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Irish Times: Shell to Sea group activist fined 625 for public order offences in Galway

By: Ann Healy, Irish Times
Published: Dec 07, 2006

Shell to Sea group activist Maura Harrington was fined 625 yesterday for public order offences arising from a disturbance in Galway last April.

Harrington (54), a primary school principal, of Tullaghanbawn, Geesala, Ballina, Co Mayo, was convicted at Galway District Court of three breaches of the Public Order Act.

She is a prominent member of the campaign opposing the construction by Shell of a 200 million onshore gas terminal at Bellanaboy in Co Mayo.

She denied she was intoxicated and a danger to herself and others at TI Neachtain, a pub at Cross Street, Galway, on April 21st last, contrary to Section 4 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994.

She pleaded guilty to refusing to provide her name and address to Garda Ivan Cunnane on the same date, contrary to Section 24 of the same Act, and to refusing to leave the area when directed to do so by Garda Cunnane, contrary to Section 8 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994.

In evidence, Ms Harrington admitted she had been “annoyed, contrary and petulant” on the night with Garda Cunnane and said she became so when a band playing in the pub refused to play a brace of reels for her.

“I’m refuting the evidence that I was drunk and a danger to myself and others that night,” she said.

Both gardaI, as well as TI Neachtain pub manager Haldane Briggs, gave evidence that Ms Harrington was very intoxicated on the night in question.

Mr Briggs said he asked her to leave after a member of staff told him she was annoying the band. She agreed to leave the pub but returned a short time later and refused to leave when asked to so again. He called the Garda and evidence was heard that Ms Harrington refused to co-operate in any way with Garda Cunnane, who directed her to leave the premises.

After hearing lengthy submissions from Tomas MacHale, solicitor for Ms Harrington, Judge Mary Fahy said the evidence was weighted against the accused and she convicted her of all three charges.

The judge said Ms Harrington worked in a position of authority and she should have given her name and address to the gardaI .

She fined the accused 125, the maximum penalty for being drunk and a danger to herself and others. She fined her 200 for refusing to obey Garda Cunnane’s directions to leave the pub and 300 for breaching the peace. Ms Harrington was also ordered to pay 100 witnesses’ expenses to Mr Briggs. Leave to appeal the convictions was granted.

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