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Court Report - Ploughshares Trial - Day Four
Thursday July 13, 2006 05:29 by Seán Ryan + Elaine
Day four of the Trial
Due to some delays at the start today, the jury wasn’t brought in until 11.35.
Ciaron was called to the stand, and after being sworn in and told to make sure that the microphone was close to him, he immediately decommissioned it. The Court was treated to a comical interlude as Ciaron crawled around on the floor of the witness box trying to put it back together. The jury was dismissed again as it became apparent that Ciaron was better at breaking stuff than fixing it. They returned four minutes later after a court official improvised the job.
Defence counsel established that Ciaron was from Brisbane in Australia and that his father was from Offaly and that he had been born in 1960. He was educated at the Sisters of Mercy in Brisbane and later by the Christian Brothers. He went on to achieve a BA in the Arts in university and that it was there that he first came into contact with the Catholic Workers. He told the court that the Catholic Workers (CW) were involved in non-violent prophetic witness and action against war, acts of mercy, including prison visits. They also live in community with the poor. They were he said, concerned about nuclear weapons and uranium. The CW had started during prohibition in the USA during the 1930’s and had been founded by Dorothy Day. He said that they live together and work together to feed the hungry and to work against war.
The CW group that Ciaron was attached to was founded in 1982 to engage homeless Aborigine youth ‘street children.’
In 1989 Ciaron left Brisbane to go to the USA to work in soup kitchens and skid row.
In 1990 he moved to Washington into a Trinitarian run home – where he helped give support and shelter to homeless women and children. Here he practiced non-violent witness against the Whitehouse. He said he spent four years in the USA from 1989 to 1993. He was there for the invasion of Panama and first Gulf War and attended non-violent demonstrations at the Pentagon on a weekly basis. He witnessed and met young people deployed in the army, navy and the National Guard, including women who’d just given birth but were deployed anyway.
He was there for Hiroshima Day when Maggie Thatcher and George Bush Senior imposed genocidal sanctions on Iraq.
He’d first been to Ireland in 1979 to meet his paternal Grandparents. He moved to Ireland just before May Day 2002.
He was based in Liverpool CW from 1996 to 1999 and also involved with the London CW and worked with the Simon Community.
He was housesitting in Ballyfermot in Dublin when he arrived in Ireland. He first worked in Clancy Barracks with young heroin users and then went onto work with chronic alcohol abusers in Dublin’s first ‘wet shelter,’ in Aungier St. ‘Wet shelters’ he told us were places where homeless alcoholics were actually allowed to drink. It a ‘stimulating environment’ and it was where he learned to deal with aggression and conflict. During his time there, 15 people passed away due to their addictions. He worked there from December 2002 to October 2003 fulltime, and has been a relief worker there since.
Ciaron is now living with the Oblate Fathers in Inchicore. He has seen action as a peace worker for 25 years. He majored in Literature and History for 3 years and taught at Queensland as a relief teacher in the 1990’s.
In early 2002 he came to Shannon for the first time, he’d heard about a civilian airport being used to facilitate troop movements to Afghanistan and was aware of a military build-up for Iraq. Here he met Tim Hourigan and Edward Horgan who were campaigning against and documenting troop movements and CIA movements through the airport. He was with them when they made complaints to the Gardai in Shannon in 2002.
He organised a public event in Belvedere College and over a thousand people attended, including Fr. Berrigen an activist who had been protesting war since the Vietnam era.
When asked what his purpose was in going to the hangar in Shannon, he said that it was obvious what was happening and that he had wanted to disable logistics, preserve life and call others to act against war. He quoted George Bush who in a press conference with Tony Blair, had stated: ‘What more evidence do we need?’
When asked what he did in the days coming up to the action at Shannon, he replied that he was involved with a CW event with Carmen Trotta where he’d met Deirdre Clancy. He heard of the 6 priests killed by Salvadorian troops and had organized a protest outside the American embassy where he’d met Damien Moran for the first time [Salvadorian troops who’d committed this heinous act were trained in the School of the Americas in Fort Benning Georgia].
He returned to Shannon in December with Deirdre and had met Damien again.
In Shannon he’d heard speeches about sanctions in Iraq made by Dennis Haliday and had thought that the first war had never ended [The gulf war]. Medical supplies were rare in Iraq and the young and the old had been especially vulnerable. He felt that the killing would escalate again with more bombing.
He’d considered 89,000 troops sent to slaughter and to be slaughtered and had remembered the similar waste of life that had occurred in Vietnam. He was also concerned that Shannon Airport would become a terrorist target.
He attended Feile Bride in Kildare where the theme that year was peacemaking and hospitality. There he met Kathy Kelly, from Voices in the Wilderness, who spoke about the killing of children in Iraq. Afterwards she actually headed to Iraq to put herself non-violently between the US military and the people of Iraq, as part of a peacemaking team. He also met Caoimhe Butterly who had been shot in the leg in Palestine and Michael Birmingham who was living in and reporting from Iraq.
Ciaron and the others Ploughshares went to Glenstal Abbey for 4 days to spend time in prayer and reflection. There they, ‘seriously considered non-violent action.’ They ruled out going to Iraq as none of them spoke Arabic. They decided instead to go to Shannon to carry out non-violent disarmament of an American war machine. At this stage Ciaron quoted Micah, chapters II and IV, which referred to ‘beating swords into ploughshares’ and ‘studying war no more.’ They intended a literal act that disabled equipment, (an American weapon) and that the act had a symbolic ‘dimension’ also.
They got into the hangar via the side door by breaking a couple of windows and pressed the emergency bar to get in. They spray-painted the roller door with the words, ‘Pitstop of death.’ ‘Naming it for what it was.’ When the presence of the US navy plane was discovered, Ciaron said that it was, ‘US navy central in killing thousands of children in Iraq,’ and that ‘death seemed to be stopping in Shannon on its way to Iraq.’
Items brought by the ploughshares included, water from St. Bridget’s well, 2 St. Bridget’s crosses, the Bible, the Koran ‘ to represent two peoples about to go to war,’ photographs of dead and dying children as a result of sanctions and bombing, two rosary beads, Islamic prayer beads, two videos and there were some, ‘organic human items,’ like food and flowers to represent ‘normal life against the frenzy of war preparation.’ He likened the shrine to the site of a car accident – ‘to remember and to warn.’
Ciaron mentioned that the bible was central to CW life and liturgy. He said that they were ‘nourished by stories of Jesus,’ in times of war. This was to explain the relationship of prophecies to war.
The intention of the action was to ‘disable the plane non-violently’ and to ‘disrupt the deployment of troops to the theatre of war as it was being built up.’
They had intended, ‘to initially damage and disable it so it couldn’t serve as preparation for war4 and deployment.’
It was ‘an act of faith’ and that ‘we had to work out our moral response, so we would be able to sleep at night – to be human in the situation. And it was a call for more non-violent resistance to the war.’ Ciaron at this time referred to the Statement of Faith.
The Statement of Faith was handed to Ciaron from the evidence. He said that it had been written collectively at the monastery in Glenstal. He said that he’d ‘written the first draft’ and that it had then been ‘amended collectively.’ It told the history of the war and sanctions in Iraq and the oil for food program. It told of Irish beef sold to Saddam. Compared to Germany, it told of hammering the Berlin wall and how this had begun and that hammers had been sold out. He described it as a statement of ‘collective beliefs.’
The Judge at this point told the jury that they’d be given a copy.
Defence counsel then asked if they went directly into the Hangar or into a passage.
They came into a passage from the first door and then through a second door that was unlocked, into the hangar. Damien was the first in and the first to spot the plane. Ciaron came in behind him and said that he had used the mattock in a symbolic way that was connected to the ‘swords into ploughshares’ prophecy. He had worked with the mattock around the raydome until the radar was disabled and he described the mattock as being an agricultural tool. ‘At least that’s what we use it for in Australia.’ He stated that his intention was to ‘disable the plane’, ‘disrupt deployment’ and to ‘save lives in Iraq’.
He had heard yesterday’s evidence by Sgt. O’Connell and he remembered that Damien had worked for a minute or so on the plane and then he saw Sgt. O’Connell ‘pulling on Damien’s sweater’. He doesn’t recollect much else but being ‘in a circle of prayer’ and passing the mattock and hammers out of the circle so that prayer wouldn’t be disrupted.
All five had knelt and began to recite the rosary. He noticed that the Sgt. had looked ‘stressed’ and had assured him that they were non-violent, and had offered him comfort. He also stated that he had a recollection of ‘inviting him to join us’. He had never had conflict with the Sgt. either then or since. Ciaron said that he worked in a shelter with a lot of violence and is adept at handling stressful situations.
He recalls being interviewed by Gardai and during the third interview he was asked what he meant by ‘disarming a weapon’. He said that he did believe he was doing this and that he was preserving life and putting out a call for further non-violent action. He ‘went to Shannon to stop crime not to commit crime’.
At this stage the prosecution began its cross examination of Ciaron.
Ciaron described the distance between the fence and the hangar as being a few hundred metres and that he might have seen one patrol in the distance. The shrine was laid out by the women, whilst the door was opened by Ciaron and Damien. It only took a few minutes. Ciaron couldn’t recall praying before entering the hangar. When asked if the shrine was for publicity purposes he replied that it ‘spoke towards non-violent motive’. He said that the shrine items were not for the jury but as explanation and as symbols. He hoped they would resonate with the people at the scene.
The prosecution then said that the shrine was ‘meticulously prepared’ to ensure ‘maximum publicity’ and that the inscribed tools were specifically for the court. When badgered by the prosecution as to whether the action was violent or non-violent, Ciaron insisted that the mattock was used non-violently.
At this stage Ciaron is handed the book of photos showing the damaged plane and asked to look at photo number 5. He agreed with the prosecution that the damage pointed out had been done by the mattock. He had found the surface ‘to be softer than he expected’. When asked was he seriously telling the jury that this was done non-violently, he replied, ‘yes!’ – ‘we regard ourselves as pacifists.’ He also stated that there ‘was no spirit of violence in our hearts or in our acts’.
After more badgering by the prosecution and a subsequent objection by counsel, Ciaron stated that ‘this was a non-violent act against a machine of violence’.
He hoped that the shrine would resonate with Gardai and Shannon workers and felt that the Gardai might have been swayed. He agreed that this was hopeful rather than optimistic and stated that faith enabled them to act in their beliefs. The prosecution asked him if he had any ‘grounds for optimism’ regarding the Guards. Ciaron stated that he hadn’t even been optimistic that they would get into the hangar, but that at a protest in Brisbane, he remembered a member of the police force had thrown his hat into the air and resigned. Rather than trample on the rights of people protesting for free speech.
When asked did he think he had a good chance of not being arrested, he replied that he ‘was hopeful’ but was prepared to be arrested and take the consequences.
He said that the Statement of Faith was a statement of ‘faith’ and not ‘optimism’ and felt that it would be probable that he would be arrested. He was disappointed that he had been arrested and that ‘business would continue as usual’ at Shannon. He also stated that he felt that there was ‘an obligation on us as Christians in the comfort zone’. He told the court that ‘my wishes and prayers were for an end to this war’.
A reference was made about ‘putting the war on trial’. Ciaron assured the court that this reference was about events outside the court and that they were ‘not trying to turn this into a circus.’
When asked was he aware of Mary Kelly, he answered that he was and that this had increased his pessimism with regard to being arrested.
The prosecution then began a question with the words, ‘perhaps this is not for you to answer…’ At this point Counsel was on his feet objecting. ‘If the prosecution starts off a question with perhaps it’s not for you to answer, - I don’t think he should answer it’.
The prosecution began to ask about Ed Horgan and Eoin Dubsky, and that Ciaron knew about court actions.
Another legal argument began but the judge noticing the time, rose for lunch.
At 2.05 the court resumed.
The prosecution exploring Ciaron’s state of mind at the time of the action reminded Ciaron that Ed Horgan and Eoin Dubsky had explored legal options with regard to stopping the facilitation of the US military and asked Ciaron if he’d considered this option, rather than the action he eventually had taken. Ciaron replied that he hadn’t and remembered that they’d asked Gardai to investigate Shannon, without success.
Ciaron said that the war in Iraq was imminent and it would have taken too long to explore the legal route. He admitted to not having an academic understanding of the Irish policy of neutrality. ‘I believe, as we sit here today, that my actions were lawful.’ He added, ‘In absence of responsible police activity’ that he had lawful excuse. At this point he described the citizen’s arrest that Conor Cregan had made regarding six American soldiers in uniform roaming the countryside, in Co. Clare recently.
Ciaron stated that, the ‘Nuremburg principals,’ and ‘international obligations placed on all citizens,’ had offered him lawful excuse. He said that, ‘Gardai should check planes and be guardians of the peace.’
After some more badgering by the prosecution and an objection about the prosecution putting words into Ciaron’s mouth, the prosecution continued by asking Ciaron if the Gardai should have attacked the plane. Ciaron replied that the Gardai should think for themselves and act on it.
After more legal arguments about repetitive questioning, the case continued.
Ciaron was asked what was different about the action he was involved in and other or actual criminal acts done in defence of, ‘natural justice.’
Ciaron emphasised the CW theme of witnessing is not to, ‘hit and split’ but to face responsibility.
The prosecution ended its cross examination at this point.
Defence Counsel for some of the other ploughshares decided unusually to cross-examine Ciaron at this stage.
When asked if he was aware that the Pentagon had been using civilian aircraft to ferry personnel in the past to war zones, Ciaron replied that he was and had been.
He told the court that prophecy was ‘interplay between the present and the future.’
He referred to Madeline Albright and that she, when confronted by the deaths of half a million children, had said that the sanctions were worth it.
He told the court that Dennis Haliday former Assistant Secretary General of the UN had resigned his post due to sanctions in Iraq and that his replacement had done the same.
Ciaron told the court that he ‘honestly believed his actions had saved lives.’ And that each of these matters, had informed his conscience.
When asked whether 911 had caused what happened in 2003, Ciaron described it as a ‘chain of events.’
When asked if he was aware that Shannon had been used to facilitate Afghanistan he replied that he had been.
When asked if he had been aware of casualties being referred to as collateral damage he also replied that he had been. The US accidentally bombing a wedding party in Afghanistan was offered as an example by Defence Counsel as to what constituted collateral damage. Ciaron added that guests at wedding parties traditionally fired weapons into the air and suggested that this had probably been the reason for the bombing.
When asked about the search for WMD’s in Iraq prior to the invasion, Ciaron also said he’d been aware of this. He told the court that he’d also been aware of Colin Powell looking for authority from the UN to get into Iraq.
Legal argument ensued and the jury were asked retire.
When the jury returned and after further questions Ciaron told the court that he believed that the war was illegal and that his understanding was that the US had needed a mandate from the UN. He spoke of the food for oil program and told of how certain countries got around their legal obligations. He mentioned Australia as one of these countries. He said that medicines were not freely available and suggested that this made Iraqis vulnerable to war. He told the court that the war began ‘officially’ on the 20th of February after a ‘softening up phase’ by bombardment from the air.
When asked if his actions were contrived forms of ‘attention seeking’ he replied that this was not true.
When asked about why he didn’t proceed with his activism through the courts, Ciaron explained to the Court about Ed Horgan not being able to afford the Supreme Court’s services.
After this Ciaron was excused.
Damien was called next.
Damien told the court that he was born in Galway but brought up in Offaly in Banagher and that today was his birthday. [the court didn’t wish him a happy birthday.]
He told us that he’d finished his education in University College in Galway and had received an Arts Degree when he was 19.
He’d worked and saved hard to join an aunt in Rwanda. She was a nun who’d been there and witnessed the genocide in 1984. Unfortunately, he told the court, that he’d been unable to join her.
He went to Haiti in 2001 and had worked in an outpatient clinic described as a hospital. Conditions were horrible and this had been due to sanctions. He told us that the people there were, ‘desperately poor,’ and blamed this on the USA. He said that most people were sick due to the high incidence of Aids and injuries received in intolerable conditions in sweat-shops. He lived in Port Au Prince in a community with nuns.
He left Haiti in 2001 and went to New York and worked with a plumber for three months. He said that he’d been amazed at the difference in between Haiti and the USA due to wealth.
He came back to Dublin to train as a priest and he lived in Kimmage with the Holy Ghost Fathers.
Motivated by his aunt and his experiences in Haiti he’d decided that he wanted to work in Social Justice.
In May 2002 he went to Paris to study philosophy and theology. He became aware of the situation in Iraq after 911 and was aware of the causes of war due to his experiences.
He helped establish an Amnesty group in early 2002 and had helped highlight prisoners illegally detained and transferred to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. He had also protested outside the US embassy.
He was encouraged to begin correspondence with the Taoiseach, Mary Harney, the Department of Foreign Affairs (headed at the time by Brian Cowen) after becoming aware of a Unicef report that told that half a million children had died because of sanctions.
A letter he’d sent to the taoiseach was shown to him from the evidence. Damien identified it as being the letter that had been sent to the Taoiseach and others.
The letter criticised the government for being part of the problem that caused 5,000 children to die per month, due to ‘criminal negligence’ and he called our failure to stop this, a ‘disgrace.’ He urged the taoiseach and the others to help stop this.
He received a reply that was accompanied by 30 to 40 pages of Dail reports that supposedly showed how the Government was working to help the situation.
On February the 3rd he’d been a member of the Ploughshares. He said that he hadn’t help lay out the shrine but had helped Ciaron in gaining access to the hangar. He said that he’d helped decide the contents of the shrine and place particular emphasis on the photographs of dead and dying children. He told the court that he’d been the one who initially spotted the US navy warplane in the hangar.
Damien said when questioned about the significance of the shrine, suggested that the photos of the children were particularly relevant and that they allowed him to articulate the consequences of aiding in war and that this helped with the idea of non-violence.
He told the Court that 36,000 troops had passed through Shannon since January that year and that this had emphasised that a war was imminent and had aided in making up his mind between travelling to Iraq and taking direct action.
Damien told the court that he believes his actions saved lives and property.
He said that he’d spoken to Kathy Kelly at Feile Bride. He also said that he’d had some dealings with Dennis Haliday, but doubted that Dennis would remember him now. He then spoke about the video, ‘Paying the Price’ by John Pilger.
Damien told us that he’d been the one who’d first seen the plane that had been interacted with by Mary Kelly some five days previously.
He said that he’d been the one who’d pushed the emergency bar and had been first to enter the corridor. He told the court that he’d carried the hammer to disable parts of the navy warplane and that he’d intended to drop the hammer after this had been done and pray. He’d gone to the front of the plane and had hit the nose a few times and had then moved around the plane and hit it some more after his interaction with Sgt. O’Connell.
He said he’d worked for 5 to 6 minutes max and had rendered the plane un-flyable. He then joined the circle to pray and to reflect on victims of war. They had prayed he said, about 10 to 15 feet from the plane.
He told the Court that the hammers and mattock were within the circle when the Gardai arrived and that these had been passed out of the circle to the Gardai.
He remembers having been arrested around 4.00am and that he’d been interrogated twice, for approximately an hour each time. He referred to a statement brought to the court’s attention yesterday by Detective Houlihan (“I honestly believe I have a lawful excuse to protect the property and lives of myself and others.”) He said that he believed this then and he believes it now.
He said that he believed that thousands of troops of similar age to himself were a tragedy in that they’d had to commit atrocities and have atrocities committed against them. This he insisted was one of the reasons why he had chosen to act non-violently.
He told the Court that on the 8th of December that he’d made an oral request to the Gardai to intervene in the situation at Shannon airport and that the response had mostly been laughter.
He attended a demo on Jan15th with 1,000 to 1,500 others and that he had again appealed directly to the Gardai. He’d met Conor Cregan, Tim Hourigan and Ed Horgan at the demo and testified that they too had also appealed to the Gardai under various acts to investigate the crimes taking place at Shannon Airport – all to no avail.
With the war becoming imminent, troop levels increasing etc. Damien believed that direct intervention was necessary as well as political and lawful intervention. He believed that non-violent action would provide example to others, and believes that non-violent action by individuals can prevent loss of life.
He told the Court that the C40 was a militarised version of a 737 and that there were only 9 or 10 of these planes in the whole Navy. He believed and believes that these planes were absolutely necessary for the US’s campaign in Iraq.
The prosecution began its cross examination at this point.
After being questioned, Damien insisted that the Statement of Faith fairly expressed his concerns and his motivations for his actions.
Damien was questioned about the statement that Detective Houlihan had testified to, and asked whether he had prepared this statement beforehand. Damien answered that he had not and that it was how he felt, and that he’d had a loose understanding of the law with regard to the Criminal Damage act and the term ‘lawful excuse’ because of Eoin Dubsky’s spray painting a warplane.
When asked how did his actions protect him, Damien replied that ‘any person or state complicit in a war can become a potential target.’ And that ‘consequences of war may come home to us.’
He told the court that the first Gulf War had not ended and that prior to the declaration of war there had been an ‘escalation’ not a ‘build-up.’
He was asked had his action been pre-emptive self defence and he replied that it was to a degree but again that there had been an escalation in the war and that it had not been a build up. [Meaning that it couldn’t be pre-emptive if the war had already been started.]
The prosecution then asked Damien if the Shrine and the photos of dead and dying children had been and act to influence the court, that it had been to add ‘colour’ to the court case. Damien told the prosecution that he thought it a terrible thing that the prosecution would degrade the shrine to the children by suggesting it was just to colour the case for the jury. He said that he’d remained hopeful that the Gardai would investigate the facilitation offered at Shannon and that this had been the reason for the shrine and photos. He told the prosecution that he’d been the one who’d proposed the photos, the Bible, the Koran and the beads.
Damien was asked to look at a photo of the plane at this time and identified where he’d worked on it. He again insisted that his act was a non-violent act.
At this point Damien was cross-examined by other Counsel for the Defence.
Damien told the court about knowing and Iraqi and how this had profoundly affected him.
He also told the court that the figures that he’d quoted in his letter to the taoiseach and others had never been queried. He also told the Court that he did not make a video of his action at Shannon and that he hadn’t informed any newspaper of his impending action at Shannon [This went to prove that Damien’s actions were not mere publicity stunts.]
Next Damien described working in a wet shelter (the type of shelter that allows people to drink alcohol and where violence is common) in Dublin.
He said that at the time of the action in Shannon that lots of people in Ireland had a view that was similar to his and that he’d felt that the situation was escalating and that the declaration of war was imminent. He’d expected the war to be declared in February.
He didn’t know for certain when the war would be declared, but felt that troop movements indicated that the war was coming and that bombing was about to start.
Damien was then excused from the stand
Karen Fallon was called.
Karen told the court that she was from Glasgow in Scotland. And while she trained as a marine biologist, she now worked as a research scientist. She said that she first came to Ireland in October 2002 to visit Ciaron O Reilly. At the time she was living in Faslane Peace camp in Scotland. Faslane is a nuclear submarine base that has existed for 25 years.
She told the court that she had been concerned about Shannon. She had travelled from Glenstal to Shannon. Glenstal had been a retreat used to contemplate on how to stop the war.
She attended the Feile Bride festival where she’d heard lots of speeches about the upcoming war.
She told the court that she honestly believes that her action saved lives and property. She said that she’d carried the inflatable hammer and had done so because she’d heard that the army were now guarding Shannon and that she’d been afraid of being shot.
She again insisted that she’d acted because she’d believed the war was illegal and to save lives.
She told the Court that Shock and Awe had not yet started, but that ‘Operation Swordfish’ had. This was a pre-emptive build up of troops and navy. She said that two months prior to the action that there was a build up of boats etc. in Faslane. She told of an increase of air traffic too. Normally, she said there was the ‘odd Hercules’ but that this had increased dramatically. The increase in the amount of Tornados was substantial also.
She reiterated that she honestly thought her action would make a difference, and believed that it would save at least one life. ‘It would be worth it if it saved just one life,’ she explained.
Court adjourned and will resume tomorrow at 10.00am