Charge against Joan Collins over water protest dismissed

Judge says no evidence Independent TD part of group or had a common design to breach the peace

A charge against outgoing Independent TD Joan Collins, that she failed to comply with a garda direction during an anti-water meter protest, has been dismissed at the Dublin District Court.

Judge Aeneas McCarthy said there was a constitutional right to peaceful protest and the State has to negate that right with evidence.

He said there was no evidence Ms Collins was breaching Section 6 of the Public Order Act, and no evidence she was part of a group or she had a common design to breach the peace.

The judge said there was a mob, and some people who abused gardaí, but that did not apply to Ms Collins.


He also said there were certain contradictions in Garda evidence regarding the direction given by Sgt David Lynch to the protestors to leave the scene.

The judge said he did not believe the State had established a prima facia case against Ms Collins.

He also criticised gardaí for not using a loudhailer.

Ms Collins, and nine co-defendants were accused of failing to comply with a garda’s direction to leave the vicinity at Parnell Road, Harold’s Cross on April 20th, 2015. Two of her co-defendants are facing additional charges for obstructing gardaí.

A charge against United Left Alliance councillor, Patrick Dunne (48), of St Gerard's Road, Greenhills, was dismissed on Tuesday.

Earlier on Wednesday, Michael Lynn SC, for Ms Collins, said there was no evidence his client “acted in any way other than peacefully” in the course of the protest.

Mr Lynn told the court the group nature of the charge was “utterly misconceived” and there were “inherent contradictions and weaknesses in evidence”.

He said it was incontrovertible that when Ms Collins was arrested, she was standing peacefully, she offered her name and there was no hint of aggression. She was supposedly given direction to leave and she had no opportunity to comply with it “when she was yanked by her arm and escorted across the road”.

He said the direction given by Sgt Lynch was at the heart of the case, because there was conflicting evidence on the section of the legislation under which the direction was given.

“How could 30 people in a group understand a direction when gardaí beside Sgt Lynch couldn’t?” he asked.

Mr Lynn also argued the right to protest was “of such importance it should not be over-born by the conduct of others” and the group direction by Sgt Lynch was fatally flawed.

The case against the remaining defendants continues.

They are Patrick Burke (50) of Dolphin House Rialto, Oisin O Raw (18) from Derravaragh Road in Terenure, Gavin Byrne (42) of Temple Manor Way, Greenhills, Dublin 12, Aaron Healy (25) from Saul Road, Crumlin, Patrick Waine (56) of St Malachy's Drive, Walkinstown, John O'Reilly (62) from Leighland Road, Crumlin and Andrew Canning (55) from Clanbrassil Close, Clanbrassil St, Dublin 8.

Edel Kenny (39) of Monasterboice Road, is also accused of failing to comply with a garda's direction, but has an additional charge for obstructing a garda, as has Sofian Murphy (29) from Dolphin Road, Drimnagh.

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland is a crime writer and former Irish Times journalist