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'That wouldn't be long for me': 71-year-old's reaction when told he could face life in prison

The men are all charged with false imprisonment of then Tánaiste Joan Burton and her adviser Karen O’Connell.

Image: Leah Farrell

A 71-YEAR-OLD man charged with the false imprisonment of former Tánaiste Joan Burton during a water charges protest told gardai he had joined the protest while in the area getting petrol.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that after gardaí told Frank Donaghy that the maximum sentence for the offence was life he replied: “That wouldn’t be long for me. How could protesting be false imprisonment?”

The jury also heard details of co-accused Michael Banks (46) interview with gardaí which took place at Crumlin garda station on the same day three months after the alleged events.

Banks maintained throughout his questioning that the protest in Jobstown had been peaceful and told gardaí: “Joan Burton wanted a story and she got it.”

Donaghy of Alpine Rise, Tallaght, Dublin and Banks of Brookview Green, Tallaght, along with Solidarity TD Paul Murphy and four other men, have denied falsely imprisoning Burton and her adviser Karen O’Connell by restricting their personal liberty without their consent at Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Tallaght on November 15, 2014.

The two woman were allegedly trapped in a car outside a local church and subsequently in a garda jeep for up to three hours by a crowd of water charge protesters after they had attended a local graduation ceremony in An Cosán adult education centre.

Garda John Tuthill told Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, that Banks was arrested on February 12, 2015 and brought to Crumlin Garda station for interview. He told gardaí that he had arrived at about 12 o’clock when there was about 40 to 50 people present and he had been “videoing.”

Banks said he was aware that the protest was going to be on and told gardaí it was against austerity measures. When asked about the atmosphere he said there had been heckling, booing and jeering.

He said they had sat down on the ground behind the car at the church because gardaí had started to come in “heavy handed.” He said he had not been asked to move but had been dragged by gardaí.

Banks said it was a peaceful protest. He added: “There was no need for garda involvement, no one came to any harm.”

He accepted the car was blocked but said the women were never in any danger and could have exited by foot. He told gardaí the protesters wanted Burton to answer questions and nothing would have happened to her if she left the car.

Banks agreed he was present when Burton was moved to the jeep. He told gardaí that at this point the crowd had swelled to about 250 to 300 people. He did not accept the women’s liberty was restricted or that they were frightened. He said they could have left the area.

He told gardaí that at no point did anyone try to open the doors of the jeep or the car.

The court heard Donaghy was arrested the same day and brought to Tallaght garda station for interview. He told gardaí had been in the area getting petrol and had not known there was a protest going on.

He said he had stopped, joined in “a peaceful protest” and had been there for a few hours.

“It was a sit down protest. People have been doing it for years. I think it’s fairly legitimate,” he told gardaí. He said that the atmosphere was peaceful and he felt safe. He said gardaí had tried to pick someone up from the back of the car “and that’s when the trouble started.”

Padraig Dywer SC, defending Donaghy, said the bottom line thrust of his client’s position had been that he did not think he had done anything wrong by joining a sit down protest.

Paul Murphy (34) of Kingswood Heights, Tallaght; Kieran Mahon (39) of Bolbrook Grove, Tallaght; Michael Murphy (53) of Whitechurch Way, Ballyboden, Dublin; Ken Purcell (50) of Kiltalown Green; Banks of Brookview Green; Scott Masterson (34) of Carrigmore Drive, Tallaght and Donaghy have pleaded not (NOT) guilty to falsely imprisoning Burton and her adviser Karen O’Connell by restricting their personal liberty without their consent at Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Tallaght on November 15, 2014.

The trial continues before Judge Melanie Greally and a jury.

Read: Garda witness called ‘woman beater’ and ‘uniformed scumbag’ during protest, court told >

Read: Garda tells Jobstown trial she feared for Joan Burton’s safety >

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Fiona Ferguson

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