Retired school principal and prolific Shell to Sea activist, Maura Harrington, Tullyaghanbawn, Geesala, Belmullet, was sentenced to 28 days in jail and recommended to undergo psychiatric assessment, by Judge Mary Devins at Belmullet District Court on Wednesday, after Harrington was convicted of a section two assault on retired garda Eamon Berry on June 11 2007 during a protest at Pullathomas Pier. The defendant, who was also bound to the peace for 12 months for a public offence on a different date, failed to sign the bond. Due to her contempt of court Harrington was sentenced to jail a further two days concurrent.
Outside Mountjoy Prison last night, a barrage of Shell to Sea protesters gathered to await the arrival of Harrington, who was greeted with cheers of support.
The section two assault on Garda Berry occurred when the garda was manning a protest at the pier and Harrington walked up to him without any provocation, slapped him across the fact and walked away.
Judge Devins said she would like to “express the horror” of the court with what was heard and witnessed by an attack on a member of An Garda Síochána “by one public servant of the State on another”. The judge said that for one public servant to “humiliate another” by slapping him across the face is “utterly and totally despicable” and showed “utter contempt”.
The judge added that she was less than inclined to believe in Harrington’s passion about her cause having witnessed the enjoyment she got in the limelight and that her actions— described by one witness in another case as “giving a show”— came close to that.
The judge convicted and fined Harrington €1,000, ordered that €1,000 to be donated to the Garda Benevolent Fund, and requested a psychiatric assessment for Harrington as her “actions were so bizarre”. Recognisances were fixed.
Bound to the peace
Harrington, who has previous public order convictions, was also convicted and fined €500 and bound to the peace for 12 months for threatening and abusive behaviour when President Mary McAleese officially opened the arts centre in the Belmullet Civic Centre on April 21 2007.
The case, which was previously heard, outlined how Harrington moved “determinedly towards the President” before being ejected by Sergeant Dermot Butler, who claims he was kicked in the shins as Ms Harrington struggled violently.
Her brother, Sean Harrington, Toorglass, Belmullet, was also convicted and fined €250 for the same public order offence after he got involved in the altercation when he saw his sister being removed from the premises. The obstruction of gardaí charges against both defendants’ were taken into consideration.
Flung mud at gardaí
Public order charges against Harrington for threatening and abusive behaviour on a public main road at Barr na Coilleadh on June 11 at 7.30pm — where video footage showed Harrington throwing clumps of mud at Superintendent Joe Gannon, Sergeant James Gill, and Sergeant Martin Murphy, before Harrington tried to wipe her hands on Garda Myles Burke and Detective Garda Noel Brett — were struck out by Judge Devins as the prosecution gave unsatisfactory evidence of the public nature of the location.
Careless driving conviction
Harrington was also convicted and fined €200 for careless driving during a slow protest in front of Roadbridge lorries in Glencullen, Bangor, on May 30 2007, where Harrington in her van completed a three point turn on a bend of a road which caused the lorry behind to break hard and suddenly.
New assault charges
A new case against Harrington was also part heard at Wednesday’s sitting. Three witnesses — security personnel from IRMS who were working at a site in Glengad — outlined that on June 19 2008 at 12.50am, Harrington climbed over the gate of the private property, was shouting at the Polish men asking them what nationality they were; went into the security cabin where she removed a log book and threw it away; tried to remove a camera from one of the security men who was filming the incident; before, according to Mr Bogdan Wasniak, “she kicked me in the groin”. The two other witnesses also told the court that they saw Harrington kick the man.
Evidence was also heard that Harrington then tried to smash the window of a car parked in the yard with a block but failed.
Harrington was described by Mr Wasniak as being “very aggressive”, with Mr Gregors Yeankowsi and Mr Bartish Saboska stating that she looked like “she was drunk”.
Defending solicitor Alan Gannon said that in Mr Wasniak’s statement he refers to three assaults: “She punched me in the shoulder and kicked me in the leg and groin,” yet in his direct evidence he only referred to one assault. Mr Gannon said to one of the witnesses: “This little lady picked up a concrete block” and “climbed over a four foot gate in a skirt,” and also kicked one of the men. Mr Gannon also noted that none of the security men was wearing any ID when Harrington approached them. The case will resume on April 8 at 10am in Belmullet District Court, where Mr Gannon is seeking direction.