Shatter says activist not signing bond ‘a matter of regret’

Anti-war campaigner Margaretta D’Arcy suffering serious illness in Limerick Prison

Protesters outside the Department of Justice last week calling on the Government to release 79-year-old peace activist and member of Aosdana, Margaretta D’Arcy. Photograph Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Protesters outside the Department of Justice last week calling on the Government to release 79-year-old peace activist and member of Aosdana, Margaretta D’Arcy. Photograph Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has said it is a matter of regret that a 79-year-old anti-war activist did not enter into a bond that would have allowed her avoid serving a three-month prison sentence for trespass at Shannon Airport.

Margaretta D’Arcy is understood to be suffering from a serious illness behind bars at Limerick Prison but has refused to enter into a bond undertaking not to enter non-public areas of the airport.

Mr Shatter, responding to questions in the Dáil earlier today, said it was regretful that she had not entered into the bond but that the law must apply equally and that she must not be “presented in a heroic guise” due to the nature of her offence.

He also said that medical assistance was available to the campaigner.

Declining to refer to Ms D’Arcy by name, Mr Shatter said: “It is a matter of regret that the person in question did not avail of the opportunity afforded by the judge to enter into a bond and thus avoid the necessity to serve the sentence which the court felt it appropriate to impose.

“No one is above the rule of law no matter what their age. To those who call for the individual’s immediate release I ask, should this individual by future action on her own or accompanied by others again be permitted to again encroach on a runway? Is she to be ignored and allowed to do so repetitively?”

Mr Shatter added that while the system of temporary release had been explained to her, she had not sought to avail of it.

“It has been reported in the media that she suffers from a number of medical conditions. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on this but I can assure the House that she has full access to the range of medical services available in Limerick Prison,” he told the Dáil.

Mr Shatter also used the opportunity to outline the increased Garda expenditure associated with ongoing anti-war protests at Shannon Airport which had been used by US military aircraft.

From 2004 to 2013 this had amounted to over €17.3 million in security costs, he said.