Saturday 25 November 2017

Burton adviser denies contempt for crowd in 'f***ing dregs' remark

Karen O’Connell Pic Collins Courts
Karen O’Connell Pic Collins Courts

Former tanaiste Joan Burton's adviser has denied a comment she made about the Jobstown water charge protesters showed she was "contemptuous" of them.

Karen O'Connell admitted she used the words "f***ing dregs" in the back of the car in which she was allegedly falsely imprisoned with Ms Burton.

However, she insisted "dregs" was not an insult and only meant the end of the protest.

She also denied she "exaggerated" how fearful she was during the water protest.

Ms O'Connell was being cross-examined at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court during the trial of Solidarity TD Paul Murphy (34), south Dublin councillors Michael Murphy (53) and Kieran Mahon (39), and four other men, who all deny falsely imprisoning her and former tanaiste Ms Burton.


The pair were stuck in a car at Fortunestown Road, Jobstown, Tallaght, on November 15, 2014, after attending an adult education graduation ceremony.

Ms O'Connell admitted to Padraig Dwyer, counsel for one of the accused, Frank Donaghy (71), that she was heard on video laughing in the back of the car but said this was a "human reaction" to a nervous, tense situation.

Ms O'Connell insisted she was "panicked", crying and "petrified" during the protest.

She also said she saw a distinct difference between Shell to Sea protests, in which vehicles were stopped from entering construction sites, and the Jobstown protest, when she was "held against her will".

Ms O'Connell said she had been involved in Shell to Sea protests and supported the peaceful elements of a campaign that involved many different organisations. She said those protests never deprived anybody of their liberty.

Mr Dwyer put it to Ms O'Connell that her evidence about being "petrified" in the car was "exaggerated".

He played back video clips, which he said portrayed a "relaxed, jovial atmosphere" and one of "boredom".

After the first clip, from Ms O'Connell's own phone, he put it to her that a man was seen beginning to record her "in response" to her filming.


Footage taken on Ms Burton's phone was then played and Mr Dwyer said the atmosphere in it appeared to be calm.

When a suggestion was made about moving the car back, both Ms O'Connell and Ms Burton were heard laughing and Ms Burton said "you must be joking".

"This always happens at the end of the protest, the f***ing dregs decide not to finish it," Ms O'Connell was heard saying on the video.

This was the point at which it had been agreed that the car would be "slow marched" out of Tallaght.

Mr Dwyer said the Labour Party "claims to represent" the unemployed, marginalised and weaker members of society. He asked Ms O'Connell what her definition of "dregs" was.

She said she was embarrassed by her language, which had been "awful", and it was near the end of a three-and-a-half-hour ordeal.

However, she understood the word "dregs" to mean the end of something, such as the dregs of a drink or a cigarette.

"I was very, very fearful and I was very upset at that time," she said.

"You were relaxed and rather contemptuous of the people who were slow walking the vehicle," Mr Dwyer said, adding only this could have been her motivation in using the word.

"That is your opinion," Ms O'Connell replied.

The trial continues on Monday before a jury and Judge Melanie Greally.

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