Two ‘peace activists’ damaged runway at Shannon Airport, court hears

Men allegedly asked military and gardaí to search US-owned aeroplanes at airport

The men allegedly wanted to search two US-owned aircraft at Shannon Airport. File photograph: James Horan/Press 22

The men allegedly wanted to search two US-owned aircraft at Shannon Airport. File photograph: James Horan/Press 22

 

Two “peace activists” charged with damaging the fence and runway of Shannon Airport asked airport gardaí to search US-owned planes at the complex, their trial has heard.

Colm Roddy (78) of Bayside Walk, Dublin 13 and Dave Donnellan (60) of Reuben Street, Rialto, Dublin 8 have both pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to criminal damage of the perimeter fence and runway at Shannon Airport in Co Clare on May 5th, 2016.

Tony McGillicuddy BL, prosecuting, told the jury that the State alleges that their actions resulted in €3,500 worth of property damage.

Outlining the State’s case he said that in the early hours of the morning, at around 6am, the defendants allegedly used a bolt cutter to cut the fence and enter the airport complex.

He said they then used spray paint to paint a number of red crosses on a substation in the complex and on the runway before allegedly making their way towards a plane.

Corporal Thomas Dillon told the jury that he and other officers were on duty that night and were stationed beside a US plane. He told Mr McGillicuddy that “we stay on the ground until the plane takes off” and remain for some time after take off in case the plane needs to return to the airport.

He said that when he first saw two men approaching the plane at around 6am “I thought my eyes were playing tricks” and he picked up binoculars to view the men.

He said the shorter man was holding a flag and a banner with the words “US military out”. The taller man was holding a wooden cross and he told this man to halt in order to establish it wasn’t a weapon.

He said he warned both men to stop and that he and his colleagues had their weapons behind their backs at all times. He said he made contact with airport police who arrived and arrested the men.

The court heard that in his statement Cpl Dillon said “the protesters” were requesting both military and gardaí to search the plane.

In cross examination Mr Roddy, who is representing himself, asked the army officer “how do you feel about being given the duty of protecting the US war machinery at Shannon airport”.

Cpl Dillon said that he had no personal feelings and that “in the military, we obey orders”.

Mr Roddy submitted to Cpl Dillon that “the purpose of the Irish armed forces at Shannon is to ensure that peace activists like myself and Mr Donnellan don’t get near the American planes you are guarding to search or to damage it”.

The witness replied that the defendant needed to put this question to somebody in government.

In his opening address to the jury Mr McGillicuddy said that it is the State’s case that whatever the motives of the accused, they did not constitute “lawful excuse” for their alleged actions.

The trial continues before Judge Karen O’Connor and a jury.