Drink-drive FG councillor hid from gardai in a bush
A FINE Gael councillor who sped away from a garda checkpoint before abandoning his car and hiding in a bush behind a churchyard has been convicted of drink driving.
Councillor Michael Hegarty (FG) was convicted of the offence and banned from driving for two years after a judge dismissed suggestions he had been unlawfully detained by pursuing gardai.
Hegarty, who is a former chairman of the Cork Joint Policing Committee, was disqualified from driving for two years, fined €600 and had his licence endorsed. Judge Terence Finn, in Youghal District Court, ruled that arresting gardai had behaved fully within the regulations when dealing with Hegarty last August.
After the conviction was handed down, Hegarty's solicitor, Brian O'Callaghan, said his client was "ashamed" of what had happened.
"There is absolutely no excuse. . . he said that he panicked and he very much regretted how he responded (on the night)," he added.
Gardai had found the councillor, following a lengthy foot chase, behind a bush in a derelict site.
The 51-year-old father of four had denied driving while over the alcohol limit at Ballymacoda in east Cork on August 21.
Judge Finn was told by Garda Cillian Barry that he was conducting a routine checkpoint at midnight.
He spotted a car approaching and, after it halted at a junction, the vehicle turned to the left with its wheels spinning.
The officers immediately pursued the car, which later stopped in the car park of a church at Ballydaniel.
Gda Barry told the court the motorist got out of the car and ran away. The officers followed and saw the man jumping over a wall from the churchyard which leads into a derelict yard.
Gda Barry said he spotted Hegarty in a bush in the yard and instructed him to come out. After cautioning Hegarty, of Moanroe, Ladysbridge, Co Cork, Gda Barry said he responded: "I just panicked – I had a few drinks."
Gda Barry said that he detected a smell of alcohol from Hegarty and that he was speaking to them in a slurred voice.
A breath sample provided at the scene delivered a 'fail' reading. An intoxyliser test at Midleton garda station later delivered a result of 61 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath – almost twice the permitted alcohol driving limit.
Judge Finn yesterday agreed to postpone the commencement of Hegarty's driving disqualification to June 1 to allow him get his affairs in order.
Hegarty, who is an auctioneer by profession, was listed last August in 'Stubbs Gazette' as owing €81,823 to the Revenue Commissioners.
That followed a High Court case which involved the Collector General's arm of the Revenue Commissioners.
He has since said that he is now working on a repayment process with Revenue.
Hegarty, who was first elected in 1985, says he intends to continue as a councillor for the Ladysbridge/Ballymacoda area.