INDEPENDENT TDS MICK Wallace and Clare Daly face the prospect of going to jail after both deputies today declared that they will not pay €4,000 in fines imposed on them by a judge.
At Ennis District Court today, Judge Patrick Durcan found the two guilty of breaching airport regulations when entering a restricted area at Shannon airport on 22 July 2014 and fined them each €2,000.
‘I wouldn’t pay it to save my life’
Judge Durcan has given the two three months to pay and 30 days in prison if the fines aren’t paid.
However, speaking after the case on the steps of Ennis courthouse, Deputy Wallace declared to reporters and supporters:
I wouldn’t pay that fine to save my life.
Deputy Daly agreed, telling reporters “we have no intention of paying a financial contribution to a State which allows this behaviour to continue [at Shannon]”.
Deputy Daly also confirmed that no appeal will be lodged against the conviction.
We don’t feel that we did anything wrong and we won’t engage any further.
She added that the court “is not an arena where the argument can be made any further so no, we won’t [be appealing]”.
‘Not proper that this court is used as a battlefield’
The rope ladder used by the two to scale the fence is still in the possession of the Gardaí at Shannon and during the two day hearing, Deputy Wallace asked for its return.
Asked had he sought the return of the rope ladder, Deputy Wallace said today: “I’m working on it.”
Convicting the two earlier in court, Judge Durcan said that the role “of this court is not that deemed assumed by the Skibbereen Eagle in a past century”.
The now defunct Skibbereen Eagle is best known for a 1898 editorial where it warned that it would keep its eye on the Emperor of Russia.
Judge Durcan said:
It is not proper that this court is used as a battlefield by protagonists who should pursue issues raised in another forum.
Judge Durcan said that our constitution guarantees citizens the right to assemble and a right to protest but the exercise of that right is not unfettered.
Judge Durcan said that the airport bye-laws of 1994 are a proportionate response by the State and he said that he was satisfied that Deputy Wallace and Deputy Daly had breached the regulations.
Asked by Judge Durcan to comment on his own circumstances in relation to penalty, Deputy Wallace replied from the body of the court:
“In relation to whatever penalty you impose, I would remind you of the Nuremburg principle – that irrespective that you have found us in breach, we felt an obligation to highlight the fact that arms and munitions go through Shannon.”
However, Judge Durcan interrupted and pointed out that “you and I have been through this case for two days. In relation to penalty, now please, there are other cases waiting”.
In reply, Deputy Wallace said: “I have no intention of talking all day,” and in response, Judge Durcan said: “I am not going to let you. You can talk outside court all day if you like.”
In reply, Deputy Wallace resumed his address and said that the Irish Government has contributed towards the militarisation of the planet by facilitating the bringing of arms and munitions through Shannon.
Deputy Wallace told the judge:
If you think for thinking the truth and standing up for what we believe in – if you think we should be put in jail for that, I disagree.
Disappointed with the outcome
Speaking outside court and joined by supporters including Dr Ed Horgan and Margaretta D’Arcy, Deputy Wallace said that he was “disappointed” with the outcome.
He said: “We made very strong arguments that we didn’t go in to Shannon airport to break peace, we went in there to make the peace.”
Speaking to reporters, Deputy Daly said that Judge Durcan accepted without qualification the knowledge and expertise of witnesses that they furnished to the court.
Let’s remember what those witnesses said: they said categorically that weapons and ammunition were on board US aircraft in clear breach of the conditions that were outlined.
She added: “That information was not challenged by the State where we live in a hypocritical society which allows that to continue and penalises those who try to do something about it.”
Shannonwatch said it is “appalled” at the court decision, adding it believes Wallace and Daly were “utterly vindicated in the action they took”.
“We have spent years looking for answers to our questions about the military planes passing through Shannon.” said spokesperson John Lannon.
Now two TDs who tried to get the answers for us have been told they have 30 days to pay fines imposed or face prison. This is a sad reflection on a system and a government that will go to any lengths to protect their support for wars that kill and maim innocent people.
Shannonwatch said it will “continue to monitor US military use of Shannon airport”.
Expelled from the Dáil?
TDs can’t be expelled for a court conviction, but can be expelled if they are sentenced to prison for a term longer than six months.
According to the Electoral Act, 1992:
[A person who] is undergoing a sentence of imprisonment for any term exceeding six months, whether with or without hard labour, or of penal servitude for any period imposed by a court of competent jurisdiction in the State, or
(k) is an undischarged bankrupt under an adjudication by a court of competent jurisdiction in the State,
shall not be eligible for election as a member, or, subject to section 42 (3), for membership, of the Dáil.
- Additional reporting Aoife Barry and Hugh O’Connell