Maura Harrington convicted of criminal damage and dangerous driving

Shell-to-Sea activist and retired schoolteacher Maura Harrington has been convicted of dangerous driving, criminal damage, and four public order offences in the district court.

Harrington, with an address in Doohoma, Ballina, received a two-year driving ban and was fined €600. She was also ordered to pay compensation amounting to €776 for damage caused to a Garda vehicle.

Harrington was not present for the hearing in Belmullet District Court in front of Judge Denis McLoughlin on Wednesday.

She previously submitted a document to court stating she would not participate in the proceedings against her until an independent, international, panel reports on policing surrounding the gas project in north Mayo.

Solictor for Harrington, Alan Gannon, said she was also experiencing health difficulties.

Judge McLoughlin heard from numerous Garda witnesses about an incident on August 1, 2012, when Harrington blocked the path of a crane driver at Bellanaboy bridge by parking her Peugeot van in the middle of the road.

Protestors were also present at the time and some climbed onto the crane. The situation was described by gardaí as quite “volatile”.

Harrington ignored Garda requests to remove her vehicle.

The incident lasted a number of hours and Harrington’s van was eventually towed away from the scene.

She was charged with two public order offences for causing an obstruction and for failing to comply with the directions of gardaí.

Two days later, on August 3, 2012, Harrington was found to have sped through a Garda checkpoint at 5am, close to the main Corrib gas terminal, forcing gardaí at the scene to leap out of the path of her van.

Fifteen minutes later, on the same morning, she parked at the main gate of the Corrib Gas Terminal. She was asked to leave the area, however she refused to engage or communicate with gardaí.

A situation developed where Harrington was parked with one Garda vehicle in front and one behind. She began driving forwards and backwards, hitting both the vehicle in front and the vehicle behind repeatedly.

Gardaí made efforts to tow Harrington’s vehicle away but she began ramming the back of the Garda vehicle, a Toyota Landcruiser.

Eventually, after a number of warnings to cease this behaviour, gardaí smashed the rear window of the van and took Harrington from the vehicle.

She was taken to Belmullet Garda Station.

Judge McLoughlin said he was satisfied the State had proven all charges.

Harrington has 13 previous convictions – eight under the Public Order Act, three under the Road Traffic Act, one for assault, and one for criminal damage.

For causing an obstruction on August 1, 2012, Judge McLoughlin fined Harrington €300 and imposed a two-year driving ban as she used a vehicle to cause said obstruction.

The judge imposed a second two-year driving ban for the dangerous driving incident and fined Harrington another €300.

In relation to criminally damaging the Garda Toyota Landcruiser during the second towing incident on August 3, Harrington was ordered to pay €776 compensation.

All other charges were taken into consideration.

Harrington was given six months to pay the fines and the driving disqualification will commence on June 1, 2014.

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