Daily Report on Trial of Dan Dowling and Edward Horgan

  • Posted on: 11 January 2023
  • By: shannonwatch

Over the course of the trial of peace activists Edward Horgan and Dan Dowling we will provide daily updates here. We encourage anyone who can attend in support to go to the court. 

See our pre-trial press release here.

Day 10: Jan 25th

Today the two peace activists, Edward Horgan and Dan Dowling, were acquitted on the charge of criminal damage.

The Jury of eight men and four women accepted their arguments that they acted with lawful excuse. In addition, Judge Martina Baxter gave the defendants the benefit of the Probation Act on the charge of trespass, on condition that they agree to be obund to the peace for 12 months and make a significant donation to a Co. Clare charity.

Both said they have no problem being “bound to the peace” and making the contribution to charity.

Day 9: Jan 24rd

Judge Martina Baxter spent most of the morning continuing to sum up for the jury and giving them legal advice and clarification.

In the afternoon the jury were sent out to the jury room to consider their verdict. They came back for some clarifications, including on the issue of lawful excuse for criminal damage. At 4pm, they asked to be allowed go home for the night, and the judge agreed. Case resumes at 10.30am tomorrow morning (Wednesday) with further jury deliberation. 

As one of the defendants put it, "after nearly 6 years, whats another day?"

Day 8: Jan 23rd

Today it was the turn of the defendants to give evidence. Edward Horgan was in the witness box for about one and half hours between giving evidence and being cross examined by the prosecution (barrister was Jane McCudeen).

In the afternoon the prosecution gave her summing up (closing statement), followed by Dan Dowling's closing statement and then Edward Horgan's closing statement. Judge Martina Baxter then began her summing up and her directions to the jury, but needed to take a break. She indicated that her summing up still had about 45 minutes to complete so she decided to send the jury home until 11am tomorrow.

Judge Baxter will continue briefing the jury tomorrow morning  and they are likely to retire to consider their verdict tomorrow afternoon. This may be delivered before the end of the day but it could take until Wednesday before there is a verdict. 

Day 7: Jan 20th

Day 7 at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court was spent on the Defence applications to have the cases against them dismissed on a variety of grounds including: coaching or collaborating of prosecution witnesses, issues concerning the legality of the Aid to the Civil Power regulations, legislation under which the Irish Defence Forces Personnel and members of an Garda Siochana were operation at Shannon Airport on 25th April 2017, unjustified handcuffing of defendants during and after arrest, undue delay of five years and nine months in bringing case to trial, failure to prove ownership and details of any alleged damage of the US Navy aircraft involved, failure of prosecution to prove that defendants were trespassing, failure of prosecution to produce pilot of the US Navy aircraft who was included in the book of evidence, and failure to prove that the US Navy aircraft that was at Shannon Airport on 25th April 2017 had permission to be at Shannon Airport due to its being on a military operation or military exercise. The prosecution argued against these applications and Judge Baxter eventually ruled against the defence applications.

The trial will continue with the jury on Monday 23rd January at 10.30 am. At that point the defendants will have the option of calling witnesses in their defence, if they wish to do so. If they do, the prosecution will be able to cross examine these witnesses. If defence witnesses are not called the defence will be able to make closing statements but the prosecution will not be allowed to make a closing statement, and the Judge will give a simming of the case and give directions or explanations to the Jury. If defence witnesses do give evidence then the prosecution does get to give a closing statement and this prosecution closing statement will come after the defence closing statements. 

Looks like it's all still in the lap of the Gods, or lap of the jury. 

Day 6: Jan 19th

Case began just after 11am – delays again due to Judge Baxter being busy with other cases. First prosecution witness of the day was Garda Brian Jackman whose evidence was long but not controversial. He was the Member in Charge at Shannon Garda Station on the night of the incident on 25th April 2007 so he was involved in processing the two defendants from when they arrived at Shannon Garda Station and in filling out loads of forms like custody records and ensuring that the prisoners were being properly dealt with.

Due to delays in bring the case to its present hearing, several witnesses are having difficulty in recalling the exact events. It's worth noting that all Gardai are issued with Garda notebooks, but during this case it appears that only some diligent Gardai were using theirs. Garda Jackman’s reporting on the events was quite good, but he was unable to recall the exact details of one issue.

The next witness was Garda Brown who had participated in interviewing Dan Dowling and there were defence questions on the appropriateness of the questioning process. This was followed by Garda Sergeant Denis Lavin who was cross-examined by defendant Edward Horgan on items in his statements which may have varied from evidence presented by another Garda witness, Questions also arose on the use or not use of his Garda notebook. The next Garda witness was retired Superintendent Brendan McDonagh who was cross-examined by the defendants on various matters including his approval of the extension of the custody period for a further six hours, and his understanding of the process surrounding the use of Irish Defence Forces armed personnel in Aid To The Civil Power security operations. He was unable to provide clear answers to some of the questions.

The final witness of the day was Marie Ryan who was the airport Duty Manager on the night in question. She was cross examined by both defendants on important issues of safety and dangers at Shannon Airport. A key issue with this witness was whether Taxiway 11, where she and virtually all of the Garda witnesses said that the alleged graffiti writing incident on 25th April 2017 occurred – whether this was a Taxiway at all, and if it was, whether two US Navy aircraft should have been parked there.

Marie Ryan’s evidence and cross-examination concluded the Prosecution case .

The defence now have a number of options including whether to make applications for dismissal for various legal reasons or based on whether the Prosecution has managed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. If this option is taken by the defence there will be legal arguments in the absence of the jury and this could take up a number of hours. Judge Baxter will then rule on any such applications, and this might result in a court adjournment until Monday. If no such defence applications are forthcoming, then the defence has to decide to call witnesses or alternatively to go for making closing statements.

Looks like tomorrow will be a day for big decision by the defendants!

Court resumes at 10am Friday, January 20th.

Day 5: Jan 18th

There is not much to report from trial day 5 due to a delayed start. This was because Judge Baxter was busy with other stuff, and just one witness, Det Sgt O'Hagan, was called by the Prosecution. In addition, a lot of time was spent trying to view videos of the defendant interviews at Shannon Garda Station. The video recording system seemed to be malfunctioning. There were also some long  him and legal challenges. 

Day 4: Jan 17th

Irish Defence Forces Private Purtill was the first prosecution witness today.  He was one of the three armed soldiers who were guarding two US Navy aircraft at Shannon Airport on 25th April 2017 when the alleged graffiti writing on one of the aircraft occurred. No one seems to know yet how the two peace activists managed to get right up to the closely guarded aircraft without been spotted.

Issues raised by defence cross-examination included the similarity between the statements by Private Purtil and Army Sergeant Mulvane. Private Purtil also confirmed on cross-examination that Edward Horgan was handcuffed at the airport, but he did not know the name of the Garda who applied the handcuffs.

Next prosecution witness was Garda Carmel O’Malley. She was the Garda member in charge of the combined Army / Garda security detachment. Under the Aid To The Civil Power regulations the Garda with such a detachment is in charge as the representative of the civil authority, as the role of the army is to assist this civil authority. She was also cross-examined by defence on the issue of handcuffing, and she confirmed that she had handcuffed Dan Dowling and one of her male colleagues handcuffed Edward Horgan. Garda O’Mallley also confirmed that she had formally arrested both defendants at Shannon Airport after they had first been detained by the army personnel. She then described their transport to Shannon Garda Station where they were processed by the Garda Member in Charge.

This handcuffing trail led to the next witness, Garda Gorman who was also the Exhibits Officer for this case. He arrived at Shannon Garda station after the incident had unfolded and when questioned by Defence admitted that Edward Horgan had been handcuffed but was not sure whether it was he or another Garda who had handcuffed him.

A number of prosecution witnesses are having trouble remembering details of the events of 25th April 2017 almost 6 years ago.

Garda Gorman also gave evidence on the list of exhibits. One item of interest was a 32 page document known as the Blue Folder. Edward Horgan had been carrying this folder with him when he entered the airport and when he was arrested he handed the folder to Garda Carmel O’Malley and asked her to retain it as evidence. The folder was entitled 'List of Children Killed in Middle East Wars', and contained the names of about 1,000 children. Garda O’Malley handed the folder back to Edward Horgan, and when he was transported to the Garda Station the folder found its way into the list of exhibits. We are likely to be hearing more about this folder.

The next Prosecution witness was Detective Sergeant Kevin O’Hagan who was the main investigating officer for this case. There was quite a bit of discussion on the map of the airport produced by Garda Walton from the mapping unit in Dublin. The boundary fence was also discussed as were the taxiways and runways, and these issues are likely to continue to be of importance.

Dan Dowling then began cross-examination of Detective Garda O’Hagan. Questions were asked about the thermal imaging camera that recorded some of the incident and was shown in the court last Friday. There were questions and some answers also on the markers that were found and whether any link was established between the markers found and the graffiti on the aircraft. No such link was found. Dan Dowling asked that an excerpt be played from the footage of the Detective Sergeant's interview with him. As it was now coming close to 4.30 it was decided to show this piece of the video tomorrow morning. Cross-examining of Detective Sergeant O’Hagan will continue then also.

The trial will continue on Wednesday 18th Jan at 11am.

Day 3: Jan 13th

The day moved slowly, beginning with discussion without jury on projected length of trial. it looks like next week will be moving slowly also; Judge Baxter has other commitments all day Monday so next week's sessions will only begin on Tuesday at 11.30 and the starting time for the remaining days of next week are also likely to begin at 11.30 also. With this schedule it is now likely that the case may not finish next week and drag on into the following week.

The proceedings saw Retired Army Sergeant David Mulvaney back on the witness stand, being cross examined by both defendants. The only video evidence available of the incident was a poor-quality thermal imaging CCTV video that the prosecution had decided not use in evidence. However, at the request of Edward Horgan this video was played in court today. In spite of its poor quality, it did demonstrate that the intruders had approached the so-called taxiway where the aircraft involved in the incident was parked from a northerly direction. It also raised other issues with regard to the incident itself.

There were some legal discussions with the judge in the absence of the jury on a number of issues, and Sergeant Mulvaney was questioned by defendant Edward Horgan on similarities between his written statements and those of his colleague Private Eric Purtill.

The next witness on the stand was Garda Enda Coughlan. Among other things he was acting as exhibits officer on the night of  the incident (25th April 2017), as well as being sent to Shannon Airport during the incident. He stated that he was called to the airport after the arrests of the defendants and drove Dan Dowling back to the station. The items taken from the defendants and logged that night were exhibited and shown one by one. In cross examination he was asked whether the defendants were handcuffed and whether this was normal. He said the thought they were, even though he was not clear about meeting the defendants at the airport. and that it was not unusual. He also did not seem to be clear about the function of a taxiway in an airport.

The trial will continue on Tuesday 17th Jan at 11.30.

Day 2: Jan 12th

Yesterday’s legal discussions concerned the failure of the prosecution to produce the pilot of the aircraft that was allegedly damaged, even though his statement of evidence was included in the book of evidence. This and other such matters with regard to the prosecution evidence are likely to be ongoing issues in this case. 

The defence case made further progress today at the Dublin Circuit Court with a number of witnesses for prosecution on the stand including a mapping expert from the section.

The maps he produced of Shannon Airport were not to the liking of the two defendants and they made this known in their cross-examinations. He was followed by another expert witness from the Garda crime scene unit at Ennis, Co Clare, who seemed to have been unable to establish the exact wording of the alleged graffiti that was on the alleged US Navy Aircraft at Shannon Airport on 25th April 2017. There seems to be some significant differences between prosecution witnesses as to whether the aircraft in question was US Navy, or US Air Force. Since it was just a normal looking Boeing 737 aircraft, like most of the Ryanair fleet, with no markings except the four numbers 5829 on its tail, the confusion is understandable.

The Irish Defence Forces Sergeant (now retired) who was in charge of the army detachment at Shannon on the night was the next witness. This is an important witness as his evidence and cross-examination took up quite a bit of time in the afternoon and some discussions in the absence of the jury. These discussions involved whether a Shannon Airport security thermal CCTV video should be played to the court including to this witness and to the jury. The prosecution had decided not to use this video for their side of the case presumably because they reckoned it would not benefit the prosecution case, and for the same reasons the defence were quiet keen to have the video played as it is likely to be advantageous to the defence.

After quite a bit of discussion Judge Martina Baxter ruled that the video should be played. This will most likely occur tomorrow morning. 

Day 1: Jan 11th

The case got off today at the Dublin Circuit Court with court president Judge Patricia Ryan empanelling a jury for the case after a large call over of other cases. Judge Martina Baxter was assigned to the preside over the case, in Court 21.

There were discussions in the absense of the jury on legal matters, which took up the rest of the afternoon.

The defendants, Dan and Edward, have told us that they are pleased so far with how things have gone. The court resumes in the morning (12th) at 10.30 in court 21.

Barrister Jane McCudden represents the prosecution.