's court reporters.
Shannon District Court
Ennis Court House
Sunday 18th September 2005.
Prosecution: Inspector Tom Kennedy
Mr. Cregan is defending himself
Ted McCarthy represented the others.
Judge Joseph Mangan presiding.
Evidence was given by Garda Brian Doherty of Shannon Garda Station that he arrested Margaret Liddy at Shannon airport and charged her under Section 33 of the Air Transport and Navigation Act 1988.
Defending solictor, Ted McCarthy pointed out that he had not been given a true copy of the charge sheet and this was remedied.
Garda Doherty gave evidence of arresting St. John O'Donovan at 16:05 at Shannon airport under the same section.
Sgt David Condren of Shannon Garda Station gave evidence of arresting Niall Harnett at Shannon Airport at 3.10pm and charging him under the same section as the others.
Sgt Condron said that Mr. Harnett was cautioned and then replied as follows :
"I came to Shannon as part of a peaceful protest to highlight the ongoing use of Shannon Airport as a U.S. Military Airbase, to highlight the facilitation here of CIA torture jets, and to highlight the deal done by Minister for Injustice Michael McDowell with the CIA, giving them carte blanche interrogation rights in this country. I made this peaceful protest under Section 40 of the Irish Constitution and I expect those rights to be respected and vindicated by the law enforcers of this country."
The Sgt then gave evidence of arresting Conor Cregan at 3.20pm at Shannon airport, and charging him under s.33 of the same act.
In reply to charge and caution, he said Mr. Cregan said "My name is Conor Cregan and I engaged in peaceful protest at Shannon Airport today to highlight the fact that the Irish Government is facilitating rendition, or what is known as rendition, which means to take prisoners for torture, through Shannon Airport, by the CIA, as is against everything I stand for, and what I believe this country stands fo. I went to Shannon Airport to protest peacefully without arms and assemble with other peace activists as is my right as laid down by Bunreacht na hEireann, the Constitution of Ireland. I was motivated to do this by the Nuremberg Accords, the Geneva Conventiona and the United Nations Charter. I stand firm with the workers of Shannon Airport in their plight. The airport is in a bad situation in terms of business through the airport but i can only condone ethical business, and sanctity of life, rights and humna dignity should be acknowledged at all times at Shannon Airport. This is not a political statement. This is how I feel. Thank you" (the Sgt initiallty tried to simply hand a note of this to the Judge rather than read it out, but the judge directed him to read it)
Mr. Cregan said that he had not been served with a true copy of the charge sheet as the name was missing. The judge was rather annoyed at the prosecution for this and made them amend all charge sheets.
Mr. Cregan asked that the court order the state to secure all evidence, and to furnish him with copies of all evidence, statements, photos, dictaphones, video tapes whether from CCTV or not.
The judge granted the order.
Inspector Kennedy said that the state was not objecting to bail for any of the four persons, but sought the following conditions :-
- that they reside at the addresses given at time of arrest
-that they sign on at their local Garda Station every day between 4pm and 6pm.
-that they are excluded from Shannon Airport and their environs, as they have no business being there. They are not employed there.
-that the state has liberty to re-enter the charges at 24 hours notice.
Mr. McCarthy said that his clients were not agreeable to the signing on agreements. That charges under S.33 were akin to the Public Order Act S.8, that his clients had no previous convictions, and that two of them were students who would be greatly inconvenienced by the restrictions, which were over the top, once the Garda have been satisfied to their details.
Judge : Why does the State feel that these restrictions are required?
Inspector Kennedy :
It's eh, because... It's a control mechanism for the state, ... to monitor their activities and movements.
Judge: Can you give me a very brief resume of the allegations against them?
Inspector : Mr. Cregan and Mr. Harnett went upstairs to the balcony, the outdoor balcony at Shannon, next to the cafe. They rolled out banners, which we would term, eh... Anti war... anti US banners.
When the Airport police went there, they were prevented from removing the banners by Mr Cregan and Mr. Harnett. Airport Police Sgt brian Casey requested them to do this.
Regarding Ms Liddy and Mr. O'Donovan, they were at the airport and were interviewed by the Airport Police. Their names and addresses were sought. They refused to comply fully.
Judge: in what way did Mr. Cregan and Mr. Harnett impede?
Inspector: They held the door closed, and prevented the airport police from accessing the balcony.
[The Inspector also made allegations of behaviour, about which no charge had been made, and we got the impression that reporting retrictions may apply in those circumstances]
Ted McCarthy (Defense) : Firstly, the Inspector
cannot refer to potential charges not before the court. I would take issue that he says that my clients have no business being at the airport. They were in a public area, an area that the public are entitled to enter.
Judge: I'll rise for five minutes to allow you to discuss this with the inspector, and you may reach an agreement
When court resumed, the Inspector said that the State's postition had not changed.
The defence (jointly agreed postion) argued that this was strying into preventative justice, which is not provided for in Irish Law. That the defendant's were entitled to be in Shannon Airport for various reasons, not simply boarding a flight and leaving.
That the charge was a lesser charge than a public order charge, particularly the alleged failure to provide details of identity above and beyond the name and address. That the conditions were onerous.
That it is already a standard condition of bail that the bailee agrees not to commit an offence and to be of good behaviour.
That the other standard conditions of bail, to ensure court appearance, and prevent interference with witnesses, were not an issue, as there was no suggestion that the defendants would not appear in court, or interfere with witnesses.
That the state contends that some of them unfurled a banner expressing a view held by them, and impeded an Airport officer in removing the banner, while others are in court charged with failure to give details of identity.
But they DID give their names and addresses when asked, and the state has said that it is happy that those details are correct.
judge : When did the state become satisfied with the details.
Inspector: late yesterday evening
Mr. McCarthy: they volunteered this at first instance. When i visited them in Shannon Garda Station yesterday evening, before they had been charged, the state was already satisfied with those details. My clients did nothing to mislead anyone at any time.
They didn't have proof of ID.
pictures to follow ----
The Judge ruled out the signing on order. and the exclusion order.
The defendants were told to apply for the return of any property not held as evidence.
In relation to cameras held by the accused at time of arrest the state said it wanted to send these to Dublin to be examined for evidence.
The defence expressed some concern about the fate of the tapes.
The Judge ruled that the accused could be present at Garda HQ when the videos are downloaded from their cameras to ensure that no improprieties occur.
Case was adjourned to 13th October. Bail at own bond. and the four were released, and met with a crowd of supporters.