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Judge removes himself after Corrib protesters object

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Judge removes himself after Corrib protesters object


A district court judge removed himself from hearing a case against two prominent protestors against the Corrib gas project after they objected to him hearing their case.
Eoin O Leidhin of Barrnacullen, Pullathomas and Terence Conway of Inver, Barnatra, were before Belmullet District Court on Wednesday last charged with trespassing causing fear in relation to an incident at Shell’s compound at Aughoose in June of last year.
A number of other individuals charged with violent disorder in relation to that incident elected to have their case heard before a jury at the Circuit Criminal Court.
As Mr O Leidhin had elected to have his case heard through Irish, an Irish speaking judge, Judge Victor Blake, and an Irish speaking prosecuting garda, Inspector Seán Glynn, travelled to Belmullet especially to hear the case.
Mr O Leidhin, representing himself, told the judge when his case came up that he would like Judge Blake to ‘withdraw’ from the case. He said Judge Blake had heard cases and charges against him in 2012 and while Judge Blake asked him at the time if he was happy with him hearing the case and he said, yes, this position had changed.
“I’m asking now that you might stand back from the case,” Mr O Leidhin’s interpreter told the court.
Terence Conway, also representing himself, said he had a similar application.
“Because of what happened in 2012 it’s my belief I could not get a fair hearing from you with all due respects to the court. I ask you to recuse yourself from my particular case,” said Mr Conway.
Judge Victor Blake said it was ‘an unusual application to bring at the twelfth hour’. Superintendent Joe McKenna echoed those thoughts and said Mr O Leidhin had previously said he wanted his case heard through Irish and that would have been the time to say he had an issue with Judge Blake.
Eoin O Leidhin said he apologised for this before Judge Blake said he would ‘like to reiterate to Terence Conway and Eoin O Leidhin’ that ‘you will get the fairest of hearings from me as I’ve always done according to my judicial oath’.
Superintendent Joe McKenna said there should have been ‘a bit more notice’ as Judge Blake and Inspector Glynn had come a long way for these cases and there was a cost to the state.
Judge Blake asked both men when did they decide to object.
Terence Conway said ‘when I was aware that you were Judge Blake’. Judge Blake rose and then heard another case before addressing this case, saying ‘cases I hear are always dealt with the utmost of impartiality’ and adding that this objection was at a ‘very, very late stage, costing the state an awful lot of money’ but said it was not appropriate for him to proceed in hearing the case.
The matters against Terence Conway and Eoin O Leidhin were put back to May 14 for mention to set a new hearing date.