Dail 'gatecrasher' insists on his innocence after night in a cell
UNSHAVEN and hollow-eyed after a night in the cells, the man who drove the cement truck up against the gates of Leinster House appeared before a court yesterday over a charge of causing criminal damage.
Joe McNamara (41), originally from Achill Island, Co Mayo, but with an address at Dun Na Carraige, Salthill, Galway, appeared before Judge Patrick McMahon at Dublin District Court at the Courts of Criminal Justice complex.
He drove the cement lorry -- emblazoned with slogans 'Toxic Bank Anglo', 'All politicians should be sacked' and '€1,000,000 on golf balls' -- up against the gates of Leinster House hours before TDs were due to begin the new Dail term last Wednesday.
He was subsequently taken to Pearse Street garda station, where he was questioned for 12 hours under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act.
It subsequently emerged that Mr McNamara was a property developer at loggerheads with Anglo over debts of €3.5m.
A small gathering of supporters on the steps of the courts held banners that read: "Free Joe the Trucker" and "Release the Toxic Trucker, Arrest a Toxic Anglo Banker."
As his name was called in court yesterday, Mr McNamara slipped quietly into his seat.
Wearing a cream-coloured casual corduroy jacket, a spotless white shirt, jeans and casual suede shoes, the property developer appeared tired and very nervous, and he was breathing heavily.
Mr McNamara's solicitor, Cahir O'Higgins, told Judge McMahon that his client "very much asserts his innocence" in respect to this matter.
He said Mr McNamara had done nothing more than to exercise his constitutional right as a citizen to express freely his convictions and opinions.
Sgt John Egan, presenting, said the gardai agreed to bail for Mr McNamara on two conditions -- that he stay away from Anglo Irish Bank headquarters on St Stephen's Green and that he not come to the unfavourable attention of the gardai.
However, the judge demurred from the first condition, saying that anyone going to any bank must go "lawfully and not commit any offence".
The judge agreed with Mr O'Higgins to further clarify in the bail conditions that Mr McNamara should not come to the "unlawful" attention of the gardai.
And he conceded with Mr O'Higgins's request for any CCTV footage from the scene to be preserved.
Mr McNamara was released on his own nominal bond of €200 and is due before court again on November 25.
Outside the courthouse, Mr McNamara stood beside his solicitor as Mr O'Higgins gave a brief statement on his behalf, pleading for privacy to be allowed to walk to his car to drive home for some "much-needed" sleep.
He said his client had wanted to make a legitimate protest at his treatment at the hands of the banks.
However, he also wanted to respect the legal proceedings and would do so by making no further comment at this time, the solicitor said.
There was a ripple of applause from onlookers as Mr McNamara left and an elderly woman, a passerby out walking her dog, slapped him on the back, saying: "Good man."
Supporter Frank Ward from Swords, Co Dublin, said he had "never met the man", but that he understood his feelings.
"I didn't like the way he was detained overnight," he said.