Trial delay for duo accused of heckling President Michael D Higgins

CourtsBy Tom Tuite
Derek Byrne, one of the accused hecklers
Derek Byrne, one of the accused hecklers

The trial of man and a woman accused of engaging in threatening and abusive language which was allegedly directed at President Michael D Higgins has been adjourned pending a ruling on whether the allegation is too vague.

The abuse was allegedly directed at President Michael D Higgins during a protest at Cappagh Road in Finglas in Dublin on January 23 last year.

Two men and a woman from Dublin are face trial at Dublin District Court: Derek Byrne (36), of Streamville Rd, Kilbarrack, Anna Clarke (35) from St Donagh's Road, Donaghmede, and Diarmuid Dubhghlais (41) of Parc Ui Mhaoiliosa, Finglas.

Mr Dubhghlais's trial is set to take place separately on Thursday and is due to be done completely through Irish. 

They are charged with engaging in threatening, abusive and insulting words or behaviour with intent to provoke a breach of the peace or being reckless as to whether a breach of the peace may be occasioned.

The offence can result in a fine and/or a three-month jail sentence. They have pleaded not guilty.

Mr Byrne and Ms Clarke were due to face trial in the district court today but it was adjourned pending legal argument. The case will be re-listed again for mention on March 23 next.

Judge Bryan Smyth refrained from issuing a bench warrant for Ms Clarke who did not not turn up. Mr Byrne, her co-defendant, was present.

Simon Donagh BL for Ms Clarke argued that the charge was similar to another which had been struck down by the High Court because it was too vague.

He asked the court to dismiss this case or for the State to "nail their colours to the mast". He said the charge against his client involved at least three offences: threatening, abusive and insulting words or behaviour.

There were 20 statements in relation to Ms Clarke and counsel said he did not know what offence was alleged against Ms Clarke, he argued.

Prionsias O Maolchalain BL for Mr Byrne said he was adopting the same submissions. He said it was impossible to adequately defend the case or to know what precise offence was being alleged.

He said the prosecution against his client which involved 24 statements was fatally flawed.

Judge Smyth adjourned the case to allow submissions to be furnished to DPP solicitor Michael Durkan.