Burton says she suffered nightmares after Jobstown protest

‘I tried as hard as I could to keep my composure,’ she tells trial in Dublin

Former tánaiste Joan Burton has denied she was “relaxed” in the car in which she was allegedly falsely imprisoned during a water charges protest.

Ms Burton told the trial of Solidarity TD Paul Murphy and six other water protesters that she suffered nightmares after the incident in November 2014.

The jury was on Friday shown several video clips of the protest, including one that appeared to show Ms Burton reading a newspaper article and another in which she told her adviser she should put out a message about the number of children “roaming” around.

Mr Murphy (34), together with South Dublin councillors Kieran Mahon (39) and Michael Murphy (53) and four other men are charged with falsely imprisoning Ms Burton and her adviser, Karen O’Connell, by restricting their personal liberty without their consent at Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Tallaght, Dublin, on November 15th, 2014.

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Paul Murphy, of Kingswood Heights, Tallaght; Kieran Mahon of Bolbrook Grove, Tallaght; Michael Murphy of Whitechurch Way, Ballyboden, Dublin; Frank Donaghy (71) of Alpine Rise, Tallaght; Ken Purcell (50) of Kiltalown Green; Michael Banks (46) of Brookview Green, Tallaght; and Scott Masterson (34) of Carrigmore Drive, Tallaght, have all denied the charges.

It was Ms Burton’s second day giving evidence in the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court trial, which is set down for six weeks. She will continue giving evidence on Tuesday when the trial resumes.

Graduation

The trial has heard Ms Burton was trapped in a car for an hour and a jeep for a further two hours with Ms O’Connell after they left a graduation ceremony at An Cosan education centre in Tallaght.

Under cross-examination from Padraig Dwyer SC, representing Frank Donaghy, Ms Burton was shown phone film clips in which she appeared to be reading a newspaper.

Ms Burton said she was not reading a newspaper, but a page from a newspaper she found on the floor of the car containing an article about Michael Collins.

In another clip Ms O’Connell could be heard saying; “This always happens at the end of protests. The f***ing dregs decide not to finish it.”

Ms Burton agreed with Mr Dwyer that this was “completely unacceptable”, but said they had been in the car for three hours at that stage and they were “stressed out”.

“She’s not a person who uses bad language,” Ms Burton said.

She rejected Mr Dwyer’s suggestion that the atmosphere inside the car was one of “relaxation, if not some sharing of jokes with Ms O’Connell”. He suggested it was not a “fear-filled atmosphere”.

Composure

Ms Burton said: “I tried as hard as I could to keep my composure, to keep looking straight ahead, to look as benign and pleasant as possible so as not to aggravate the people who were there even further. If you show fear, people can smell fear, and it can get a lot worse potentially.”

Mr Dwyer put it to Ms Burton that the conversation recorded in the car did not reflect this.

“Are you suggesting I was happy with the events? That is so far from the truth,” Ms Burton said, adding she suffered nightmares in the wake of that day.

Earlier she told the court she tried for a long time to avoid thinking about the events of the day because she had “some difficulty” with it. The entire time in the car was not recorded, Ms Burton added. “To be honest, there was a lot of silence in that car.”

In another clip filmed outside the car protesters could be seen surrounding the car shouting slogans including “Enda Kenny in your ivory tower, this is called people power”, and “Stick your water meters up your arse”.

Political slogans

Ms Burton said she considered this last slogan a “human rights issue” rather than a political slogan. She said she did not hear any political slogans except “peaceful protest” and “shame on you”.

The cross-examination became heated at times, with Mr Dwyer telling Ms Burton: “This is not the Dáil.”

Judge Melanie Greally asked Ms Burton to allow Mr Dwyer to finish his question before answering.

When asked why she did not hear political slogans, Ms Burton said it was “probably curses and bad language standing out”.

“I’m sitting in the back of a car,” she said. “I’m cold and I’m hungry and I’m thirsty. I actually asked a guard what would happen if I needed a toilet. My colleague who was sitting beside me was extremely upset and weeping a lot. I was trying to comfort her.

“I was listening to statements wishing me dead and so on, illnesses. I heard those maybe because they were more personal.You wonder in times like that where this hate is coming from. My politics is not about hating anybody.”

The trial continues.