'I did not realise the extent of my behaviour': Woman jailed for harassing a former Sinn Féin TD and another woman

Judge Helen Boyle imposed a three-year jail term with the last year suspended in the case against 43-year-old Sonya Egan, of The Lawn, Lios Cara, Killeens, County Cork.
'I did not realise the extent of my behaviour': Woman jailed for harassing a former Sinn Féin TD and another woman

Judge Helen Boyle imposed a three-year jail term with the last year suspended in the case against 43-year-old Sonya Egan, of The Lawn, Lios Cara, Killeens, County Cork. File Pic. Cork Courts

The woman who mounted a campaign of harassment against former Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien and a woman working in the community in Cork has been jailed for two years.

Judge Helen Boyle imposed a three-year jail term with the last year suspended in the case against 43-year-old Sonya Egan, of The Lawn, Lios Cara, Killeens, County Cork.

She was jailed for harassing Mr O'Brien and Laura O’Connell at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.

The third year of the sentence was suspended on condition that she would have no communication with or about the two injured parties for a period of seven years and not approach within 50 yards of their homes or their places of work.

Victim impact

Judge Boyle noted from victim impact statements that the actions of Sonya Egan caused both injured parties serious impact both emotionally and financially.

Jonathan O’Brien said that what affected him most was that Sonya Egan learned personal information about his mother and his father and posted this information online. “That caused him enormous distress,” the judge said, adding that approaches he made to Mr O’Brien’s children also caused severe distress.

The judge said that Mr O’Brien and Ms O’Connell were required to have a public online presence – Mr O’Brien for his political work and Ms O’Connell for her efforts to launch a business – and that online allegations against them were very upsetting.

Initial contact

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.

“While these complaints were going on, she would also email him to him to say she loves him and she would drop all the claims against him if he gave into his feelings for her,” Sgt Sheehy said.

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.

Community meeting

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.

Civil court order

Both victims got civil court orders 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.

Legal representation in these attempts to protect themselves through the civil courts has left each victim with legal bills of around €26,000 to €28,000.

Guilty plea

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.

“I am not going to make excuses, I am truly sorry. I wish the complainants the best of luck. May God be with them and their families.”

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo 130Echo 130
EL_music

Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more