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Four Peace Activists Aquitted at Shannon

category clare | crime and justice | news report author Saturday March 11, 2006 00:59author by Conor Cregan - Na Cosantóirí Síochána

Up the Banner!

On Thursday 9th March 2006 four Peace Activists were acquitted at Shannon District Court as the charges brought by An Garda Siochána were withdrawn at the behest of the D.P.P.

These charges regarded an incident at Shannon Airport on the 17th September 2005 where a group of members from Na Cosantóirí Síochána (the Peace Network) hung a banner on the balcony at the airport to protest the use of Shannon Airport by the CIA in the illegal programme of “Extraordinary Rendition”


Court Report

Shannon District Court 9/3/06
Co. Clare


Conor Cregan
Niall Harnett
Mags Liddy
St John O’Donnabhain

Inspector Kevin Moynihan

Mr Joseph Mangan

As the names of the defendants were called out Inspector Kevin Moynihan told the Judge that the charge was being dropped. First to be called was Conor Cregan who represented himself. When the judge heard his name being called he instantly from reflex told the court clerk to put it back but recalled Mr. Cregan after the inspector instructed him that charge of obstructing Airport Police Sgt Brian case was to be dropped.

Conor enquired if the Inspector had made his application and told the Judge that he opposed the motion to withdraw the charge. The judge then set the case back to the second calling.

Next up was Niall Harnett who did not attend court on the day. Judge Mangan ordered the charge struck out for “want of prosecution”.

Then, Mags Liddy whose solicitor diidnt atttend court but sent an agent who failed to hear her name being called out.” Struck out for want of prosecution”.

And then. St John O Donnabhain again represented by the agent who finally managed to stand up when called. “Struck out for the want of prosecution”.

After Lunch Owen Rice who was acting as Conor Cregan’s McKensie friend was thrown out of court in an unmannerly fashion by Judge Mangan.

At approximately 14:50 Mr. Rice’'s mobile phone rang once and he instantly turned to his right and turned off the phone. As Mr. Rice turned off his phone he got off his seat and turned left to the aisle to leave the court room.

This drew the attention of Judge Mangan who shouted out to Mr. Rice
“Come back! Come back please”
and then
“Thank you thank you”.

When Mr. Rice turned around to Mr. Mangan the judge had his arm stretched out of his desk with hand open. There were several seconds of awkwardness as the judge seemed to be in suspended animation silenced by his anger. Everyone in court was waiting for the judge to say something or to give some direction to Mr. Rice. There were a few in court who let out a nervous laugh.

Mr. Rice who waited for the judge's direction that never came asked the judge
“ Do you want me to throw it or what do you want me to do” This in turn raised a few nervous laughs.

The judge roared
“don’t get smart don’t get smart!” in return.

Then the Court Guard arrived on the scene and relieved Mr. Rice of his phone which was then handed to the court clerk who in turn handed it up to the bench to Judge Mangan. As this happened another phone rang and I heard some on to my rear left whispering
“ that’s his own phone”.

This was in fact the phone of Judge Mangan but the caller's identity is still unknown, as there were several clerks, Gardaí and Solicitors with their hands under their benches.. Then Mr. Rice’'s phone rang again causing the judge to panic himself as he fumbled to turn it off. Failing to turn the phone off he handed it to a member of An Garda Siochána who then turned it off.

After a moment the court had again settled and the case in hand resumed. Within five minutes the Judge again turned to Mr. Rice and ordered him to leave the court. The Judge then threatened to have him held in “contempt of court” as Mr. Rice wasn't leaving the court quick enough. The judge said
“ I have contempt warrants here you know!” The judge then called for the clerk to hand him a contempt warrant.

As Mr. Rice was leaving the court room Conor Cregan stood up and called to the Judge that Mr. Rice was acting as his “McKensie friend”.

The Judge retorted he had to leave and while Conor protested that his phone rang only once. The Judge then abruptly cut him off saying the phone rang twice and then threatened Cregan with contempt of court.

Conor Cregan sat down again and waited for his case to be heard without enjoying the company of his “McKensie friend”.

When Mr. Cregan was eventually recalled the Judge denied him right to have a McKenzie Friend present and the right to speak on his own defence.

Judge Mangan; Conor Cregan!

Inspector Moynihan; The state is dropping the charge.

Judge Mangan; Does the state want to give any reason for the charge?

Inspector Moynihan. No Judge.

Conor Cregan; Before we start there is another matter at .

Judge Mangan; Dont interrupt me!

Conor Cregan; My McKensie Friend has been ejected!

Judge Mangan; I am not letting him in you won't need one today.

Conor Cregan; But Judge …

Judge Mangan; If you don't like what I am doing you can take it up with the High Court

Conor Cregan ...

Judge Mangan; Or even Strasbourg

Conor Cregan; This matter has already been dealt with in the high court.

Judge Mangan; Take it to The Hague if you interrupt me again I will find you in contempt.

The state have indicated to me that it wishes to withdraw the charges.

I have no discretion on the matter........if the state asks me to withdraw the charge..... I am obliged to concede to that application.

I have exercised as much discretion as I have by asking the state its reason for dropping the charges.

And the state has declined to say their reasons therefore I am going to mark the charge dismissed for want of prosecution.

And I am going to mark the charge for stating it’s the state that declined to make its reason known: That is to deprive the state the opportunity of raising this matter against the acused in the future.

Banner Drop at Shannon Airport, September 2005

On the 17/9/05 a group of eight peace activists held a demonstration at Shannon Airport. Three of these peace activists hung two anti-war banners, on the balcony of Shannon Airport, counting the amount of innocents that died since the start of George W. Bush’s “War on Terror”. Under the balcony in front of the airport terminal building the other five activists held banners calling for the Irish Government to stop the CIA and the US military using Shannon as a pit-stop for transporting prisoners for torture on its illegal “Extraordinary Rendition” programme.

The three men dressed in Guantanamo Bay prison suits and Army fatigues held their protest for over twenty minutes before the Airport Police arrived on the since. One of the demonstrators, Niall Harnett, was set attacked by Airport Police Sergeant Brian Casey who tried to steal a dictaphone out of his hands. This forced a reaction from the peace activists to protect this recording device to secure evidence of the heavy handed tactics of the Airport Police. In an ironic twist the Airport Police Sergeant claimed later in his statements to members of An Gardai Siochana that he arrested Mr Harnett for assault. Although the defendants attended Shannon District Court on many occasions over the last six months this completely unfounded claim has never been mentioned in submissions to the judge by the DPP. Also arrested on the balcony was local Shannon peace activist Conor Cregan, who was carried through the airport's arrivals area by the airport police.

On the ground these events were being photographed by St John O’Donnabhain and recorded on video by Mags Liddy, who were both later arrested for failing to provide identification to Airport Police Sergeant Brian Casey, despite the fact they had given the names and addresses to a junior member of the Airport Police moments earlier.

All four were detained for over eighteen hours before being brought to the Shannon District Court sitting in Ennis. Judge Joseph Mangan released all four defendants on their own bail. Interestingly, this was the first time Judge Mangan did not ban peace campaigners from the county of Clare for their actions at Shannon Airport. Three of the defendants were initially represented by Limerick solicitor Ted McCarthy whose services were dispensed with after his failure to attend court while Mr Cregan represented himself.

All four defendants have attended Shannon District Court for on a monthly basis for over six months as An Garda Siochána waited patiently for directions from the D.P.P. On several occasions one of the defendants has been dragged out of the court room at the beheast of Judge Mangan who instructed the court guards to use all force necessary. Peace activists have encountered harassment on all levels of the justice system in Ireland.

We of An Cosantóirí Síochána condemn the actions of the Airport Police whose tactics were unwarranted and heavy-handed. We remind these officers employed by the Department of Transport of our rights to express our opinions and of peaceful assembly, as laid down by Bunreacht na hÉireann Article 40 section 6.i&ii.

We condemn the Fianna Fail Senators who recently impeded investigation into allegations of “Extraordinary Rendition” by the C.I.A. on Irish soil. This act of cowardice has been well noted.

We stand firm with all the workers of Shannon Airport who face difficulties, as employment in the airport becomes a precarious situation. Nevertheless, we cannot sit idle while the Irish Government lets the country’s second international airport become an ad hoc U.S. Military Base. This revenue of blood money is not an adequate substitute for the enjoyment of ethical trade that the Irish Governments is failing to provide for the Midwest region.

We demand that the Irish government withdraws refuelling facilities and over-flight permission to the U.S. Military and the C.I.A. This practise of discounted amenities as given to the belligerent forces of George W Bush, strips us of our neutrality and brings shame to the Republic of Ireland.

Last week saw nearly a million euros of the tax-payer’s money being spent on the security operation surrounding the two short stopovers of U.S. President George W. Bush, who broke diplomatic protocol by reviewing foreign (U.S) troops on Irish soil. As “Air force One” is well equipped to refuel during flight it would be more appropriate for the town of Shannon to have an Ambulance service than the company of the world's most dangerous man.

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