lockdown breach | 

Woman (55) who claimed she was a 'citizen journalist' when arrested at Covid protest is fined

Jean Murray said she works part-time as a "freelance journalist and a citizen journalist” regularly posting articles on her blog.
Balbriggan District Court

Balbriggan District Court

Fiona MagennisFingal Independent

A 55-year-old woman who was arrested at a Covid protest in Balbriggan during lockdown has been fined €250 at Balbriggan District Court.

Jean Murray pleaded not guilty to breaching Covid regulations on February 24, 2021.

Garda Robert Berg said Murray gave no valid reason for being in the area when he spoke to her at Dublin Street on the morning of the protest.

However, the defendant claimed she had not been asked her reason for being there and told the court she was there to report on what was happening as she works part-time as a”freelance journalist and a citizen journalist” regularly posting articles on her blog.

In his evidence to the court, Garda Berg said he attended Dublin Street in Balbriggan following reports of a large group gathered in breach of covid regulations.

The garda said when he arrived at the scene shortly before 10.30am he saw a large group of approximately 30 to 40 people outside the credit union.

There were a number of gardaí present as a protest was organised that day and there was a hairdresser opened in breach of covid regulations.

The group were not wearing face masks and there was no social distancing taking place, Garda Berg added.

He said he spoke to the defendant and asked her if she had any reason to be there but she gave no valid reason.

A fixed charge notice was issued but this was not paid, the garda said.

However, Murray, representing herself in court, said she was not given the opportunity by the garda to explain why she was there.

The defendant, with an address at The Old Mill, Rathoath, said she had been on her way to feed her horses in Donabate when she heard there was going to be a protest.

Murray said she decided to go and see what was happening as she is a writer who works part-time as a freelance journalist, regularly posting articles on her blog as well as publishing three books.

“I was not asked my reason for being there because I would have said I was there to report,” she told the court.

Asked by Judge Dermot Dempsey if she was accusing the garda of lying, Murray said he “may have mistaken me for someone else”, adding “as a freelance journalist and a citizen journalist I was within my rights to be there”.

When pressed further, the accused said she was entitled to be there because she was on her way to feed her horses in Donabate, adding she had “about four reasonable excuses” to be there that morning.

Asked by the judge if she had given that information to the garda, Murray said she “wasn’t given the opportunity”.

Judge Dempsey said he did not accept her evidence and convicted the defendant, imposing a fine of €250.

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