A Sinn Féin TD and a businesswoman were both subjected to a horrific campaign of harassment by a woman who falsely claimed they had bullied her, a court has heard.
Former Cork North Central Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O'Brien and businesswoman Laura O'Connell were both harassed by Sonya Egan (42) over a sustained period using both her own name and through using fake social media profiles.
Egan, of The Lawn, Lios Cara, Killeens, Co Cork, pleaded guilty to harassing Mr O'Brien between January 17th, 2018, and January 9th, 2019, and to harassing Ms O'Connell between April 8th, 2018, and June 26th, 2019.
On Thursday, investigating officer Sgt John Sheehy told how Egan contacted Mr O'Brien about what she claimed was a conspiracy to cover up sex abuse she alleged she had suffered as a child and he told her the procedure involved in making a protected disclosure.
Mr O’Brien said that Egan became a member of Sinn Féin and he said that he offered her moral support, as she was overwhelmed by the abuse she said that she had suffered.
However in December 2017, she began sending him suggestive messages that made him feel uneasy.
Egan told him that her feelings for him "went beyond friendship" and she started sending him emails and text messages including ones from fake accounts, one of which purported to be from then leader of the Labour Party in the UK, Jeremy Corbyn, in which he revealed he was Egan's father.
Egan began sending numerous emails to members of Sinn Féin claiming that Mr O'Brien was bullying her and that he had betrayed her confidence, and she posted on Facebook a false allegation that bullying by Mr O' Brien had caused her to lose a baby that she was expecting.
On several occasions, she claimed that he had driven her to suicide and that she was going to carry it out. While this was going on, she would email him to say she loved him and that she would drop all the claims against him if “he gave into her feelings for him”, said Sgt Sheehy.
The Garda investigation showed Mr O’Brien received more than 5,500 calls and messages from her over a six-month period.
She appeared at his place of work in Leinster House, demanding to speak to him and also approached his daughter at her place of work, asking questions about him.
Sgt Sheehy told how Egan presented herself as a barrister to Ms O’Connell at a local meeting over an environmental issue and on one occasion when they met for a coffee in a pub, she turned up in a barrister’s gown and claimed she had just come from Washington St Courthouse.
Ms O’Connell became apprehensive about Egan after a couple of meetings and began to distance herself from her but as soon as she did, Egan began bombarding her with emails and Facebook messages, alleging Ms O’Connell had breached her trust on matters she had disclosed to her.
She then began publicly accusing Ms O’Connell on Facebook of bullying her and she then sent posted messages from fake profiles, commenting on the abuse and she claimed that she was going to commit suicide over reports that Ms O’Connell had made against her.
On one occasion, Egan turned up at Ms O’Connell’s home and began banging on the front door, but she left when Ms O’Connell threatened to call the gardaí.
Gardaí arrested Egan on foot of complaints by both Mr O’Brien and Ms O’Connell but she continued to make false statements about them.
Mr O'Brien and Ms O'Connell were forced to take out civil injunctions against Egan on March 22nd, 2019, to prevent her making further defamatory comments against them but she issued Circuit Court and High Court proceedings against them which caused them more stress.
Ms O’Connell took the stand to read out her victim impact statement and tell how Egan had ruined her life.
Ms O’Connell recalled how she first met Egan on March 8th, 2018.
“Since that day, my life has never been the same, she has mentally broken me, set me back in my health and impoverished me to the point where I now have to engage with insolvency services and defend an execution order for the exorbitant legal bill I now have to try and pay for.
“At 43 years of age, I am a broken woman and on my knees because of Sonya Egan – she has put an end to all my voluntary work in the local community and further afield as she turns up everywhere. She has put an end to my ongoing learnings, she has put an end to restful nights.
“She has put an end to me feeling safe, general safety and peace of mind.”
Ms O'Connell went on to tell how as a result of Egan's bullying and false accusations she now feels she has to leave not just Cork but indeed Ireland for her sanity.
“Sonya Egan made several malicious allegations against me to the gardaí, Tusla and members of the public including business associates. A person known to Sonya Egan posed as a social worker, entered my home and captured personal information about me and my family.
“Sonya Egan would bang down my door, causing public scenes in my neighbourhood – she has followed me to the Garda station, recorded me and others, videoed me in court, accosted me in public streets, spread heinous rumours about me and cause her partner to accost me.
“Since March 8th, 2018, life has changed for the worse despite all my efforts to live a peaceful and professional life – I live in fear, I am stressed. I am overwhelmed. I am on medication to help me deal with court ordeals as they are now a trigger for me. I have to see a therapist for my PTSD.”
Defence counsel Anthony Sammon SC read out a letter of apology from Egan in which she expressed remorse for her actions, but Sgt Sheehy said he was very dubious about Egan expressing remorse as she had done so previously but continued with her harassment.
He said that the day after Egan was arraigned and pleaded guilty, she sent emails to the Taoiseach, the Minister for Justice and the Garda Commissioner, alleging that the charges against her were all false and she only pleaded guilty to protect another person whom she did not name.
Mr Sammon also presented a forensic psychological report by Dr Patrick Randall in which he said that Egan blamed her behaviour on incidents in her past as a child but prosecution barrister Donal O'Sullivan BL said that the prosecution did not accept those findings by Dr Randall in his report.
Mr Sammon suggested putting the matter back for a year to see how his client behaved herself, but Judge Helen Boyle said that she wanted time to consider the reports and victim impact statements and adjourned the case for sentence until June 27th and she remanded her on bail until then.
Egan took the stand to give and undertaking not to have any contact directly or indirectly with the injured parties and the judge also obtained an undertaking not to contact any third parties about the case.