“ANYBODY who takes on the gardaí directly has to face the music,” declared Judge Tony Hunt at the recent Circuit Court, in the case of two Portlaoise men who assaulted two members of the gardaí so badly, one of the officers took early retirement while the other is now on limited duties.
John O’Shea, 20 O’Moore Place, and Michael Houlihan, 10 Lakeglen, Portlaoise, pleaded guilty to assault at Barmondays, Portlaoise, on July 12, 2010.
Sgt Michael Tarpey gave evidence that just after midnight on that date, gardaí attention was drawn to Barmondays pub which had been due to close at 11.30pm.
On the premises, gardaí discovered a group of people and they observed the owner of the bar having a heated exchange with the two defendants.
Sgt Tarpey said the gardaí were met with extreme resistance when they attempted to clear the bar and Houlihan was heard to say, “f**k the guards” and “I don’t give a f**k about the guards”.
Sgt Tarpey said that O’Shea began giving verbal abuse to Garda Alan Dunford and the garda tried to arrest him.
A violent scuffle broke out and O’Shea and Garda Dunford fell to the ground, with O’Shea on top.
State prosecutor, Mr Will Fennelly described it as a “nasty impact” and told the court that O’Shea kicked Garda Dunford while he was on the ground.
Mr Fennelly went on to say that Garda Jim Downey was being abused by Houlihan and an arrest was attempted, but Houlihan “manhandled” the garda and threw him across the bar. Sgt Tarpey confirmed that Garda Downey hit the pool table with his back.
Sgt Tarpey told the court that no arrests were made on the night, due to limited garda manpower and the resistance in the pub being so great.
The court heard that Garda Jim Downey never returned to duty after that night. Sgt Tarpey said that Garda Downey had ten years left to serve, but on medical advice he had decided to retire early. Sgt Tarpey said that Garda Downey had been told there was a low success rate for the operation needed to fix his back.
Garda Alan Dunford was off duty for nine months in total after the attack. Sgt Tarpey said that Garda Dunford suffers with back pain and has been seeing a consultant ever since.
Garda Dunford is now on limited duties at work and has experienced trouble sleeping.
Defence for the defendants were Ms Geraldine Fitzpatrick (Houlihan) and Mr Barry Finlay (O’Shea). The court heard that the defendants had been attending a christening party all day and when they were asked to leave the pub, “They took the Irish attitude that they hadn’t finished their drink,” said Mr Finlay.
In relation to O’Shea, Judge Hunt said that there was “a very rocky” probation report presented to the court, which did not suggest evidence of someone trying to change their ways.
He said that O’Shea deserves a custodial sentence, but he put the matter back to October 25 for an up-to-date probation report.
“If there’s no progress he’s going to jail,” he warned.
In relation to Houlihan, the judge accepted that he was co-operating with the probation service but he said it seems as though Houlihan doesn’t believe he did anything wrong.
“He shows a particular state of mind toward the forces of law and order,” remarked the judge, adding that society might as well abandon itself to anarchy if people are going to go around assaulting the gardaí.
He remanded Houlihan in custody to October 25 for sentencing and ordered a governor’s report.