human rights news & views

Irish peace activist’s conviction overturned

Mary Kelly, Irish peace activistOn 29 January 2003, Mary Kelly, a 50 year-old Irish nurse, climbed a fence in broad daylight at Shannon airport in the west of the Republic of Ireland and 'disarmed' a US Navy warplane with an axe.

"Fully aware of the consequences" — up to 10 years' imprisonment — the mother-of-four 'smashed' the plane's nose-cone and severed fuel lines, causing an estimated US$1 million worth of damage.

Five days later, 5 other nonviolent war resisters calling themselves the 'Pitstop Ploughshares' would further disabled the same aircraft, which would then be taken out of service and returned to Texas.

Even so, over 2 million armed US troops have since passed through Shannon airport on their way to and from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to human rights NGO Shannonwatch:

"US armed troops are still transiting through Shannon airport in 2011 at the rate of up to 500 soldiers each day."

The Pitstop 5 would have numerous court hearings and were ultimately acquitted by a jury in 2006.  But Kelly was not so lucky, waiting over 8 years for the resolution of her case.

Her first trial ended with a hung jury in July 2003, unable to agree whether Kelly was guilty of criminal damage.  Her plea: "I am not guilty as charged. I did what I have done with lawful excuse."

She explains:

"The law allows for people to act like I did.   Under the Criminal Damage Act, a person doing an action like I did shouldn’t be charged with criminal damage if [it] was to protect [themselves] or another or property."

A re-trial (in which Kelly defended herself) secured a conviction in October 2004, and she was given a 2-year suspended gaol sentence.

Mary Kelly in red, centre-front, surrounded by supporters outside the Dublin Court of Criminal Appeal on the day her aquittal in 2011Kelly, by now a law student, appealed the decision, and her appeal was heard in Dublin in July 2008.  However it has taken another two-and-a-half years for the appeal judges to issue their decision, finally handed down on 25 February 2011: her conviction was overturned.

In a media release, Kelly is said to be "very pleased" with the final outcome, emphasising that,

“The real crime here is the continuing use of Shannon Airport by the US military and the CIA, and the fact that the Irish government have prevented the search of these aircraft by the Gardai [Irish police] and continue to do so.”

No comments yet. Be the first.

Leave a reply

Subscribe to website updates by email