Famous former Portlaoise Prison inmate going back to the Laois jail after conviction

Court Reporter

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Court Reporter

dessie o'hare border fox

Dessie O'Hare

One of Portlaoise Prison most notorious former Republican inmates Dessie O'Hare, aka "The Border Fox" is going back to jail.

The former INLA and Provisional IRA man has been jailed by the Special Criminal Court for seven years for his involvement in a gang, which evicted a man and his family from their home. 

Presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt said today that the violent side of O'Hare's personality is a source of continuing concern and his threat to society had not completely abated. 

The three-judge court previously heard that O’Hare told gardai that he was employed by businessman Jim Mansfield Junior at the time. 

The employee pleaded with O’Hare to be given a few days for him and his family to leave their property voluntarily but the defendant refused, saying: “Get out right now”.

O'Hare (62), of Slate Rock Road, Newtownhamilton, County Armagh, admitted last January to assaulting John Roche, causing him harm, at The Towers, Garter Lane, Saggart, County Dublin on June 9th, 2015. 

He also pleaded guilty to falsely imprisoning Martin Byrne at Rathcoole and Saggart on the same date.

The non-jury court was asked to take two counts of falsely imprisoning Mr Byrne’s wife and son into consideration.

O’Hare was jailed today for three years for assaulting Mr Roche and ten years with three suspended for the rest of his life for falsely imprisoning Mr Byrne. The sentences are to run concurrently.

Mr Byrne was employed by the late Jim Mansfield Senior, the father of Mr Mansfield Junior, for almost 20 years and provided security for him and his extended family. 

Mr Byrne and his family had been living in a town-house at The Towers, which was owned by his employer Mr Mansfield Junior and became the subject of a dispute. 

Mr Byrne went with Mr Mansfield Junior to a meeting on June 9 at a business park, where O'Hare and former Republican paramilitary Declan "Whacker" Duffy were present. When Mr Mansfield Jnr left the room, five other men came in and Mr Byrne was prevented from leaving. He was told in "no uncertain terms" that he and his family had to vacate The Towers that day and was driven to the complex by the men. 

Following this, John Roche was assaulted by O'Hare and the other men. 

In 1988, O'Hare was sentenced to 40 years imprisonment for falsely imprisoning and assaulting Dublin dentist Dr John O’Grady, causing him grievous bodily harm, but was released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in 2006. 

The former terrorist also has convictions for firearm offences as well as assaulting a garda. 

O’Hare gave little reaction before he was led away by prison officers.

More detail

Passing sentence, Mr Justice Hunt said that Mr Roche was subjected to a "disturbingly violent assault" in which he was kicked in the head and body. His bodily integrity had been significantly compromised, he added.

Furthermore, the assault also involved a violation of Mr Roche's dwelling place when he was forcibly removed from his home. he said. The judge said that the assault charge attracted a headline sentence of four years as O'Hare had a serious previous conviction for causing serious bodily harm. 

The judge noted that O'Hare on his own account had told gardai that he was specifically employed to commit these crimes. "His participation was intentional and was described by him as arising in the employment context", he added. 

Having regard to the gravity of the offences, the judge said O'Hare's previous convictions were aggravating factors in the case. The court found that a plan had been put in place for O'Hare and Duffy, who had the most serious criminal records, to intimidate Mr Byrne. 

The judge said that the damage done to the Byrne family was "significant, ongoing and permanent" and they were now in the Witness Protection Programme.

The headline sentence for the false imprisonment charge was ten years, said the judge. 

A non-custodial sentence as suggested by O'Hare's barrister last week would do him no favours in the long-run, he explained. 

The court heard that among the mitigating factors were O’Hare’s guilty plea and his written expression of remorse to the court. 

It appeared that his lengthy spell of incarceration was difficult for O'Hare and he also had enduring health difficulties, said the judge. However, these were consequences from having previously committed "an appalling and violent offence", he said. "The only sense in which we regard these difficulties as relevant is that the serving of a further sentence would undoubtedly be more onerous," said Mr Justice Hunt. 

The judge emphasised that O'Hare was "an organiser and high-level participant" in the incident and said that the court did not accept that the offending was "isolated" even though he had applied himself positively to some aspects of his life in the last 13 years. 

Following sentencing, O’Hare entered a bond to be of good behaviour and keep the peace for the rest of his life. He gave little reaction before he was led away by prison officers.

SENTENCE HEARING:

At last week’s sentence hearing, Detective Superintendent Colm O’Malley summarised the facts of the case. He told prosecuting counsel Shane Costelloe SC that Martin Byrne was employed by James Mansfield Senior for almost twenty years.

Mr Mansfield Snr had run a number of prominent businesses before his death in January 2014 and Mr Byrne had provided a security-type arrangement for him and his extended family. A number of Mr Mansfield Snr's properties were in the process of or had been brought into NAMA by the time of his death, the court heard. 

The court heard that James Mansfield Junior had taken over the running of his father's business at this time and the portfolio of properties included a block of apartments called The Towers, which was close to Citywest.

Mr Mansfield Jnr was having particular difficulty reacquiring control of of the apartments at The Towers, which was not under the control of NAMA and the subject of a dispute between him and other people.

The court heard that Mr Mansfield Jnr asked Mr Byrne to accompany him to a meeting in May 2015 with a view to seeing if his interest in the tower block could be reacquired.

It heard that Mr Byrne felt "uncomfortable" with the nature of the proposed meeting but Mr Mansfield Jnr insisted he go with him to a business park, where they were met in one of the offices by O’Hare and former INLA figure, Declan Duffy.

The court heard that once Mr Byrne became aware of who he was conversing with at the meeting, he told them that he could not partake "in the conversation" as Mr Mansfield Jnr had his own interest in the proposed subject matter. It was heard that Mr Byrne was perceived as the person who had called off the meeting and he left with his employer, Mr Mansfield Jnr. There was a deterioration in the two men's relationship after the aborted meeting which resulted in very little contact between them at this time, said Mr Costelloe.

The court heard that Mr Byrne and his family were living in two units at The Towers apartment block at the time, which was owned by Mr Mansfield Jnr. 

Following this, the court heard that Mr Mansfield Jnr contacted Mr Byrne to go to a second meeting. Mr Byrne was reluctant to do this as he had his own concerns but nevertheless went to the same business park with Mr Mansfield Jnr on June 9, where again O’Hare and Duffy were waiting in a room.

At this point, the court heard that Mr Mansfield Jnr left the room and five other men came in and Mr Byrne was “blocked off” from leaving.

Mr Byrne was told in “no uncertain terms” that he and his family had to vacate The Towers before he was brought to the courtyard of the building and placed into a car by the men. Mr Byrne pleaded with O’Hare to give him a couple of days to leave his home but the defendant refused and said: “Get out right now”, before he was placed in a car. 

Three cars drove in convoy back to The Towers and Mr Byrne was assaulted by the men in the car until they arrived at the gates of The Towers. O'Hare was in a different car at the time. 

Following this, John Roche came to the gate and was asked to open it but he refused to do so and ran into the complex. Mr Byrne explained to the men that if they drove slowly at the gates they would automatically open.

Meanwhile, some of the other men went to look for Mr Roche and found him in a nearby house. Five men including the defendant dragged Mr Roche from his house and assaulted him on the ground by kicking and punching him. CCTV footage of the assault was shown to court.

In this footage, O’Hare was seen kicking Mr Roche four times while the other men punched and kicked him. Men can be seen bringing Mr Byrne’s wife and his son past the scene of the assault and towards the gates of the complex. 

Ms Byrne said in her statement that she saw the end of the assault on Mr Roche as she was brought from her home and became hysterical. She was told by one of the men that she had to stop screaming or what happened to Mr Roche would happen to her husband Martin.

Mr Roche and Mr Byrne were then brought to the same apartment but a resident at The Towers saw what was happening and placed a 999 call to gardaí who soon arrived. 

Mr Byrne was told by the men to go outside and get rid of a garda. The victim and the garda knew one another, however, and the garda could see that Mr Byrne was shook up and knew that something untoward was going on.

O’Hare and the other six men fled the scene at this point.

According to Det Supt O’Malley, an investigation commenced and arrest warrants were issued. O’Hare had returned to Northern Ireland at the time but he ultimately came back to the jurisdiction of his own volition and presented himself at Clondalkin Garda Station with his solicitor in January 2018 with a prepared statement.

Det Supt O’Malley agreed with Mr Costelloe that O’Hare acknowledged that he was at The Towers and had been employed by Mr Mansfield Jnr. 

The three members of the Byrne family have since been placed in the Witness Protection Programme. The court heard they are finding their new circumstances extremely difficult to deal with as they feel isolated.

O’Hare has four previous convictions which include possession of a firearm, for which he received a five-year suspended sentence from the Special Criminal Court in 1977.

O’Hare also received a six-month sentence for assaulting a guard in 1979 and was handed down a nine-year sentence in the same year for possession of a firearm.

In 1988, O'Hare was jailed for a total of 40 years for false imprisonment and assault causing grievous bodily harm. As a result of the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, he regained his liberty in 2006 and was formally released from that sentence in October 2008, said Mr Costelloe. 

Mr Justice Hunt interjected at this point and asked prosecution counsel if these previous offences have any consequences in terms of sentencing. “I have no instructions,” replied Mr Costelloe.

Under cross-examination, Det Supt O’Malley agreed with Sean Guerin SC, defending, that an arrest warrant had been issued for O'Hare but ultimately it was not necessary to pursue that process as he had presented himself by arrangement to gardai.

Mr Guerin told the court that a letter of apology, which was hand-written by O’Hare, represented a very different approach to the court process than what would have been exhibited by him in former times.

In his submissions, Mr Guerin asked the court to see this incident as an isolated matter and not reflective of the character that he has shown over the last 13 years.

The court heard that another defendant in this case had received a fully suspended sentence and Mr Guerin asked the court “not to close its mind” to that possibility. However, the gravity of the offence may compel the court in a different direction, he added.

Mr Guerin said that mitigating factors were his client’s guilty plea, his apology, the fact he had presented himself at a garda station, offered a voluntary statement and had complied with his bail conditions. 

Former Republican paramilitary Declan "Whacker" Duffy (44) was sentenced by the Special Criminal Court to six years imprisonment last year after pleading guilty to assaulting John Roche,  causing him harm, at The Towers, Garter Lane,  Saggart, County Dublin on  June 9, 2015. He also admitted falsely imprisoning Martin Byrne at Rathcoole/Saggart on the same date. 

Three other men have also been jailed for the attack. There are two further cases pending against the remaining two men.

Background

He has a long history Portlaoise Prison. He served a number of spells in Portlaoise Prison.

In the late 1980s he was isolated by former IRA and INLA associates who accused him of bringing republicanism into disrepute.  In the early 1990s he undertook a vow of silence and did not speak for six years.

He also staged a dirty protest. He was later accepted back into the jail's republican fold and by 2001 he became commander of the INLA inmates.

During his time behind bars, O'Hare reportedly became a student of anthropology, psychology, metaphysics, yoga and tai-chi, stating that he had found a "divine force" which gave him an "esoteric knowledge, a newer and better understanding of everything".

Dessie O'Hare is serving his prison sentence in solitary confinement in Block A of Portlaoise Prison.