TDs defend airport security breach
Independent TDs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace have told a court they had no option but to breach security in an attempt to inspect US war planes at Shannon Airport.
In evidence at their trial at Ennis District Court, the pair claimed they felt a duty to try and search military aircraft on the runway in July last year after repeatedly failing to get information from Government.
Developer-turned-politician Mr Wallace told the court that breaching the perimeter fence was illegal but that he did not think he broke the law.
"I do not think that we broke the law getting over the fence," he told the court.
Mr Wallace said he felt there was an extra burden on him to act in relation to US mili tary inspections at Shannon because he had been elected in 2011.
The Wexford TD was arrested along with fellow Independent Ms Daly after they made it on to a grass verge next to an area known as taxiway 11.
A US military Hercules C-130 was parked off a main runway at the time, along with another military plane.
The TDs, Mr Wallace, of Clontarf Road, Dublin, and Ms Daly, 46, of Elmwood Drive, Swords, north Dublin, were charged with unlawfully entering a restricted zone at Shannon Airport.
At the end of the hearing Gareth Noble, solicitor for Ms Daly, made a number of submissions to the court including that the TDs had a right to protest.
"There's absolutely no evidence before this court that this was not a peaceful protest, that it put the safety of the public at risk, that it was not of modest duration and does not interfere substantially with the rights of others," Mr Noble said.
The lawyer said the regime governing US military at Shannon was anti-democratic and unaccountable.
"A lot has been made about getting off the fence or over the fence - we are in effect a fence sitting country," Mr Noble said.
"Mr Wallace and Ms Daly got off the fence in doing what they did in July 2014."
Judge Patrick Durcan reserved his ruling and the case is listed before the court again on April 15.
The court also heard evidence from an airport worker who claimed he saw M16 and M60 rifles along with handguns when charter aircraft used by the US military to transport troops landed at Shannon.
The Shannonwatch group, which opposes the use of the airport by US military, also claimed numerous requests for gardai to carry out inspections have been ignored or refused over several years.
In her evidence, Ms Daly told the court she felt she would have been "negligent as a human being" if she had not attempted to personally inspect the Hercules C-130 on the runway.
"We had no choice. We had a responsibility," Ms Daly said.
Mr Wallace related his actions at Shannon to the Nuremberg principles created for war crimes trials after World War Two and insisted that he felt compelled to cross the fence.
"People have an obligation to break domestic law in order to protect justice and humanity," Mr Wallace said.
"The fact that we are legislators puts an extra burden on us, even more so than ordinary citizens."
A previous court hearing was told a rope ladder, about 12ft long with wooden slats for treads, was used by the TDs to scale the airport's perimeter fence.
In court, the two TDs were joined by a large number of supporters, including Margaretta D'Arcy who has served two jail sentences after refusing to sign a bond that she would not enter restricted zones at Shannon.
The TDs said they had gone to Shannon on the back of remarks from former justice minister Alan Shatter and former tanaiste Eamon Gilmore who urged them to "get the evidence" in relation to US military aircraft carrying weaponry through Shannon.
They have asked more than 100 parliamentary questions seeking information on US military planes and their cargo passing through Shannon.
"You wouldn't read it in The Beano," Mr Wallace said.
Ms Daly, also elected to the Dail in 2011, said: "We had spent three and a half years as Dail deputies seeking information to questions.
"We had decided to go down ourselves. We felt we had no other choice to get the information since no-one else we were asking would get us the information."
Ms Daly said she did not see her actions as criminal.
She told the court that she believes no US military aircraft has been searched at the airport.
"We have turned a blind eye on that and that's just not good enough," Ms Daly said.