Water protest TD refused to move on, court told

Joan Collins
Joan Collins

TD Joan Collins told gardai she had a right to protest and would not move when asked to let a water meter installation crew in Dublin do their work, a court has heard.

Dublin District Court was told gardai and GMC/Sierra workers were verbally abused with foul and disgraceful language and were threatened by water protesters at Parnell Road in Crumlin on the morning of April 20th last.

The outgoing independent TD and Right2Change campaigner was before the court for what has been dubbed the “Crumlin 11” trial.

She and her 10 co-defendants including councillor Patrick Dunne (48) with an address at St Gerard's Road, Greenhills, are accused of failing to comply with a garda's direction to leave the vicinity. Two of her co-defendants have additional charges for obstructing gardai.

All 11 deny the charges and three days have been set aside by the district court for the non-jury trial.

Opening the case, James Dwyer BL for the State told Judge Aeneas McCarthy that it seemed the right to protest was going to be an issue which the prosecution would challenge.

The court heard that the Dublin South-Central TD and Cllr Dunne arrived at the scene where a team of GMC/Sierra water meter installers were attempting to do their work but were met by protesters.

Garda Sergeant David Lynch told the court that when he arrived at Parnell Road he saw six or seven people interfering with workers. Later on there were about 30 to 40 protesters there, he said.

He said he received verbal abuse and was called “f***ing scumbag”. He told the court that he, other gardai and the GMC/Sierra workers were threatened.

He told the court a youth threatened him that “they would have a group of 50 to 100 and we would need every car in Crumlin to police it”. He said some were trespassing in gardens. He said that he asked the group to desist numerous times and he was concerned for a lot young women with children who could not get past and had to cross the road.

He spoke to Joan Collins and and another councillor “to get some middle ground to let GMC/Sierra workers do their work or leave” and was told by the TD that “they were entitled to protest and they were not going to move”.

Gda Sgt Lynch thought a breach of the peace was likely to occur and he said he gave the protesters a direction under the public order act and outlined to the them penalties of not complying. He said he did that numerous times and he asked them to move on peacefully. “With that they became more agitated and abusive and sat down,” he said.

He described the language used by some of the protesters as foul and disgraceful.

In cross-examination he agreed with lawyers for the defence that Joan Collins and Cllr Dunne had been co-operative and had not been there at the outset of the protest. They moved away to discuss the situation. He agreed Cllr Dunne was neither abusive nor using foul language and had not committed an offence but Gda Lynch added that he was part of the group.

He agreed that no-one has been charged with trespassing and did not know why there were only 11 people before the court if there were up to 40 people who did not comply with his direction. Cllr Dunne was arrested after the protesters began to sit down, the court heard

He said he did note get the CCTV from a Maxol garage in the vicinity because it was too far away from the scene.

Other CCTV evidence was shown and the sergeant disagreed with one of the defence barristers when she put it to him that the footage does not show anyone saying “f*** off”.

Gda Peter Byrne said he heard the sergeant caution the group to leave the vicinity he also re-iterated it to Joan Collins but “she said she would not agree”.

An audio clip was played in court of an RTE radio interview she gave to Dave Fanning eight days later in which she agreed she had been obstructing the workers and ignoring gardai.

Laughter broke out in public gallery when, during the interview, she spoke of her amusement at confusion on Twitter between her and the Dynasty actor of the same name, though she agreed she had been called “the Bitch” and worse. Footage was shown of her being moved by gardai.

Another garda told the court that one of the protesters was violent and had to be pepper-sprayed. The defence put it to him that the man could not have been violent because he had been put on the ground and in handcuffs. The garda said the man was kicking out.

Along with Joan Collins and Patrick Burke there are nine other defendants.

Patrick Burke (50) of Dolphin House Rialto, faces a singe charge for failing to comply with a garda's direction to leave the vicinity.

Councillor Patrick Dunne (48) with an address at St Gerard's Road, Greenhills has the same charge.

Edel Kenny (39) of Monasterboice Road, is accused of failing to comply with a garda's direction but has an additional charge for obstructing a garda.

Sofian Murphy (29) from Dolphin Road, Drimnagh, is accused of failing to comply with a garda's direction and also has an additional charge for obstructing a garda.

Oisin O Raw (18) from Derravaragh Road in Terenure has a single charge of failing to comply with a garda direction in connection with the incident.

Gavin Byrne (42) of Temple Manor Way, Greenhills, Dublin 12, is also accused of accused of failing to comply with a garda's direction.

Aaron Healy (25) from Saul Road, Crumlin, also has a charge for not obeying the garda direction. A bench warrant was issued for his arrest when he did not show up for the trial yesterday/today (MON).

Patrick Waine (56) of St Malachy's Drive, Walkinstown, John O'Reilly (62) from Leighland Road, Crumlin and Andrew Canning (55) from Clanbrassil Close, Clanbrassil St, D8 also have the same charge.

GMC/Sierra worker Mark Ryder told the court that when he and the rest of his team arrived at the site to begin work they were met by 10 to 20 protesters. He said they moved past protection barriers into to the work area. He said things “generally got out of hand” and it was intimidating.

He said they were shouting abuse and they could not continue with their work.

He said there was a lot commotion and he and the water meter installers had to wait until the end of the day until they could remove their equipment.

The trial continues tomorrow.