Father jailed for stealing Ganley's ancient ash trees
A MAN was given a two-year prison sentence yesterday for chopping down eight ancient ash trees on the land of Libertas founder Declan Ganley to make hurleys.
A Circuit Court judge branded John Keane (33) a "marauding thief" as he suspended the final year of his sentence for stealing the trees from the protected woodland.
Mr Keane, from New Houses, Faugheen, Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, admitted driving through the countryside for many years on the lookout for suitable mature ash trees to chop down and sell to hurley makers.
After the conviction was handed down, Mr Keane told the judge his partner was expecting their third child in four weeks.
The judge agreed to place a stay on the committal order until September 1 to allow Mr Keane be present at the birth.
Mr Keane had denied stealing the eight trees, valued at €900, on Friday, June 12, 2009, from the woods owned by Mr Ganley at Moyne Park, Tuam, Co Galway.
During evidence at the two-day trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court in March, he also denied stealing 14 ash trees from Mr Ganley's neighbour, Thomas McHugh. He claimed permission had been obtained from Mr Ganley's groundsman, Kieran Quinn, to cut down the trees and he had accidentally strayed into Mr McHugh's part of the Moyne Wood.
Both Mr Ganley and his groundsman vehemently denied any permission had been granted. Mr Ganley described six to eight acres of his 60-acre plot as ancient Irish woodland including a mix of 100-year-old oak, ash and beech trees.
"This is an ancient wood and I have had experts survey the trees. They think this is some of the oldest woodland in this part of the country, possibly over 500 years old," Mr Ganley said.
The court heard Mr Ganley estimated the total cost of the damage caused to his and his neighbour's woodland at €21,600.
Mr Keane was sentenced to two years in prison on both theft charges to run concurrently. The final year was suspended on the condition Mr Keane keep the peace for three years. He was also disqualified from driving for 10 years.