SUCCESSFUL APPEAL Corrib protestor Jerrie Ann Sullivan.?Pic: Alan Betson/THE IRISH TIMES
Corrib protester has convictions struck out
Woman at the centre of the Garda ‘rape tape’ controversy had public order convictions overturned on appeal
One of the women who was at the centre of the Garda ‘rape tape’ controversy last week had two convictions relating to a Shell to Sea protest struck out on appeal.
Jerrie Ann Sullivan, with a current address of Inver, Barnatra, Co Mayo appealed to Ballina Circuit Court two Public Order convictions arising out of a Corrib gas protest on January 10 last.
After submissions from her barrister, Leo Mulrooney, that the convictions could restrict Ms Sullivan’s future access to a number of visa-restricted countries such as the USA, Judge Raymond Groarke struck out the charges - but only after Ms Sullivan accepted that what she had done was unlawful.
Sergeant Aidan Gill gave evidence to the court of the two breaches of the Public Order Act at Ballygally South, Glenamoy, Ballina on January 10 last. They were for wilful obstruction and failing to comply with the directions of a garda.
Sergeant Gill told the court that, after a number of protesters had obstructed a truck carrying a teleporter to the Corrib gas terminal at Bellanaboy, Ms Sullivan climbed onto the teleporter and attached herself to the arm of it by locking a bicycle ‘D’ lock around her neck and onto the machine.
He added that she was in ‘great danger’ and could have hung herself if she slipped. The lock was broken using power tools and the public road was blocked for three and a half hours, he said.
Ms Sullivan’s barrister, Leo Mulrooney, read out a host of Ms Sullivan’s academic achievements - she is currently a PhD student at NUI Maynooth - and detailed her charitable work. He told the court that Ms Sullivan had achieved 580 points in her Leaving Certificate, had received a first class honours degree and had received numerous academic scholarships.
He added that, aside from her academic gifts, Ms Sullivan has shown plenty of altruism in working with ‘homework’ clubs and working with elderly people. She had, he added, taken a year out after her Leaving Cert. to spend six months working in Galway with the Simon Community and six months working with young people with special needs in Russia.
While she was an undergraduate student in UCD, Ms Sullivan worked with the New Era programme which helped secondary school students from underprivileged backgrounds.
He handed into the court three references for Ms Sullivan and he asked Judge Groarke to strike out the charges as it would affect her future prospects.
However, in response to questions from State Solicitor for Mayo, Vincent Deane, Ms Sullivan refused to accept what she did was wrong and said she wasn’t sorry for what she did.
Judge Groarke said that while he was sympathetic to her plight and acknowledged her ‘bright future’, his hands were tied if Ms Sullivan refused to accept that what she did was wrong.
After a brief adjournment Ms Sullivan, through her counsel, Mr Mulrooney, apologised to road users, Gardaí and the court for taking up their time. She added, through Mr Mulrooney, that she thought what she did could be morally and legally justified at the time but now accepts it was unlawful and gave an undertaking to not unlawfully obstruct the works of Shell E&P Ireland.
Judge Groarke said that while Ms Sullivan had thought at the time her actions were legally and morally justified, he said that she now accepts that they were criminal and wrong but she wasn’t reneging on her principles by doing this. He said he had no issue with protests taking place so long as they remained within the law.
“Those who step over the line must face the consequences,” he said. He added that Gardaí are ‘doing an impossible task’ in policing these protests and that he was ‘very anxious’ he wouldn’t set a precedent by striking out these charges. He said he accepted that Ms Sullivan’s motivations were for a ‘principled protest’ but said that he wasn’t setting a precedent and issued a warning that anyone coming before him in the future on such charges won’t be looked upon so sympathetically.
Judge Groarke struck out the charges on the condition that Ms Sullivan donate €500 to the Mayo-Roscommon Hospice.
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