Dáil protester has right to views, says defence solicitor

 

A PROTESTER who drove a concrete mixer truck towards the gates of Leinster House has a legitimate right to make his opinions known, his solicitor has said.

Joe McNamara (41) originally from Achill Island, Co Mayo, but with an address at Dún Na Carraige, Salthill, Galway, appeared in the Dublin District Court yesterday in relation to one count of criminal damage.

Mr McNamara drove the truck towards the gates on Wednesday morning, and parked it there, on the same day that the Dáil returned.

The slogans “Toxic Bank Anglo”, “€1,000,000 on golf balls” and “500K for golf” were displayed on the side of the truck, and its registration plate showed the word “bankrupt”.

Sgt John Egan asked Judge Patrick McMahon to include an order that Mr McNamara stay away from Anglo Irish Bank headquarters on St Stephens Green.

Mr McNamara’s solicitor Cahir O’Higgins said his client “very much asserts his innocence” in relation to the charge.

He also said that Mr McNamara had a right enshrined in Article 40.6.1 of the Constitution to express freely his convictions and opinions. The judge declined to order that the accused stay away from Anglo’s headquarters.

He said every citizen outside a bank or in a public place had a duty to behave lawfully.

The judge ordered that all CCTV footage relating to the incident be preserved.

After a request from Mr O’Higgins, the judge amended his order that Mr McNamara not come to the “unfavourable attention of the gardaí” or to the “unlawful attention of the gardaí”.

He granted Mr McNamara bail in his own bond of €200 and ordered that he return to court on November 25th.

Mr O’Higgins said afterwards that his client had a “bad night” and was a “bit freaked out” by all the attention.

On the steps of the Criminal Courts of Justice (CCJ) on Parkgate Street, Mr O’Higgins issued a statement on his client’s behalf saying Mr McNamara wanted to make “a legitimate protest at what he believed to have been his unfair treatment at the hands of the banks”.

But he added that his client would say no more out of respect for the proceedings until they were finished.

Last April, Mr McNamara carried out a demonstration using the same truck outside the offices of Anglo Irish Bank in Galway.

A small group of protesters carrying placards in support of Mr McNamara cheered him as he emerged from the courts building.

Brian Matthews, who carried a placard which read “Release Toxic Anglo Trucker” said Mr McNamara’s had been a peaceful protest and had he wanted to do damage he would have gone through the gates.

Frank Ward described Mr McNamara as a victim of the system. “He committed a traffic offence, no doubt about that. But I think his treatment has been heavy-handed; it’s disgraceful,” he said.