IT was a brave act which went viral on the internet – footage of a homeless man who rescued his pet rabbit Barney after it was thrown into the river Liffey in Dublin.
John Byrne (39), who had spent the previous 22 years living on the streets, had been sitting on O'Connell Bridge in Dublin for 10 days when Barney was thrown into the Liffey, on July 3, 2011.
Hundreds watched as he risked his life by going into the river to save Barney; both were later rescued by the Dublin Fire Brigade.
His rescue of the rabbit was captured on video and went viral on the internet.
Gary Kearney (20), who is from Crumlin but has an address at Conyngham Road, in Dublin city centre, yesterday pleaded guilty to an animal cruelty and torture charge in connection with the incident.
The charge under the Protection of Animals Act states that it is alleged he "did cruelly torture or terrify an animal to wit did throw a rabbit into the River Liffey from O'Connell Bridge", on July 3 last year.
He also faces a breach of the peace charge.
Last month at Dublin District Court, Kearney had denied the charges.
Mr Byrne had turned up, without the rabbit, to give evidence.
However, when the case was called Judge Ann Watkin was told that Kearney is serving a sentence.
Defence solicitor Aine Flynn said Kearney had not been brought to court but had changed his plea to guilty. The case was adjourned to next Tuesday.
His charges, on conviction, can result in fines or prison terms.
Mr Byrne, who is originally from Ballyfermot in Dublin, was presented with a compassionate citizen award by the charity Animal Rights Action Network last year.
A supply of carrots for the rabbit and food for his dog, Lilly, came with the award.
"Barney and Lilly my dog are my babies," Mr Byrne had said afterwards adding that he would not hesitate in coming to the rescue of his pets.