Storming the gates
Developer known as the 'Anglo Avenger' charged over protest
A PROPERTY developer who says he is at loggerheads with Anglo Irish Bank over debts of €3.5m is to appear in court this morning on criminal damage charges after driving a cement lorry up against the gates of Leinster House.
Self-styled 'Anglo Avenger' Joe McNamara (41) was held overnight by gardai, who quizzed him for almost 12 hours about the stunt early yesterday morning.
He drove the cement lorry -- emblazoned with the words 'Toxic Bank' and 'Anglo' in red letters -- up against the Leinster House gates around 7.15am, just hours before TDs were due to begin the new Dail term.
The vehicle was travelling slowly and a small amount of paint damage was caused to the gates.
Other slogans on the lorry included 'All politicians should be sacked' and '€500k for golf', a reference to €208,000 spent on golf balls and €218,000 on golf umbrellas by the bank over a three-year period.
The registration plates were also changed, with the word 'Bankrupt' in their place.
After the lorry came to a halt at the gates, Mr McNamara got out and locked the doors. He then climbed up and sat on top of it. Gardai got Mr McNamara down and arrested him.
He was taken to Pearse Street garda station, where he was detained under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act.
A specialist tow-truck had to be called to remove the lorry as the brake lines had been cut, immobilising the vehicle. It was eventually moved around 10am. A side window of the cab had to be smashed to gain access to it.
A native of Achill Island off the Mayo coast, Mr McNamara has recently been living in Galway and involved in property development. He has previously launched other demonstrations against Anglo Irish Bank.
Last April, the same cement lorry was abandoned outside a branch of the bank on Forster Street in Galway, with the engine running but the doors locked.
Gardai impounded the vehicle, but no charges were brought as the incident was treated as a traffic violation.
Mr McNamara was also involved in another demonstration earlier this year when a giant cherry-picker hoist was parked outside the bank's headquarters on St Stephen's Green in Dublin.
On that occasion he told journalists that he owned 22 apartments in Galway, but owed Anglo €3.5m.
He claimed Anglo threatened to put his business into receivership after repayments failed to cover interest owed.
Anglo wanted to sell the properties and then come after him for any shortfall, he said.
Last night, a spokesman for Anglo said it did not comment on individual cases.
Relatives of Mr McNamara on Achill Island also said they had "no comment" when contacted by phone yesterday.
There was no sign of life at the house outside Galway city that Mr McNamara lists as his residential address.
As well as property development, Mr McNamara was also previously known for charity work and had travelled to South Africa at his own expense to help out in the Niall Mellon building project.
He was part of a 25-strong contingent that built five houses in seven days for the poor of Cape Town.
Locals said he often returned home to his native Achill, where his parents still live, and is involved in a local pipe band.
He plays the bag pipes at the summit of Croagh Patrick on the last Sunday of July every year, when thousands visit the mountain on pilgrimages.
Castlebar businessman Oliver Kelleher, who is a friend of Mr McNamara, described him last night as "most conscientious" and "hard working".
Mr Kelleher said he was outraged that Mr McNamara had been arrested for his actions.
"What about arresting those who caused the financial mismanagement that has brought the country to the brink of ruin? The real criminals are getting off scot-free," he said.
Mr McNamara has also been involved in a number of business projects in Achill in recent years, including proposals for developing a major windfarm.
But the project attracted a lot of opposition and never came to fruition.