Shell to Sea campaigner jailed for 28 days for assault on garda

Thu, Mar 12, 2009, 00:00

A PROMINENT Shell to Sea activist was directed to undergo psychiatric assessment by a District Court judge after she was sentenced to 28 days’ imprisonment for assaulting a garda.

At yesterday’s sitting of Belmullet District Court, Judge Mary Devins sentenced Maura Harrington, Tullaghanbawn, Geeala, Co Mayo, to jail for the assault on Garda Eamon Berry, which she described as a “despicable show of utter contempt”.

When Harrington was led away from the court, her supporters in the body of the court gave her a round of applause.

Harrington, a retired primary school principal, had denied the assault, which took place during a protest when Shell personnel attempted to erect a portacabin at Pollathomas pier in north Mayo on June 11th, 2007.

Last night, as Harrington arrived at Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison to serve her sentence, a group of her supporters, protesting outside to coincide with her arrival at the jail, clashed with gardaí.

Harrington, a retired primary school principal, had denied the assault, which took place during a protest when Shell personnel attempted to erect a portacabin at Pollathomas pier in north Mayo on June 11th, 2007.

At a previous sitting Garda Berry, who is now retired, said he felt humiliated when Harrington slapped him across the face, when he was policing the protest.

“I felt it was totally unnecessary and I feel it was designed to humiliate me. It showed the contempt towards me as a garda for her to walk up and slap me.”

At yesterday’s sitting Judge Devins said she was satisfied beyond all doubt that the prosecution had proved its case and convicted Harrington.

In sentencing her, Judge Devins told Ms Harrington she was less inclined to believe in her passion for her cause having “witnessed the enjoyment she seems to get in being in the public limelight”.

Judge Devins also fined her €1,000 and ordered her to pay €1,000 to the Garda benevolent fund. Harrington was also found guilty of a separate public order charge, which occurred on April 21st, 2007, when President Mary McAleese visited Belmullet.

She was fined €500 and bound to the peace for 12 months. After refusing to sign the bond, Harrington was found in contempt of court and sentenced to two days’ imprisonment to run concurrent with the 28-day sentence.