Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Shannon Protesters in Court:

                                         Part of the regular monthly protest at Shannon Airport

Following Sunday's protest on the Shannon Airport runway
and subsequent arrests, two protesters, Niall Farrell and Margaretta D'Arcy of Galway Alliance against War appeared in Limerick District Court
on Monday, September 2, 2013:
Court proceedings, Limerick District Court, Monday September 2;
When Niall Farrell was brought before the Court, Judge O'Kelly asked him if he wished to have a solicitor appointed to represent him, but Niall Farrell declined the offer and said he wished to represent himself. When Inspector Kennedy stated that Mr Farrell was arrested on the runway, Niall Farrell asked if there was proof that he was on the runway. Judge O'Kelly then intervened and said this hearing was primarily about a bail application and the main issues would be debated at a later hearing.
When Inspector Kennedy referred to the seriousness of this matter, Niall Farrell stated that "all I want is peace" and their action was a statement about society and the issue should be the war machine and US military use of Shannon airport. Judge O'Kelly objected to political statements being made in court. Inspector Kennedy referred to the dangers of this incident and the issues of safety of the protestors themselves and the safety of airport staff and dangers to flights and air passengers. He said that all movements within the airfield were strictly controlled by Air Traffic Control. Niall Farrell and Margaretta D'arcy had entered the airfield wearing orange boiler suits and carrying signs relating to the war in Syria. Photos had been taken by others of the incident and these photos were immediately published on the internet.
Judge O'Kelly asked if Niall Farrell was given bail for the incident last year and Inspector Kennedy said that the issue of bail did not arise on the previous occasion. Judge O'Kelly asked what were the penalties for this offense and Inspector Kennedy replied that the penalties carried a maximum of three years on indictment. Niall Farrell asked what about the other dangers arising from the US warplanes using Shannon, but Judge O'Kelly again ruled such matters out of order. Niall Farrell explained that the incident took place during a quiet window when no planes were landing, and Inspector Kennedy agreed that no aircraft were delayed on this occasion because of the incident, but he also explained (after being prompted by Judge O'Kelly) that Shannon airport was an emergency airport for all flights in the Western Europe region of the Atlantic and that aircraft could arrive unexpectedly at short notice. Niall Farrell asked if he was more of a danger than the military aircraft.
Judge O'Kelly asked Niall Farrell if he was prepared to give a written sworn undertaking not to trespass onto the airside area of Shannon airport between now and the completion of this case. Inspector Kennedy said that the Gardai also wanted the defendants to be prohibited from going anywhere near Shannon airport during this period. Judge O'Kelly did not agree with this and limited the bail undertakings to an undertaking not to trespass onto the airside area of Shannon airport between now and the completion of this case. After some discussion Niall Farrell agree to this undertaking. Judge O'Kelly then granted bail on their own recognisance of €1,000.
A similar but shorter "conversation" took place when Margaretta Darcy was brought before the court. There was a sharp exchange of views between Judge O'Kelly and Margaretta D'arcy when the Judge tried to silence her when he claimed that her comments were "political". "How can you try to depoliticise a political action" she asked him. The Judge threatened to have her removed from the court and held in contempt of court if she persisted in making political comments and a number of Gardai moved towards her at one point as if to remove her from court.
Clearly the US military and CIA use of Shannon airport is a very political act, as well of course as being in breach of international laws, and involving the Irish Government, the Gardai and the airport authorities in being complicit with war crimes. The Judge seemed determined to silence this aspect of the case and if this behaviour by judges in this case continues, then the judges can be accused of failing to allow all the facts and factors in the case to be heard before the court, particularly the factor of the reasons and justification for the actions taken by Margaretta Darcy and Niall Farrell. Their actions were clearly taken in order to expose and try and prevent the far greater evil and crimes involved in US military and CIA use of Shannon airport. If they are denied the opportunity to explain this to the court, then a mistrial will have taken place. Eventually Margaretta Darcy also agreed to the bail condition to give a written sworn undertaking not to trespass onto the airside area of Shannon airport between now and the completion of this case and both defendants were released on bail. Both Niall Farrell and Margaretta D'Arcy were remanded in bail to appear at Ennis District Court on 11 September 2013.
The separate arrest of Tommy Donnellan and his colleague, who had recorded the presence of Margaretta Darcy and Niall Farrell during their protest, is of serious concern especially the alleged unduly rough manner of the arrest in which some photographic equipment may have been damaged and some alleged abusive comments made by one of the detectives concerning one of the protesters. The Gardaí also impounded the photographic equipment, mobile phones, laptop computer, car and other equipment belonging to Tommy Donnellan and his friend, and told them they will be holding all these items for a period of at least 4 days.
The behaviour of the Gardai in all these matters is in marked contrast with the complete failure to search or investigate any of the US military and CIA aircraft that have transited through Shannon airport or to arrest any of the US war criminals that are known to have transited through Shannon. There also have been no arrests or Garda investigations into those Irish citizens, Irish Government officials, and Gardai who may have been complicit in the war crimes and acts of torture committed by US troops and US government agents who travelled through Shannon airport.
It is worth noting that Margaretta and Niall were both given bail on condition that they do not access the runway again until after both their cases are heard. The state is accusing them of having interfered with the "proper" use of the runway. Margaretta and Niall argue that they went on the runway to highlight the "improper" use of a civilian airport by the US military. President Higgins has called for "conversations" in public places about Irish society, GAAW wishes to hold the conversation about Ireland's role in foreign relations, on war and peace in the court. By agreeing this limited bail condition, the court appears to be accepting that the state has a case to answer over the misuse of Shannon airport by the US military and CIA associated aircraft. D'Arcy and Farrell informed the court (and the Gardai beforehand) that they would not accept any further limitation of the bail i.e. to include an exclusion order from Shannon as a whole. Their view was plain: if the US war machine can be in Shannon then so can peace activists who wish to protest peacefully against such misuse of the airport.

Margaretta D'Arcy video:


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