A SHELL to Sea protester who jumped up on a machine was told her actions were ‘anti-democratic’ and suggested a lack of tolerance according to a district court judge.
Judge Conal Gibbons made the comments at last week’s sitting of Belmullet District Court after hearing that 22-year-old Erris O’Regan jumped on a digger which had stopped in traffic at Glenturkmore, Bangor Erris on July 13 last.
The court heard that protesters had stopped a lorry and Ms O’Regan of The Roundhouse, Carroounagool, Tubber, Co Clare climbed on the arm of a digger which was on a low-loader. She climbed down off the digger when told to by gardaí.
After hearing the evidence, Judge Gibbons described her actions as extraordinary and asked what possessed her to go up on the digger. He said people had the right to protest but did not have the right to interfere with the rights of others. He said her actions were misguided and her actions put her own life in danger.
Ms Cathy McDarby, solicitor for Ms Reagan said her client’s actions were a spur of the moment thing and she got down off the digger when told to by the gardaí. She said she was a third year Art and Design student in GMIT and was involved in volunteer work including working with refugees in India.
Ms McDarby said her client hoped to travel and continue to work as a volunteer with organisations and said a conviction would pose difficulties for her.
Judge Gibbons commented that she should have thought of that before jumping on the digger and that she could not do as she pleased. He said the type of action undermines democracy and the free society they live in.
Superintendent Pat Diskin said that Ms O’Regan received the benefit of the Probation Act in July 2011 for a protest. Judge Gibbons said it was worrying that 12 months after receiving the leniency of the court she engaged in an ‘act of silliness’. He said her actions revealed a ‘touch of intolerance’ and were ‘anti-democractic’, ‘unlawful’ and ‘ought not happen’.
Ms McDarby said her client was a smart woman and she would be a ‘loss to organisations’ who would not be able to take her on because of her conviction. Judge Gibbons said he had to strike a balance between the rights of the citizen and the public interest and fined Ms O’Regan €150.