Leah Doherty, Cootehall, Boyle, Co Roscommon was convicted and fined €150 each on two charges of assault at The Bush Hotel, Carrick-on-Shannon on July 3, 2019.
CCTV footage of the incident from the Bush Hotel was not admitted into court after the defence asked if there was anyone from the hotel to give evidence and the State said there was not.
Rowan Croft told the court he was conducting an interview with Niall McConnell for a live broadcast when the assault happened. He said he had “no previous interaction” with the defendant and the assault left him in shock and distress.
He said a “substance” was thrown in his face and he was unsure what the liquid was but it did sting his eyes. He later attended an eye and ear hospital for medical attention.
He said he followed the defendant down the street and continued filming. He later said he did have “interactions'' with the defendant in Rooskey. He stated that he saw Leah Doherty throw the liquid at him. Following the assault he commented he was in “fear of another attack.”
Under cross examination by defence solicitor Mr Finucane, Mr Croft said he understood the milkshake was thrown as a “protest.” When asked why he was in Carrick-on-Shannon, Mr Croft said he was there to cover a meeting of parishioners about the “influx of asylum seekers.” The solicitor put it to Mr Croft that his views were opposed to Ms Doherty's, but Mr Croft did not agree.
Niall McConnell said he was taking part in a live stream with Rowan Croft when liquid was thrown on both of them.
“I didn’t know how to react,” he stated. He said his first reaction was to ask “Is this acid?”
He said he saw Leah Doherty, but he didn’t know her at the time. Mr McConnell didn’t get any medical assistance. Mr McConnell called himself a “political activist” and said he was attending the local meeting about asylum seekers because “I love my country.”
He agreed he followed Ms Doherty down the street after the incident and confirmed he called Ms Doherty a “traitor to her country.”
Simon Hayes who witnessed the assaults said he saw Leah Doherty in the Bush Hotel on his way to meet Rowan Croft. He witnessed the defendant and at least one other person walk onto the balcony and throw a liquid at the two men. Mr Hayes called the gardai and did not follow the men onto the street.
Mr Hayes said he recognised Ms Doherty from United Against Racism protests.
Mr Finucane queried Mr Haye’s opinion on direct provision and immigration. Mr Hayes said he was opposed to mass immigration. Mr Hayes was unsure if he had identified Ms Doherty to the injured parties following the assault but after being told it was in his statement to Gardai, confirmed that to be true.
Garda Sinead McHale who was called to the incident said both men declined an ambulance. She said the men returned to their live stream and did not give statements to gardai on the day. She said Ms Doherty was asked to make a statement on a later date but refused to do so on legal advice.
Mr Finucane put it to the garda that Ms Doherty was not asked to take part in an identity parade. Gda McHale confirmed this. The Garda said the live stream video by Rowan Croft was not submitted to Gardai for evidence.
Mr Finucane said he believed “standard proof” had not been reached and said Mr Hayes was an “unreliable witness.” Judge Denis McLoughlin refused the defence’s application for an acquittal and said Mr Hayes had fully explained how he recognised the defendant.
Leah Doherty told the court she had heard that Gemma Doherty was attending a local meeting in Carrick-on-Shannon on the above date. It was later cancelled. Ms Doherty said she knew Rowan Croft as a “far right activist.” She did not know Niall McConnell or Simon Hayes.
Ms Doherty said throwing the milkshake was a “spur of the moment” idea, before going on to explain the concoction was made up of leftover milkshake, water and a teaspoon of curry powder. She said she decided to “disrupt his live stream.” After the incident, she said she was followed by Mr Croft and Mr McConnell who were “extremely aggressive.”
She explained her intention was to “expose the far right” and she called it an “act of protest.” She added that she didn’t intend to injure. She said she understood the risk that they may “go running off to Gardai.”
Inspector Michael Collins put it to Ms Doherty that it was “not a spur of the moment if she looked at the risks.” Ms Doherty confirmed the idea started in Supermacs and then agreed it was “pre-planned.”
He asked why she put a spoon of curry into the milkshake. The defendant said it was an “insider joke” and referred to Gemma Doherty saying “she hated the smell of curry around Longford.”
Ms Doherty said the injured party was “inciting hate” and her action “was a far lesser evil.” She told the court she had “totally aimed at Rowan Croft.”
Mr Finucane asked for the assault case against Niall McConnell to be dismissed.
Judge McLoughlin refused this and convicted Ms Doherty on both counts.
He accepted there was “a political undertone.” But said he takes an oath as judge to rule “without fear or favour” and to uphold the constitution.
“A person cannot use another’s belief as reason for assault,” he informed the defendant.
He ruled as above and fixed recognisances in case of an appeal.
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.