Zappone rang gardaí as she was ‘scared’ for Burton’s safety, Jobstown trial told

Court hears then-tánaiste was in car surrounded by people banging on it and chanting

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone,arrives at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. Photograph: Collins Courts.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone,arrives at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. Photograph: Collins Courts.


Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone has told a court she rang gardaí when she grew “scared” for the safety of then tánaiste Joan Burton, who was inside a Garda car surrounded by protesters.

Ms Zappone told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that after leaving the church in Jobstown where Ms Burton had attended a community ceremony, she saw Ms Burton was in a car surrounded by a lot of people who were banging on it and chanting. Ms Burton’s adviser, Karen O’Connell, was also in the unmarked car.

“I felt deeply concerned at that stage,” she told Sean Gillane SC, for the prosecution. “I felt scared for her.”

Ms Zappone said she called 999 because she did not see many gardaí around. She waited for four of five minutes. “It seemed like forever.” She then phoned 999 again. People were banging on the car and shouting, mostly at Ms Burton.

Claim of false imprisonment

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy, of Kingswood Heights, Tallaght, is accused of the false imprisonment of Ms Burton by restricting her personal liberty without her consent on November 15th, 2014, at Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Co Dublin.

He is also accused of a second charge in relation to the same offence against Ms O’Connell.

Also facing the same charges are: Kieran Mahon, Bolbrook Grove, Tallaght, and Michael Murphy, Whitechurch Way, Ballyboden, both of whom are Solidarity councillors with South Dublin County Council; Scott Masterson, a self-employed courier, of Carrigmore Drive, Tallaght; Ken Purcell, a precision operative, of Kiltalown Green, Tallaght; Frank Donaghy, a retired construction worker, of Alpine Rise, Belgard Heights, Tallaght, and Michael Banks, of Brookview Green, Tallaght, whom the court was told does not have an occupation that brings him into contact with the public.

All of the defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Ms Zappone said Ms Burton and Ms O’Connell were in the car for approximately 45 minutes.

They subsequently transferred to another Garda vehicle, but it was also surrounded and could not move away. She walked alongside the car as it inched forward, surrounded by protesters. It inched forward to the extent, in her view, that the crowd allowed it to. “I was still deeply concerned for the safety of Joan and Karen.”

At one stage she saw Paul Murphy, with a loudhailer, in front of the Garda car. “We had a brief exchange.”

The events took place after an awards ceremony at the community education facility, An Cosán, which she and her partner, Ann Louise Gilligan, had founded years earlier and which Ms Burton had attended as an invited speaker.

Gay liberation

Sean Guerin SC, for Paul Murphy, asked Ms Zappone about the history of the gay liberation movement and asked her to agree with the proposition that its origins lay in the Stonewall riots in New York City in June 1959.

“How come something as important and progressive as the gay liberation movement could have its origins in riots?” he asked.

Ms Zappone agreed there were riots then, but there were lots of other events too surrounding the movement. She agreed that in a book she had written with Ms Gilligan, Our Lives Out Loud, the riots were described as the origin of the gay liberation movement.

‘Tipping point’

She agreed when Mr Guerin said that sometimes in politics there can be a “tipping point” where an historical wrong can be exposed, sometimes violently, with a new clarity.

Ms Zappone also agreed she had taken part in the Greenham Common anti-nuclear protests in the 1980s which had involved sit-down protests. However, it was her view that what happened in Jobstown went beyond peaceful protest, insofar as some people were concerned.

“There were menacing elements to the protest that I felt went beyond what I considered to be peaceful protest.”

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court was shown footage of a TV3 programme recorded in Tallaght at the time of the 2016 general election where Ms Zappone, in response to a member of the audience, said she had not “at all” condemned what happened at Jobstown in 2014.

Mr Guerin said the witness was saying something different to the court to what was said in her constituency prior to a general election. Ms Zappone disagreed and said the context was important.

Her judgment was that what happened at Jobstown was “menacing, was deeply concerning to me, intimidating, and that’s what my judgment is”.

Social disinvestment

Ms Zappone agreed that she had in the Seanad in 2014 said that people were angry and protesting in their thousands because of the “massive social disinvestment” that had occurred during the austerity period, and that women across all classes had been hardest hit.

There was a “disconnect” between the self-congratulatory discourse in the Seanad and the anger in the streets, she had said. She agreed she had spoken out against water charges, which she said some people were not in a position to pay.

Ms Zappone finished her evidence before Judge Monica Greally and a jury of seven men and five women.

The trial continues on Wednesday.