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category national | anti-war / imperialism | news report author Thursday November 08, 2007 23:39author by Edward Horgan Report this post to the editors

Justice?

Charges against peace activist Edward Horgan dropped at Ennis court when garda witness fails to appear.

Court Report Ennis Court 8 November 2007.

Courts are fascinating but tragic places to spend a whole day. All peace activists, who have “experienced” the justice system in Mid West Ireland will know what I mean. Peace activists are well used to spending whole days in Ennis court. It has been ‘custom and practice’ to summon peace activists who have been charged (often with spurious and unjustified charges) to attend at Ennis, or Shannon or Tulla courts at 10 or 11 am, and invariably the peace activists cases are only called towards the end of the day, when most of other members of the public have left the court.

Today was no different. Many of the cases before the court revealed glimpses of personal tragedies through the cracks opened by the charges faced by the defendants. Some of the defendants should not have been before the courts at all – like the young man who was arrested on a public order offence because he got angry with gardai who responded to a complaint that his girlfriend had urinated by the roadside. He had not been drinking and his girlfriend was not charged. More tragic still was case of partly deaf young man, who had great difficulty understanding what was going on in court, was answering a charge of public order, and who was almost badgered into pleading guilty not only by the judge, but also by his solicitor. He received a large fine even though it appeared obvious that this fine would impose huge hardship on him and his mother. Several of the defendants were foreign nationals, including two from Poland. One was a young alcoholic with college education who came to Ireland work, had virtually no English, was living rough, had been very seriously assaulted in a unprovoked attack, and was before the court for allegedly stealing wine from off-licences. He had not sufficient money even to buy a ticket back to Poland.

My solicitor was Ted McCarthy from Limerick (peace activists have learned not to use local Clare solicitors, who are either unwilling to take peace activists cases, or who insist on dealing with these cases as they see fit, rather than complying with the clients wishes). Towards the end of the court day at about 4.30 pm he informed me that the Garda witness was not in court. We agreed to demand that the case be dismissed, because one of my witnesses had come from Dublin, and we had not been forewarned by the prosecution that the gardai would be seeking an adjournment. Perhaps the presence of my Dublin witness, who looked like an esteemed Senior Council, may have influenced the decision of Inspector Kennedy to not proceed with the charge.
For the record, I was charged with allegedly:

“on the 23/05/2007 at Rineanna South Shannon Clare, a public place, in the said District Court Area of Shannon, District No 12, did an act, to wit, allow a mechanically propelled vehicle, registered number 01L2666 to remain in such a place so long as to cause or was likely to cause the traffic through such place to be obstructed.
Contrary to Section 98 of the Road Traffic Act, 1961, and Section 102 Road Traffic Act 1961 as amended by Section 23 of the Road Traffic Act 2002.”

The background to this charge was that Mrs Cindy Sheehan was paying a special visit to Shannon to attend a symbolic protest at Shannon airport, because her son Casey has passed through Shannon airport as a US soldier a short time before he was killed in Iraq. It was intended that Conor Cregan would chair a press conference at the airport at which Cindy Sheehan and representatives of the Irish Anti War Movement would speak. When Conor Cregan drove towards the airport on his motorcycle he was stopped at the security checkpoint about one mile from the airport, by airport security personnel and gardai, and he was effectively detained at this security checkpoint for almost one hour, and prevented from going to the airport to meet incoming passenger Cindy Sheehan, and to chair the press conference. Clearly these were lawful reasons for going to the airport, and he was stopped on a public road and prevented from proceeding along a public road, without due legal reason for these actions by the Gardai.
While the Gardai were accosting Conor Cregan, they waved the car that I Edward Horgan was driving through the checkpoint. I continued on the airport and met Cindy Sheehan, and spoke at the press conference instead of Conor Cregan who was still detained at the checkpoint. When the press conference was finished, the group of peace activists at the airport then drove is several cars towards the security checkpoint. Cindy Sheehan was in my car. We stopped our cars at the checkpoint in order to investigate what had happened to Conor Cregan, and to achieve his release from what we considered to be an unlawful detention. Traffic on the road was quiet at this time. While it could be argued that my car was stopped in a location that could cause an obstruction, there was ample room for other cars to pass out either on the grass margin, or cars could have been directed to use the other side of the road, where there were two traffic lanes. I also left my car unlocked, so that the gardai could easily move it on to the grass margin if they wished to do, and in fact the gardai did successfully move my car on to the grass margin. I informed the gardai at the scene that the reason I had stopped was to investigate Conor Cregan’s detention, and I told them that I considered his detention to be unlawful. We took some photographs at the scene of this incident, including a group photo that included Cindy Sheehan, and we then moved away from the security checkpoint and held a peaceful protest at the roundabout near the Westair hangar at the entrance to the industrial estate. The photos that we took clearly showed that there was no significant hold up of traffic at the security checkpoint while we were there, and I intended to produce these photos as evidence. It was also my intention to state in evidence in my defence that I had justifiable cause to park my car where I did so that I could investigate a breach of civil liberties perpetrated by the gardai on Conor Cregan.
In one respect I was disappointed that the case against me was withdrawn, because it would have been an opportunity to expose the issues discussed above. On the other hand, the time and expense that I was incurring on this case was considerable, and the inconvenience caused to my witnesses who had to travel from Dublin and Limerick was also considerable.
It has been my experience in the past, particularly in my trial on charges relating to my protest in a boat on the River Shannon during the Bush visit in June 2004, that the gardai and the justice system in Co Clare is being used in an unduly punitive and disruptive, and arguably unlawful manner against peace activists so as to discourage peace activists from engaging in lawful peaceful protests at Shannon airport. Regretfully, this garda strategy has been successful in deterring many activists from carrying out their civic duties. In my boat trial all charges were eventually dismissed 9 months later, but only after five separate court appearances, and a spell of detention of 7 hours in a garda cell at Askeaton Garda Station.

In the meantime, I have once again been formally cautioned by a Garda at Shannon on 27 Oct 2007, that I may be charged with the offence of using a mobile phone in my car at Shannon airport, while my car was stopped and parked. This further incident, of what I consider to be garda harassment occurred during a peaceful demonstration at Shannon when I was in the process of obeying an instruction from a garda inspector to move from outside the terminal building at the airport.
If this charge is preferred against me, it will also be necessary for me to attend court and probably pay a solicitor to ensure that I will not be convicted of this very questionable charge.
For my own part I have been willing to undergo this overt harassment by the gardai, because I strongly believe that it is my civic duty to expose the abuses of Shannon airport both by the US military for unlawful wars and crimes against humanity, and by the CIA for the rendition of prisoners for torture. I have every intention of continuing the peaceful protests that I have been engaged in, but I am disappointed, but not surprised, that many other peace activists have been deterred from continuing to protest at Shannon airport. I am willing to endure imprisonment if necessary in the interests of protecting the human rights of others. I also applaud the courage of other peace activists who have been imprisoned because of their justified actions at Shannon.

It seems clear that there are further challenges ahead at Shannon airport, but we must continue to remind ourselves that the inconveniences we are experiencing as civil society activists are very minor compared to the torture and mass murder that are being experienced by thousands of people on a daily basis, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and other secret torture prisons.
It is a great shame to me that my country is continuing to be complicit in crimes against humanity, and that these crimes are being systematically covered up by the gardai at Shannon airport.
Edward Horgan

Related Link: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/84964
author by Edward Horganpublication date Thu Nov 08, 2007 23:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Abuse of the justice system to target Irish peace activists is not confined to Ireland, and reach of the Gardai now extends beyong the shores of Ireland.

Ciaron O'Reilly, Irish Anti-War Activist, Detained by Counter Terrorist Copsin England!
international | rights and freedoms | news report Thursday November 08, 2007 21:55 by London Catholic Worker London, England

Longtime Catholic Worker and Irish/Australian Anti-War activist Ciaron O'Reilly was detained by officers from the counter terrorist squad at Luton Airport, England, today. O'Reilly was taken to a secure office at the airport. - warned, questioned and searched. He was later released.
The three officers were acting under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Officers claimed to be acting on intelligence from Irish Garda. O'Reilly has never been convicted of an offence in Ireland. Full report to follow.....

Related Link: http://www.londoncatholicworker.org

 
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