A TULLAMORE man who slammed on his brakes following an altercation with a well-known Laois sports injury expert, causing the Laois man on his bike to crash into the back of his car, has been fined for careless driving.
Niall Corcoran, Hawkswood, Killeigh, Tullamore, denied the charge and a charge of criminal damage, at Cappakeel, Emo, Portlaoise, on March 22 this year.
The injured party, Mr Bernard Conroy, who the court heard runs Laois Injury Clinic, gave evidence that he was cycling with two fellow cyclists from Cappakeel toward the old Dublin Road and had just gone through a roundabout onto a bridge when a car passed him honking its horn. Mr Conroy alleged that the driver shook his fist at him as he passed, to which Mr Conroy responded with a “two-fingered sign”.
“I said to my friends: ‘He’s an asshole, whoever he is,” Mr Conroy told the court.
Mr Conroy said he entered the next roundabout, with the car ahead of him on the road.
“All of a sudden and for no apparent reason, the driver slammed on his brakes,” he said, explaining that he fell onto the boot of the car and then onto the ground. Mr Conroy alleged that when he got to his feet, the driver, Niall Corcoran got out of the car and pushed him in the chest, shouting: “What the f**k were you doing entering in front of me at that last junction?”
“I had to protect myself and I lashed back at him,” said Mr Conroy.
Mr Conroy said they became embroiled in an altercation: “What I call ‘handbags’. It was an argument of pushing and shoving.”
Mr Conroy then alleged that Corcoran got back into his car and reversed it over Mr Conroy’s carbon-fibre racing bike, writing it off.
Mr Conroy’s fellow cyclists, Mr Tom Marshall and Mr Sean Flynn also gave evidence during last week’s hearing at Portlaoise District Court. Both men testified that Corcoran beeped his car horn as he came up behind them on the road. Mr Marshall said that the car “suddenly stopped” in the middle of the roundabout, while Mr Flynn said that the car was “parked” on the roundabout. Neither man observed Mr Conroy crashing into the back of the car and they both gave evidence that they saw Mr Conroy’s bicycle under the rear wheel of the vehicle. Mr Marshall said he witnessed “a verbal confrontation” between the two parties, while Mr Flynn said he saw the two men “squaring up to each other”.
During a protracted cross-examination by defence solicitor, Mr Frank Taffee, it was put to Mr Conroy that he had allegedly “pummelled” Corcoran following the crash. Questioning the character of the witness, Mr Taffee made a reference to Mr Conroy’s facebook page, in which Mr Conroy has written: “Be patient - I can be a thick man.”
Corcoran himself took the witness box to tell the court that he panicked on the day as there were cyclists close behind him, one of whom was gesturing at him, and he braked suddenly. Corcoran alleged that Mr Conroy opened the car door and began hitting him, calling him a “f**king bo****ks”. Corcoran denied reversing his car over the bicycle.
Defence produced Mr Michael Mulligan, an accident investigator, who gave evidence that he carried out a test in June at the same location and the car, an automatic, rolled backward in neutral around one metre. Defence claimed this was how Mr Conroy’s bike ended up under the wheel of Corcoran’s car.
After hearing all the evidence, Judge William Early said that Mr Conroy “behaved quite disgracefully” and was “the main antagonist” in the altercation. However, he said he was satisfied that Corcoran’s actions constituted careless driving and he fined him €400, with his licence to be endorsed. The charge of criminal damage was struck out. The judge fixed cognisance in the event of an appeal.