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Man Charged With Lunging With Flagpole At Fergie

January 22, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ The Duchess of York returned home Friday after a whirlwind trip to the United States as authorities accused a Manhattan man of charging her with a six-foot flagpole while shouting, ″Murderers, murderers.″

The man, identified by the FBI as Michael Tiernan Shanley, 22, never came within 5 feet of the former Sarah Ferguson, wife of Britain’s Prince Andrew.

″It was a very minor incident, very efficiently handled. ... It did not have any effect on the duchess’ program. The security chaps did a very fine job,″ said Michael Horne, a spokesman for British Information Services.

Asked about the duchess’ reaction to the incident, Francis Cornish, a spokesman for the British Embassy, said, ″She’s perfectly relaxed about it.″

Shanley, described by his lawyer as a longtime protester of English rule of Northern Ireland, was charged with attempting to assault the duchess and assaulting a federal officer and ordered held without bail pending a hearing Tuesday. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

The incident appeared motivated by the duchess’ status ″as a member of the family of the chief of state of Britain,″ Assistant U.S. Attorney Joan McPhee told U.S. Magistrate Leonard Bernikow at a bail hearing.

Shanley’s lawyer, Stephen Somerstein, protested that no attack took place and that Shanley simply was exercising his First Amendment rights to free speech when federal agents jumped him.

″It seems the only crime he is charged with here is being an Irish- American within close proximity to the princess,″ the lawyer said.

Somerstein said Shanley is unemployed, has been an Irish-American activist for several years and has attended ″hundreds of demonstrations″ against the English, all non-violent.

The incident occurred about 11:15 p.m. Thursday, as the duchess returned to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel following a benefit performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ″The Phantom of the Opera.″

According the State Department, as she walked into the hotel, Shanley rushed toward her carrying the flag ″attached to a six-foot solid wood pole about two inches in diameter.″

The furled green flag was described as an Irish Republican Army flag by police, though the IRA usually flies the green, white and gold tricolor of the Irish Republic.

″Murderers, murderers,″ Shanley cried, according to witnesses.

Three agents of the State Department Diplomatic Security Service pushed the man through a line of reporters and photographers and wrestled him to the ground.

The duchess arrived in the United States on Wednesday for the charity event, which benefited the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Conn., and two London causes: the Royal College of Music and the Sick Children’s Trust at Great Ormond Street and St. Bartholomew’s hospitals.