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Protester tackled by Canadian Ambassador at 1916 event has conviction overturned

Brian Murphy has publicly apologised for the incident, saying he didn’t mean to insult anyone.

Canadian Ambassador Kevin Vickers tackling Brian Murphy at the event in 2016
Canadian Ambassador Kevin Vickers tackling Brian Murphy at the event in 2016
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

A PROTESTER WHO was tackled by the Canadian Ambassador at a 1916 commemoration ceremony in Dublin has avoided a jail sentence and a criminal record.

Brian Murphy had publicly apologised in his bid to have his recorded conviction for a public order offence overturned.

Last year the Circuit Court, hearing district court appeals, had held that he could apply for this under the Probation Act if he donated €900 to charity and apologised to the garda who arrested him.

The case resumed yesterday when Judge Martina Baxter noted that Murphy had complied and, affirming the order, she applied the Probation Act.

Youth club manager Murphy, 48, of Newcastle Manor, Newcastle, Co Dublin, interrupted a televised 1916 commemoration service for members of the British Army, held at Grangegorman Military Cemetery on 26 May 2016.

Murphy – whose great great grandfather had served in the British military was buried in the cemetery – was an invited guest at the commemoration. His paternal grandfather had fought in Boland’s Mill during the Easter Rising and was a republican who entered politics and later became a TD.

The 1916 event at the cemetery was attended by about 30 people including the then Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan, as well as the British Ambassador Dominick Chilcott, members of the Irish and British armed forces and relatives of the deceased.

Vickers, a former Canadian House of Commons sergeant-at-arms, who was appointed as the Ambassador of Canada to Ireland in January 2015, was also present. He was previously hailed a hero after he shot Islamist gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau who had killed a soldier at the Canadian House of Commons in Ottawa in October 2014.

Pleaded not guilty 

Father-of-five Murphy was found guilty following a District Court trial in 2016 on a Public Order Act charge of engaging in threatening and abusive behaviour. He had pleaded not guilty but was convicted and received a two-month sentence which was suspended for one year.

However, he launched an appeal in the Circuit Court which came before Judge James O’Donohue last July. The judge rejected defence arguments about the right to protest or that the accused had not caused a breach of the peace.

Garda John Cahill told the appeal hearing he saw Brian Murphy stand up in the seated area and go into the courtyard. He unbuttoned his jacket and brandished a T-shirt saying ‘Justice for the Craigavon Two’, a reference to republican prisoners and a campaign that they have been wrongfully imprisoned.

The appeal heard he said: “Free the Craigavon Two, this is an insult, this is an insult.” A speaker at the ceremony was momentarily interrupted.

The judge heard how Vickers “wrestled and subdued Mr Murphy” before bringing him over to gardaí on duty at the event. Garda Cahill agreed with the defence that, after making his protest, Murphy was very co-operative. He was handcuffed and taken to Blanchardstown Garda Station.

Cahill also agreed with Murphy’s barrister Jane MacGowan that the comment he made was the height of it and he had not made any obscene gestures to the graves.

Insulting 

However, he said he believed it was Murphy’s intention to stop the ceremony and what he did was insulting to people.

In evidence, Murphy told the court he had applied to the Department of Foreign Affairs to go the event which he found “objectionable”. He said he stood up and was intent on leaving and went to an open area in front of the seated guests. He said his first words were: “This is an insult, we fought for Irish freedom”, and he was grabbed by his lapels.

He agreed that he mentioned the Craigavon Two case. He said it was not his intention to insult the people there. He said: “The ambassador intervened and it became a much bigger thing than was expected.”

Judge O’Donohue asked him why he had not set out his objections in writing. Murphy replied that there was “no particular reason”. He denied that he had deluded the authorities to get into the event and said he did not give them any false facts.

Judge O’Donohue rejected the appeal but allowed him the chance to avoid a recorded conviction or a sentence.

Pleading for leniency, the defence barrister asked the court to note her client has worked as a youth club manager for 14 years, he has no prior criminal convictions and was law-abiding. He accepted that insult could have been taken and told the court he apologises to anyone who was insulted.

The appeal had heard he was involved with a republican prisoners association and brought family members on prison visits. Testimonials from Sinn Féin councillor Paul Hogan and Solidarity–People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith were furnished to the court.

Read: After 34 years, gardaí have apologised to Joanne Hayes over the Kerry Babies case

Read: Man in his 50s arrested after cannabis growhouses found in Dublin and Kildare

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Tom Tuite

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