Shell to Sea campaigner jailed for assault

Wed, Mar 11, 2009, 00:00

A prominent activist with the Shell to Sea campaign in Co Mayo was directed by a judge to seek psychiatric assessment after she was sentenced to 28 days in jail for assaulting a garda.

At today's sitting of Belmullet District Court, Judge Mary Devins sentenced Maura Harrington of Tullaghanbawn, Geeala, Co. Mayo to 28 days imprisonment for the assault on Garda Eamon Berry, describing the act 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.

At a previous sitting Garda Berry, who is now retired said he felt humiliated when Ms 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.”

Judge Devins said she was satisfied beyond all doubt that the prosecution had proved its case. She 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".

Harrington was sentenced to 28 days for the assault on Garda Berry and directed to seek psychiatric assessment to address her "bizarre" actions. Judge Devins also fined her €1,000 and ordered her to pay €1,000 to the Garda Benevolent fund. Recognisance was set in the event of an appeal.

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.