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Cork woman jailed for campaign of harrassment against former TD and community activist

Sonya Egan of The Lawn, Lios Cara, Killeens, Co Cork sent thousands of emails to former Cork North Central Sinn Fein TD Jonathan O’Brien.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

A WOMAN WHO waged a campaign of harassment against a former Sinn Fein TD has been jailed for two years.  

Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that Sonya Egan of The Lawn, Lios Cara, Killeens, Co Cork sent thousands of emails to former Cork North Central Sinn Fein TD Jonathan O’Brien.

She phoned and texted him more than 5,500 times over a six month period and on one occasion she sent him a picture of a rat when he made a complaint to gardaí.

The 42-year-old also bombarded local community activist and businesswoman Laura O’Connell with messages, and posed as a barrister when she first met her. Egan donned robes and claimed she had come from family court when they made an arrangement to meet over coffee.

Sgt John Sheehy told the court in May that Egan carried out the campaign of abuse against O’Connell and O’Brien between 2018 and 2019.

Jonathan O’Brien first became aware of Sonya Egan in April and May 2017 where she approached him as a TD for advice. She then became a Sinn Fein member and in December 2018 she began sending him suggestive comments that made him uneasy.

Egan claimed that she had feelings for him that were beyond friendship. O’Brien had no interest in a relationship of any type with the defendant.

Sgt Sheehy said O’Brien then began receiving numerous messages and texts from Egan and emails from fake accounts.

“He began receiving emails from fake accounts one of which claimed to be Jeremy Corbyn leader of the British Labour Party claiming to be her (Egan’s) father.”

Egan then emailed the Sinn Fein party claiming that she was being bullied by Jonathan O’Brien. There was no truth to any of her allegations against O’Brien and O’Connell.

Sgt Sheehy said in the emails that Jonathan O’Brien had “betrayed her confidence” in relation to a disclosure she made to him.

“On a number of occasions she claimed that he had driven her to suicide and that she was going to carry it out. Whilst this was going on she would email him (O’Brien) to tell him that she loves him and that she would drop allegations against him if he gave in to his feelings for her,” the garda said. 

She publicly alleged on Facebook on a number of occasions that she had taken an overdose and it was Jonathan O’Brien’s fault.

Sgt Sheehy said on one occasion Egan emailed Jonathan O’Brien and said that his terminally ill mother had fallen out of bed in hospital.

“Sonya became aware that his terminally ill mother had fallen out of the bed in hospital and claims that a friend in the hospital had told her. The hospital staff confirmed that his mother had fallen out of the bed but it has not been established yet how she got this information,” he added. 

The court heard that Egan sent pictures of Jonathan O’Brien’s deceased father to him on multiple occasions. She went to the workplace of his daughter and also made a trip to the offices of Births, Deaths and Marriages to look up the date of O’Brien’s father’s death.

Campaign of abuse

Sgt Sheehy told Judge Helen Boyle that Egan, who is an unemployed married mother of three, carried out a significant and lengthy campaign of abuse against Jonathan O’Brien and O’Connell.

“He (O’Brien) believes that Sonya Egan has contacted him using over 20 different Facebook profiles. She sent (O’Brien) 100 texts some days. She turned up at Leinster House demanding to speak to him.”

A disciplinary inquiry was carried out by the local branch of Sinn Fein and Egan gave an undertaking to stop contacting O’Brien. Sgt Sheehy said that Egan failed to desist.

Egan pleaded guilty to two counts of harassment contrary to Section 10 (1) and (6) of the Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997.

Sgt Sheehy also told the court of the harassment campaign Egan waged against Laura O’Connell. Laura O’Connell made a formal complaint against Sonya Egan in October of 2018.

She had met Egan when she was taking part in a local activist issue. Egan claimed she was a legal professional and on one occasion she met O’Connell for coffee in a pub wearing barrister’s robes.

O’Connell became apprehensive about Egan and attempted to distance herself from her. Sgt Sheehy said Egan then began “bombarding” O’Connell with messages. She starting posting messages on Facebook saying that O’Connell was bullying her.

Egan claimed on Facebook that she was being defamed and harassed by O’Connell. She then created numerous fake Facebook accounts in order to comment on the posts. Egan also emailed numerous people making false allegations against O’Connell.

O’Brien previously handed in a victim impact statement to the Judge which was not read out in court. In her victim impact statement O’Connell said that she was afraid to go outside her door arising out of the harassment.

“At 43 years of age I am a broken woman and on my knees because of Sonya Egan. I flinch with every outside noise, panic at the sound of a doorbell in fear it is her or those who follow her. I cannot go anywhere without having to assess who is following me or watching me, cannot open social media without dreading what will be posted about me today.”

O’Connell said that she has incurred €26,000 in legal fees taking an injunction against O’Connell.

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The particulars of the offences are that Ms Egan did on various dates between the 17th day of January, 2018 and the 9th of January 2019 at locations within the State harass Jonathan O’Brien.

She also pleaded guilty to harassing a woman named as Laura O’Connell on various dates between the 8th day of April, 2018 and the 26th day of June, 2019 at locations within the State.

Barrister for the Defence, Anthony Sammon, SC, who was instructed by Eimer Griffin of Padraig O’Connell solicitors, said that his client was apologetic for her actions.

Prison Sentence

Today at the sentencing hearing Judge Boyle jailed Egan for three years suspending the last year of the sentence. The final year was suspended on the condition that Egan have no communication with or about Ms O’Connell or Mr O’Brien for a period of seven years. She was also ordered not to come within fifty years of their homes or places of work.

Judge Boyle said the campaign of harassment continued for over a year and that it targeted not just the two named individuals but their families.
She said there was multiple routes in the campaign including online and face to face harassment.

“It is so serious it merits a prison sentence,” she said.

Judge Boyle said a psychological report set out that Egan had been brought up in State care and had endured multiple forms of abuse over her childhood. She was deemed as being at a low risk of re offending and had offered a letter of apology for her actions.

Judge Boyle said that Egan “noted the upset, anguish and torment she
inflicted on the victims. She said she genuinely did not realise the extent of her behaviour. She said she is truly sorry.”

Having read the victim impact statements Judge Boyle stressed that the actions of Egan had caused serious emotional and financial consequences to the injured parties.

Jonathan O’Brien had said in his victim impact statement that what impacted him the most was that the defendant had put personal information about this parents online.
Judge Boyle said that this and approaches Egan had made to O’Brien’s children had caused him “enormous distress.”

Both O’Brien and O’Connell were in court for the hearing.

About the author:

Olivia Kelleher

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