Shell protester accused of 'lunge' towards President

Thu, Oct 9, 2008, 01:00

SHELL TO Sea protester Maura Harrington has appeared in Belmullet District Court accused of "lunging" towards President Mary McAleese at the official opening of a civic centre in Belmullet in April of 2007.

Sgts James Gill and Donal Butler made the claim during the State's evidence in the case where Ms Harrington, of Tullaghabawn, Geesala, faced two separate charges under the Public Order Act. The case has been adjourned until January 14th, 2009.

Ms Harrington's brother, Seán, of Toorglass, Belmullet, also appeared before the court yesterday charged with a breach of the peace and two counts of obstruction on the same date, April 21st, 2007.

Sgt Gill said a group of Shell to Sea protesters, including the two defendants, gathered outside the civic offices before the President's arrival on the date in question.

Sgt Gill stated that Ms Harrington later stood in the foyer of the Civic Centre as the President arrived and walked towards her in a "determined manner" with documents in her hands. He said she then made a "lunge" towards the President before one of the President's security staff intervened.

Sgt Gill said he then asked her to leave the building but she refused, calling him a "dirty, rotten, beholding gobs***e".

Eventually, Sgt Butler removed Ms Harrington from the building, with Sgt Gill holding open a door for him. Sgt Gill added that while this was happening, Seán Harrington made a lunge towards Sgt Butler to try and stop him from removing Maura Harrington from the premises.

Sgt Donal Butler relayed a similar version of events to the court, stating that he grabbed Ms Harrington with both hands and removed her from the premises due to her behaviour.

Sgt Greg Burke said he was in charge of operating a Garda camera on the day of the President's visit. Footage of the protesters was shown in court before Judge Mary Devins but none of the events outside were visible.

The tape briefly showed the ejection of both Harringtons and also showed Ms Harrington clearly calling the gardaí "dirty, rotten, beholding gobs***es".

Ms Harrington told the court that she did not at any time "lunge" towards the President on the date in question. She said she had taken up a position in the foyer with a view to showing the President a headline in The Irish Timesabout Willie Corduff, one of the Rossport Five, having won the Goldman Environmental Prize.

Ms Harrington said she then remembers being picked up unceremoniously by Sgt Butler, maintaining she was given no opportunity to leave of her own accord. She felt "outraged" at this treatment by a member of the Garda.

Ms Harrington said her outburst outside was not within the earshot of President McAleese or anyone inside the building.

In evidence, Seán Harrington said he was never asked to make a statement by gardaí in relation to the incident.