“Take him! Take him!” – The Trial of Éirígí’s Daithí Mac An Mháistir

Posted: July 3, 2011 in Dissent, In Court
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There are two things that push me to do what it is that I do. The first is a person’s right to enjoy his or her good name and operate, based on it. The second is the set of natural rights that facilitate the freedom of expression, the freedom of assembly and the freedom of association. I am inspired most by those who risk the first by practising the second.

Superintendent Joe Gannon

On May 15th of last year, very early in the morning, I started to receive a series of text messages. I was told that there was a bunch of activists holding a very ballsy protest outside and on the Anglo Irish Bank and that the gardaí were going ballistic with their batons. I was also informed that the well known scumbag, Superintendent Joe Gannon was personally in charge of the operation. Being well aware of Gannon’s penchant for ignoring the rule of law and his love for causing violence to be inflicted on those who choose not to lower themselves to his baseness, by fighting back, I decided to make two phonecalls in the early afternoon. I phoned two animal rights protesters I knew, who intended to mount their own protest that day. I warned both parties about the consequences of the Anglo protest and told them that the gardaí had been blooded and that it was very likely that their bloodlust had not been fully satisfied. I advised that the activists should set aside the usual methodology used for dealing with gardaí who set out to violate their rights. I cautioned that it would be a good idea to follow any unlawful orders given and to ensure that those orders were captured digitally. The normal practice had been to stand up for themselves, get the evidence, get arrested and annihilate the fascists in court. My concerns turned out to be quite prophetic and I was to spend most of the day and evening hanging around Pearse Street garda station, enquiring and worrying about a young man who’d been falsely arrested and had had the living shit kicked out of him in the process. Anyhow, this piece is not specifically about that. It is about the Éirígí protest and more so about Daithí Mac An Mhaistir and his fight, consequential to his arrest that day, with the justice system. It’s quite an amazing tale, I hope you, the reader, will agree.

The four protesters on the balcony, Ursula Ní Shionnain, Daithi Ó Riain, Robbie Fox and Eoin Ó Se, who were chained together, were dragged violently through an open window into the Anglo Irish Bank. It was alleged, in court, that the violence used upon these gutsy and dignified activists, was out of a concern that they might somehow fall from the balcony. It was later claimed, much to the amusement of those present, at Daithi’s trial, that they had threatened to jump. Though there had not been a mention of this false and absurd piece of perjury at their trial. Allow me to prove that there was no such concern at this stage. Prior to dragging the activists from the balcony, which according to garda evidence was some 19 feet above the footpath below, the gardaí had parked two garda vans immediately underneath the balcony. By my estimate, this reduced the dangerous 19 foot potential fall to a relatively harmless 5 or 6 feet. A good while before assaulting the chained activists, the gardaí removed these vans. Also, before the assault, the gardaí stole a large banner from the activists (which they have yet to return) that challenged the people of Ireland to “Rise Up!” After this, they amused themselves by filming the four and scurrying around them. At this point they dragged them violently through the window. On top of this outrage, the gardaí, as usual, did not follow protocol. The gardaí are mandated to use ropes, harnesses and scaffolding in situations where protests involving heights are concerned. It is usual garda practice to ignore this particular duty as has been well evidenced by their behaviour in Rossport, Tara and numerous other places and times.

Garda vans were initially parked under the balcony.

12 activists, who witnessed their comrades on the balcony being assaulted ran from the front of the Anglo Irish to the other exit point, beside the Mansion House, to await their friends being brought out and to ensure that no more violence was visited upon them. Three of the people in this group were: John McCusker, Pádraig Ó Meiscill and Daithí Mac An Mháistir. These three were arrested in the farce of policing that was to follow.

At this point I must point out, that I will be quite vague with regard to certain details in this tale and indeed, will be leaving out some incredibly inflammatory details. I’ve no choice in this as there are still court cases coming and other things. As with most of what I write, this is unfortunately unavoidable. My apologies nonetheless.

At this time an “urgent assistance” call was put out by gardaí stationed in the immediate vicinity. In a very short time there was a veritable wall of gardaí in front of the 12 activists who had linked together and there were also many gardaí behind them. Contrary to what Judge Watkins accepted as fact, in the first two trials, the trials of John McCusker and Pádraig Ó Meiscill, many gardaí had their batons drawn. In this joke of a trial, the judge accused both gentlemen of being liars, before finding them guilty and sentencing them. This is quite obviously something that I cannot say too much about and I will resist the almost overwhelming urge to point out the many and varied levels of utter bullshit, that I’m certain will see these activists vindicated in their appeal.

Daithí Mac An Mháistir, a founding member of Éirígí had been specifically present on the day of the protest to deliver a speech. His first taste of what was to come, came in the form of a massive ignoramus of a garda, who attempted to break his hand with a baton. Daithí managed to get his hand out of the way in time. Nobody attempted to put manners on this freak and this was to be indicative of the 12’s dignified protest despite the many provocations and injuries in what followed. It is interesting to note at this juncture, that despite the lying claims of the gardaí in the courts, that these activists had been “violent,” “looking for a fight,” and calling them “fucking pigs,” “bastards,” etc. there was not to be had one single claim that any garda had needed so much as a plaster, never mind actual medical assistance.

This is the Stand Off shortly after the "urgent assistance" call. Note that the gardaí do not look like they're afraid or being threatened.

In the court cases that followed, the gardaí mostly claimed that they were outnumbered, at all times by the 12. The numbers varied from between 30 and 60. Garda O’Brien a particularly vindictive and violent little prick, settled on a conservative estimate of thirty and explained in a non enlightening fashion that his keen ability at counting had been due to his having been a traffic garda. It was after this pronouncement of dubious fact, that O’Brien was confronted with the fact that he had said that there were 20 protesters in his precis of evidence. O’Brien was the garda who arrested Daithí. I’ll be generous and suggest that his disability with regard to numbers is down to his openly discernible stupidity. Indeed, I’d go so far as to suggest that in the main, that his belief that he could succeed in having Daithí convicted, was based on the utter tripe he gathered and presented as evidence, derived from this nascent stupidity and the fact that the judiciary at District Court level, generally, are more than willing to accept garda malfeasance and illogical crap to facilitate the convictions of decent and innocent activists. Thankfully, most judges who behave in this fashion, also have huge egos, and above anything else, fear having this stupidity publicly exposed. That’s one way to ensure winning in an Irish courtroom!

The particular “priest of the Oracle,” to quote Emmet in his “Speech From the Dock,” Judge McDonnell, who presided over Daithí’s trial, had no such fears. More about that shortly!

Daithí had been due to be tried on the first day of the Anglo trials. So too had the four who’d been viciously arrested in relation to the balcony protest. The case of the four couldn’t be heard on this occasion as the gardaí had failed to bring all of their witnesses. Daithí couldn’t be tried on this occasion due to Judge Watkins being forced to recuse herself for “perception of bias.” I’ll say no more about that day at this time!

The third trial was very interesting. Leo Mulrooney, the young barrister defending the four, fought the case from a strategic point of view that belied his youthful appearance. He cross-examined the prosecution witnesses, gardaí and civilians, opening up a plethora of defences and technicalities. He then, rather than playing his full hand, and giving the State a heads up so that it might prepare itself for Daithí’s case, ended the travesty by pointing out to the Court, that despite the fact representatives of the Anglo Irish Bank and the owners of the building had given evidence, that the four did not have permission to occupy the balcony, there were others who could have given permission, but the State had failed in its duty to provide their testimony to clarify the issue one way or the other. And thus the activists were entitled to the benefit of the doubt. Case binned! It was particularly gratifying and entertaining too when Leo, after letting the Anglo Irish Bank representative rattle on, asked him if access to and control of the balcony came under the bank’s lease agreement. The self important little gimp looked like he was about to chuck a coronary. He replied in the negative. So even if the technicality that saw the case tossed, hadn’t quite satisfied the judge, the fact that the bank had no say in the issue whatsoever, would have probably swung it!

On the 9th of May Daithí’s case kicked off with a bang. The first noticeable thing was that Superintendent Gannon wasn’t present. My heart sank. He was supposed to have been summonsed after all. Correct! Your eyes are not failing you. Daithí wanted Gannon on the stand! There seems to have been some problem with the issuing of the summons that’s still not clear in my mind. One of the issues was the length of notice that Gannon required. Daithi’s defence, like myself, believed that 3 days was the minimum notice required. The judge, Judge McDonnell went with the State’s position and decreed that a minimum of 3 weeks was required. The various arguments and other cases brought us up to lunch. Saved by the bell. After dinner, Leo made an application to adjourn the matter so that Gannon could be summonsed due to the fact that his client, Daithí, had instructed that he be produced and that it wasn’t Daithí’s fault that he hadn’t. McDonnell ruled that the case would commence and that he’d allow the application if he felt that circumstances merited it.

On the first day of the Anglo trials, Garda Peter O’Brien had been the prosecutor on behalf of the DPP, with regard to Daithí’s case. It was interesting to note that the DPP was taking the case at this point. Wouldn’t do to have a fuckwitt like O’Brien in charge of things when Gannon was put out of our collective misery on the stand!

O’Brien was first to give evidence. All the other witnesses, including defence witnesses were ordered out of the court. Daithí was only charged with a single crime, a Section 6 Offence – threatening, insulting or abusive behaviour. O’Brien said in evidence that he’d been beside Gannon and in front of Daithí. He claimed that Daithí as well as shouting abusive things at the gardaí, had approached Gannon and had violently shoved him backwards. He said that Gannon hadn’t fallen over, he instead ordered the line of gardaí to move the protesters back, so that the garda vans containing the four balcony protesters could leave the area. Daithí was then supposed to have turned and tried to escape. He was allegedly grabbed by a female officer, by the arm, whom he supposedly attempted to push out of his way. The brave female officer, in O’Brien’s imagination, held onto the activist and he went to her aid and affected the arrest. O’Brien claimed, in his sworn perjury, that Daithí had been violent and abusive until he was placed into a garda vehicle and taken away. O’Brien also told the judge that Gannon, prior to being assaulted, had ordered the protesters back on two occasions. Another point of interest here is that O’Brien was one of the gardaí who was on the balcony dealing with the four protesters there, he was not produced as a witness at their trial.

O’Brien was finally turned over to Leo. Leo has a way about him where he maintains his dignity and treats all with courtesy. O’Brien thought it was business as usual due to this and didn’t seem to comprehend that he was masterfully being torn apart as Leo cross-examined him. O’Brien was the idiot who was numerically illiterate, whom I’ve already spoken of. He couldn’t remember if Gannon had issued a lawful instruction under Section 8 of the Public Order Act, when he’d asked the protesters to move on two occasions. He readily agreed that Daithí hadn’t been charged with assault, obstruction or obstructing an officer in the course of his or her duty. He admitted that he’d had his baton drawn, when he’d arrived at the scene, after receiving an “urgent assistance” call. He hadn’t completed the mandatory paperwork associated with the production of this weapon mind you. He didn’t notice that there were gardaí filming and so he hadn’t procured this material as evidence. When asked where the video evidence from the bank was, he replied that there wasn’t any. After a gentle bit of prodding from Leo, he revised this untruth and admitted that he hadn’t even bothered to check if the bank had any CCTV cameras and associated footage! He was asked if Gannon was in the court on the first day of the Anglo trials, when Daithí had been due to be tried. He lied that he hadn’t. He was asked how many times Daithí was brought to the ground by the gardaí before being cuffed and arrested. He was only brought to the ground the once, O’Brien lied. When asked if Gannon had asked him to bring his baton to the protest, as there’d be “blood on the streets,” O’Brien said that Gannon had said no such thing to him. When asked if Gannon had said such a thing, O’Brien, for once, wisely said that he didn’t know.

This is the gardaí just before they attacked the protesters.

Garda Caroline O’Riordan was called from outside the courtroom to give evidence next. Caroline is a gobshite, amongst other things. She wasn’t really associated with directly policing the protest on the day in question, she was there to help with barriers and things like that. She hadn’t brought a baton with her on that day but was able to remember she’d seen some produced. She too responded to the “urgent assistance call.” She been positioned behind the protesters when she imagined for the court that Daithí had approached Gannon and had attempted to knock his lights out with a punch aimed at his face. Daithí missed his elderly target and followed up with a violent shove to the git’s chest, she wanted the court to believe. Neither of the other two garda witnesses spoke of having seen this alleged punch. Then Daithí had turned and had tried to flee. O’Riordan, boldly made a grab for the fleeing activist and managed to take hold of his arm. Daithí tried to violently push this brave officer out of his way, but was no more successful than he’d been in his attempt to punch Gannon in the face or in his attempt to knock the old man over with the shove he allegedly gave him. O’Riordan’s knight in shining armour rode to the rescue. He’d ignored the violence that Daithí had allegedly tried to visit on Gannon. But this was an attack on garda women folk!

After telling the judge that she and her hero had arrested Daithí, she was handed over to Leo for execution.

She didn’t know what Daithí had shouted, if he’d shouted anything.

She didn’t know if Gannon had issued a proper order under Section 8 of the Public Order Act when he’d asked activists to move away on two occasions.

She agreed that there was a general melee going on in the background as Daithí was being arrested.

She insisted that Daithí had not been taken to the ground, pulled up from the ground again, put in a headlock and dragged violently backwards to be thrown to the ground once again before being finally arrested. Not only was O’Riordan lying about this, she was the one who’d rushed from the dome of gardaí that was on top of most of the other activists, crushing and beating them, she’d been the very scumbag who’d grabbed Daithí in the headlock, nearly pulling him from the grip of the other gardaí who were just after pulling him from the ground, in her effort to injure the activist. This of course shows that her fairytale about having grabbed onto Daithí, holding him until her hero arrived to help her with taking him into custody, was just that, a fairytale! Perjury too.

To add more fuel to this particular fire I should say the following: Prior to Caroline trying to break Daithí’s neck, Gannon was on the road, some ten or so feet to the side of Daithí who’d already been taken to the ground. He shouted: “Take him! Take him!” At this point Daithí was dragged from the ground and it was at this stage that Caroline entered the scene. Not bad for an old man. He managed to get beside the allegedly fleeing Daithí, well before Caroline managed to arrive and grab Daithí, considering that she was behind the protesters to begin with. This shows that each and every piece of testimony that described events, immediately prior to Daithí’s arrest was a fabrication. The fact that all three gardaí agreed closely as to the alleged facts shows that they wilfully perjured themselves.

Garda O'Riordan, in the blue overalls, arrives. Daithí is already on the ground!

O'Riordan doesn't care if she snaps Daithí's neck!

The final prosecution witness was a Garda Shevlin. I’m not 100% sure that this was the garda’s surname, it was only mentioned once and I wasn’t sure if I’d caught it correctly. My apologies to all with the surname of “Shevlin” if I’m incorrect. The garda told the court that Daithí had approached Gannon and had either punched Gannon in the chest or had violently shoved him in the chest. His tale was pretty much the same as that of the other two State’s perjurers after that.

When cross-examined by Leo, we were told that he’d been approximately 20 feet away from Daithí at the time of the alleged shove/punch. He hadn’t bothered to try and intervene in this as he didn’t want to break formation and because Gannon could allegedly take care of himself. He lost sight of Daithí after the alleged attack on Gannon because Gannon allegedly ordered himself and the troops forward just after this. He’d been ordered to put away his baton shortly before this (he wasn’t required to fill in the necessary baton report either). He only caught sight of Daithí again whilst he was supposedly resisting being arrested and he went to offer his assistance. Leo got this particular witness to agree that Gannon hadn’t given a proper lawful order under Section 8 of the Public Order Act on the two occasions he’d ordered the activists to leave the area.

The alleged prosecution rested…

It was getting very late in the day. Leo put it to the judge that there were a number of applications that he could make at this point, but he wanted to discuss these possibilities with his client to take instruction on whether he should make them at this point or proceed with the defence case. The judge saw no problem with this and a discussion commenced as to when the hearing should re-commence. There were only a few dates available where the judge’s schedule facilitated him being back in the Parkgate Court complex. This presented a problem for one of the defence witnesses, who would be out of the country at the time the hearing was to be concluded. The judge agreed to hear this witness prior to adjourning the case for the day. The witness was only due to give testimony on a defence exhibit and its provenance. He hadn’t been present at the Anglo protest.

Near the start of this piece, I spoke of a young activist who’d been beaten and arrested on the same day as the Anglo protest. We’d long since had his case thrown out of court, without him ever having to present the evidence he’d gathered to defend himself. He had a little surprise for the gardaí, the DPP and indeed, Judge McDonnell.

Robert Ševcik was called from the corridor and onto the stand. He said that he’d been at an anti-fur protest that day. He’d been arrested and conveyed to Pearse Stree garda station. The arresting officer had taken his audio recording device from him. This audio device has an interesting function. The little machine can be put in record mode and the red LED that normally denotes that recording is taking place can be switched off. On this occasion the LED was off and the device was recording. The arresting officer took the device with him into the heart of Pearse Street and recorded approximately 13 minutes of incredibly interesting and enlightening audio.

Mr Ševcik produced a DVD copy of the audio as evidence for the defence and it was given to the court clerk to put in the court’s safe until the re-commencement of the hearing.

McDonnell, before rising for the day, informed Leo that he might well need to Summons Gannon and he advised the barrister of the necessary precedents that he ought to study with regard to such a witness who might not like giving testimony for the defence and who couldn’t be led in cross-examination because he was a defence witness. No problemo! We all exited the court in exalted spirits.

On the 17th of June the case re-opened for its conclusion.

There were a number of things that strike me as suspicious, but they may well be coincidental and fully innocent. The judge informed the defence team, sometime prior to the case being re-commenced that he would not be in the court before 2.00pm. Nothing too suspicious about this, on its own. I arrived at the Parkgate complex well before 2.00pm. I was immediately approached by another activist who looked very worried. He told me that we were possibly in the wrong place. He’d approached reception and had been told that there were no cases at all being heard in Court 17 that day. I was very sure of the schedule and I went with him over to reception and gave the lady there the details of the case. She told me that all the cases scheduled for Court 17 were moved to Court 18. We thanked her and we went upstairs. Sure enough, Daithi’s case was listed for hearing in Court 18 and it was listed for hearing at 10.30am. The list was posted outside the the entrance to Court 18. I decided not to go in, I instead waited for Daithí and all of the others to arrive, so that I might clear up any confusion that might have arisen. It was just as well that I decided this as otherwise I would have ended up being the confused person.

Shortly before 2.00pm Daithí, his legal team, witnesses and supporters arrived. Immediately upon their arrival a person went over to Court 17 and unlocked the door to admit Leo. The case was being heard in 17 after all!

Any members of the press who ended up in Court 18 by mistake, well you missed the fireworks!

Some 20 minutes after the case was due to start and we were sure that Gannon wasn’t going to show, applying for a bench warrant would have been interesting, in he walked, smiling. He sat down at the back of the court. I couldn’t resist turning around and giving him a welcoming wink!

Five minutes after the arrival of Gannon the judge entered the courtroom. He had a face on him like someone who’d tried to eat a lump of shit and had decided that it wasn’t up to standard. This wasn’t going to be pretty.

Leo attempted to begin the defence. There were to be no applications at this point. The judge went mental! He accused Leo, wrongly, of having misled the Court. He claimed that Leo had agreed to make applications first and then if necessary, proceed with the defence case. He was quite wrong in this. Simple logic proves it. Leo could easily have asked Daithí on the last day if he wished to make applications. If Daithí had agreed, the applications would have taken minutes and there’d have been no need to put Rob on the Stand or summons Gannon. There were at least four applications that I could think of that would have seen this case winging its way into the nearest hole. The judge was hearing none of what Leo had to say on the matter. He demanded that Leo gather his instructing solicitor and his client, that they leave the courtroom, to discuss the very serious consequences of not making applications at this time. In other words, he threatened to pay no heed to applications made after the defence commenced. Leo, who maintained his composure and dignity throughout the exchange, pointed out to the judge that he was a barrister and that he was well within his rights to take instruction from his client, without having to summon the head solicitor of the legal firm representing Daithí. The judge amended his demand to a request. Daithí and his team left the courtroom.

When they re-entered the court and the Judge had once again seated himself, Leo informed him that he’d be presenting the defence as per the instructions of his client and that he’d make applications if and when he felt it necessary to do so. The implication being that if McDonnell refused to listen to the substance of these applications and instead threw them out because the defence wasn’t being presented as he’d dictated, well, that would be on his shoulders!

I should point out at this stage, that Daithí wanted the defence presented for a very good reason. He’s a well known activist, he’s a founding member of a controversial political party and he’s got lots of people who’d like nothing better than to crap all over his good name. Daithí wanted the full truth to come out and be exposed to the light of day in this case. Having the case tossed on a technicality would have facilitated the scumbags in their efforts. On the other hand, if the fullness of the garda actions was properly exposed, there’d be no way to attack his good name and character. On top of this, the protest itself was a very important one, with eyes at home and abroad watching what happened. For example, who did the gardaí gather all that video footage for, if not for evidence to be used in court! This case stank to high heaven and Daithí wanted it all out in the open.

Judge McDonnell, his bluff called, decided to shoot the case in the head himself. He said that he’d looked through his notes and could find no mention of when the gardaí had told Daithí what they’d arrested him for. He demanded that the DPP look through her notes to confirm this. She looked and could provide no example. But she did argue and I agree with her, in my non legal expert way, that this was irrelevant as the prosecution had not attempted to produce any evidence that arose after the arrest. The judge was having none of it. Case dismissed!

Next the judge accused Leo of impropriety in presenting the defence. He announced that the barrister was pursuing the defence for “collateral” purposes. He did this without hearing a single word of the defence. After all, it should be remembered that Rob had not given any testimony as to what happened outside the Anglo Irish Bank. What an absolute load of horseshit! If vindicating the character of an innocent man is collateral to the court’s function, one can only wonder as to the judge’s purpose in the first instance!

Next, the judge did something, that in my opinion should see him torn from the bench and stripped of all authority. He held aloft the audio DVD that Rob had provided and told a relieved looking Garda O’Brien to return it to its owner. He did this despite Leo telling him that this audio was to be used in at least another 2 cases and that the gardaí had no copy of it or inkling as to what was on it. McDonnell was having none of it, his simian like brow was deeply creased and his lips turned fully down, indicating that he was in full tantrum mode. It was handed over to O’Brien, who took it and promised to deliver it to its owner – he didn’t even enquire as to the owner’s details. This audio will be used in the appeals of John McCusker and Pádraig Ó Meiscill and no judge of the Circuit Court, a higher authority than McDonnell, has ordered that this evidence be given to the gardaí.

When McDonnell first came into the courtroom that day on his rampage, denying Daithí a hearing where the full truth came out, I was reminded of Robert Emmet and his famous “Speech From the Dock.” It is fitting that I end this by quoting from it:

My lords, it may be a part of the system of angry justice, to bow a man’s mind by humiliation to the purposed ignominy of the scaffold; but worse to me than the purposed shame, or the scaffold’s terrors, would be the shame of such unfounded imputations as have been laid against me in this court: you, my lord [Lord Norbury], are a judge. I am the supposed culprit; I am a man, you are a man also; by a revolution of power, we might change places, though we never could change characters; if I stand at the bar of this court and dare not vindicate my character, what a farce is your justice? If I stand at this bar and dare not vindicate my character. How dare you calumniate it?

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