'Anglo Avenger' was 'making bank protest'
A property developer accused of damaging the gates of Leinster House with a cement truck claimed today that he staged the protest over his unfair treatment by the banks.
Joe McNamara was released on bail after he was brought before Dublin District Court charged with criminal damage.
His solicitor, Cahir O'Higgins, told the court his client had been "merely exercising his constitutional right to express an opinion".
A handful of supporters cheered as the 41-year-old, of Dun na Carraige, Blackrock, Co Galway, emerged from the courthouse.
Outside, Mr O'Higgins said: "Joe wished to make a legitimate protest at what he believes to be his unfair treatment at the hands of the banks."
Mr McNamara was remanded on nominal bail of €200 to appear again on November 25 next, pending directions from the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The builder was arrested yesterday morning after he blocked the entrance to the Dail with a cement mixer truck, which was emblazoned with the words "Toxic Bank Anglo".
No one was injured during the incident.
The Government today admitted the state-owned Anglo Irish Bank was expected to cost Irish taxpayers at least €29.3bn.
Mr McNamara, who is originally from Achill Island, Co Mayo, and reported to owe Anglo €3.5m, was quizzed at Pearse Street Garda Station where he was charged and held overnight.
Dressed in a cream jacket, blue jeans and white shirt, Mr McNamara looked nervous and dishevelled as he was brought before Judge Patrick McMahon. He did not speak during the brief hearing.
Mr O'Higgins told the court his client had been exercising section 40.6.1 of the Constitution, which guarantees liberty to express freely convictions and opinions.
"I make the point that my client asserts his innocence in respect of this matter," added Mr O'Higgins.
Garda Sergeant John Egan said gardai had no objection to bail, but asked the judge to make an order that Mr McNamara stay away from Anglo Irish Bank's headquarters on St Stephen's Green.
Judge McMahon dismissed the application by gardai, but made an order for Mr McNamara "not to come to the unlawful attention of gardai".
He also granted an application by the solicitor that gardai preserve all CCTV footage from around Leinster House at the time of the incident.
Truck driver Brendan Meehan, who staged a protest outside Pearse Street Garda Station until 10pm last night, was among the supporters outside the courthouse.
He revealed he did not know Mr McNamara but admired him for his actions.
"He had enough machinery there to do an awful lot of damage if he so desired. He didn't do that. He mounted a passive protest," said the 59-year-old Dubliner.
"It might have been a nuisance to some people but detaining him overnight and treating him like a terrorist is out of the question altogether."