A woman who mounted a campaign of harassment against former Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien and a woman working in the community in Cork created a false online profile as Jeremy Corbyn falsely stating that he was the accused woman’s father.
43-year-old Sonya Egan, of The Lawn, Lios Cara, Killeens, County Cork, faces sentencing for harassing Mr O'Brien and Laura O’Connell at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
Egan first made contact with Jonathan O’Brien in April/May 2017 when he was a Sinn Féin TD and outlined certain problems, and he advised her and offered her moral support. She joined Sinn Féin locally.
“In December 2018 she began sending him suggestive comments that made him uneasy. She claimed she had feelings for him that were beyond friendship,” Sgt John Sheehy said.
The TD began to receive numerous emails and phone messages from her and emails from fake accounts which she set up, including one purporting to be Jeremy Corbyn, then leader of the British Labour Party, where it was falsely claimed – in Mr Corbyn’s name – that he was Sonya Egan’s father.
She complained to Mr O’Brien and to his colleagues in Sinn Féin that he had betrayed her trust, bullied her and driven her to the point of being suicidal.
She made reference to an incident in the hospital bedroom where his mother was terminally ill and he did not know how she could have had that specific information.
“He believes that Sonya Egan contacted him using over 20 different profiles. She claimed to be a personal friend of his deceased father who died seven years earlier.
“Phone records show that Sonya Egan contacted Jonathan O’Brien in the form of calls and messages over 5,500 times in a six-month period.
“She turned up at his place of work in Leinster House, demanding to speak to him,” Sgt Sheehy said.
She falsely claimed that when pregnant she lost the baby due to him bullying her, the sergeant said, adding that Egan made this allegation public online.
When he made a formal complaint to gardaí of harassment she sent him pictures of a rat and publicly posted, “You don’t rat on a republican.”
“A discipline enquiry was carried out by the local branch of Sinn Féin. In this meeting, Sonya Egan gave an undertaking to desist from her actions and stop contacting Jonathan O’Brien. She failed to desist,” Sgt Sheehy said.
Mr O’Brien did not want his victim impact statement read in court but asked for it to be given directly to the judge.
When Laura O’Connell met Sonya Egan on October 23 2018 at a community meeting the defendant claimed she was a barrister and even met Ms O’Connell for coffee on Washington Street wearing a white collar and barrister’s gown. However, Egan went on to claim that Ms O’Connell breached her trust and she began to harass her by bombarding her with emails and Facebook communications about her.
Similar to the harassment of Jonathan O’Brien, Sonya Egan publicly claimed on Facebook that she was going to commit suicide due to alleged bullying. When Laura O’Connell contacted Sinn Féin after becoming aware of the other harassment of Mr O’Brien, Egan began to harass her more intensively.
Both victims got a civil court order preventing further harassment by Egan or any contact or the uttering of any defamatory comments, but as soon as they secured the court orders, she began issuing them with circuit court and high court summonses.
While Sonya Egan pleaded guilty to harassing Mr O’Brien and Ms O’Connell, in February this year, two days later she wrote to An Taoiseach, the Minister for Justice and the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána, stating that while she did plead guilty she did not actually commit the harassment and only admitted it in order to protect an unnamed person.
Anthony Sammon, defence senior counsel said, the accused had written a letter to the court, in which she stated, “Upon reflection I am incredibly sorry for my behaviour. In no way does any past experience justify my offending. I did not realise the extent of my behaviour until it got out of control.
Judge Helen Boyle adjourned sentencing until June 27.
One of the victims of harassment by Sonya Egan said her life has never been the same since the day the accused “made a beeline” for her at a community meeting more than four years ago.
Laura O’Connell said, “She has mentally broken me, set me back in my health, impoverished me to the point where I now have to engage with insolvency services and defend an execution order for the exorbitant legal bill I now have to try and pay.
“Today I am too unwell to work because of Sonya Egan’s behaviour. Four years later, I am now but a shadow of myself. At 43, I am a broken woman and on my knees because of Sonya Egan.
“She has put an end to all my voluntary work in the local community and further afield as she just turns up everywhere.
“Sonya Egan poses as several trustworthy professions to vulnerable people. She is a menace to society and one that I was not and am not protected from.
“How is society being protected from Sonya Egan? A person who takes no heed of undertakings to gardaí, injunctions or bail conditions. She has never shown remorse and to this day, she still makes it clear she has an agenda to continue her behaviour.
“After her pleas of guilty, she contacted several reporters to talk about the case and its victims.
“If it had not been for Sonya Egan, I would not have a €26,000 legal bill which is crippling me financially.
“Sonya Egan has made every attempt to destroy my good reputation, my hard work efforts, my health, including my mental health. I fear this will never stop. It has not stopped. What will stop her?
“I live in fear. I am stressed. I am overwhelmed.”
Egan will be sentenced on June 27 for two counts of harassment.
The particulars of the first offence stated that Sonya Egan did, on various dates between January 17, 2018, and January 9, 2019, at locations within the state, harass Jonathan O’Brien.
The second charge was of harassment on various dates between April 8, 2018, and June 26, 2019, at locations within the state, she harassed Laura O’Connell. Again she replied guilty to that crime.
Judge Boyle remanded her on bail on her undertaking on oath to have no further contact with the two victims.