A DUBLIN man has been charged with damaging the inner city statue of legendary singer Luke Kelly, which was defaced in a spray paint attack.
Michael Dunne (47) appeared in Dublin District Court today after being arrested over the latest damage to the sculpture, which has been repeatedly targeted by vandals since it was unveiled last year.
Mr Dunne, with an address at the Sophia Housing Project on Sean McDermott Street in the north inner city is charged with one count of criminal damage last Sunday, July 12.
Mr Dunne is not charged in connection with any of the other incidents of vandalism.
Judge Ann Ryan granted him bail on condition that he stays away from the Luke Kelly statue on Guild Street in the docklands, as well as another memorial to the late musician near St Stephen's Green.
Garda David Kelly told the court he arrested the accused at 12.33pm yesterday at Store Street Station, where he made no reply to the charge after caution.
Objecting to bail, he said the Luke Kelly memorial statue was damaged by blue spray paint at 4.45pm on Sunday.
He said there was CCTV footage of the incident and the movements of the suspect at the time. Items of clothing were also seized in a search of the accused’s home address yesterday, he said.
The CCTV footage consisted of 13 separate clips from official garda cameras, and inside and outside where the accused resides. It was alleged Mr Dunne was seen in the general area for a period before the incident and returning to his home address.
He was seen going to his apartment door and entering the apartment, and the garda alleged he could be seen wearing clothing matching that of the person responsible for causing the damage to the statue.
The footage showing the damage being caused was of very good quality, the garda said. It had been viewed by a local community garda who identified Mr Dunne in it.
In the search, the clothing seized was a match for that worn by the person who committed the offence, Gda Kelly said.
The maximum potential penalties on conviction on indictment for criminal damage were a fine of €10,000 or 10 years in prison.
A file was being prepared for the DPP seeking directions for a trial venue, he added.
Questioned by defence solicitor Jenny McGeever, Gda Kelly said his colleague identified Mr Dunne at 9am yesterday but after this, further information was being gathered and it was three and a half hours before an arrest was made.
He accepted that the investigation file would take some time. Ms McGeever said while the proposed evidence was that her client was seen in the general area, but he did not live “a million miles away” and he was not the only man in the general area at the time.
Mr Dunne would say the clothing that was seized was not a match for what was seen on the footage, she said.
He would say there was nothing unusual about the clothing. Gda Kelly said while it was not distinct, it was an "exact match" for what was on the footage.
Ms McGeever said the damage was caused by blue spray paint and “nothing of that ilk was found on my client or in his property.”
The clothing had yet to be forensically examined, the court heard. Gda Kelly said in the footage, when the offence was committed by the culprit, the spray paint was held “away from his person.”
Ms McGeever said there was a strong chance there would be some residue attached to clothing but there was nothing visible on any of the clothing seized.
Applying for bail, she said the accused was happy to abide by conditions, he was in a long term relationship and gardai knew where to find him.
Ms McGeever asked the judge to set aside any notoriety that had built up around the case and consider the charge before her.
“It is not a clear cut case in my view,” the solicitor said, and it was one which she thought the prosecution should proceed “very warily in terms of having cracked this nut.”
The judge asked Mr Dunne if he would abide by conditions including staying away from the statue. “No problem at all,” he replied.
Judge Ryan said the accused enjoyed a presumption of innocence. She granted bail in his own bond of €200, with no cash lodgement required.
Conditions are that he stays out of the Sheriff Street area, remains away from the Luke Kelly memorial statue on Guild Street, is of sober habits and good behaviour in public and signs on three times weekly at Store Street Garda Station.
The judge also made it a condition of bail that Mr Dunne stays away from the other Luke Kelly statue, near St Stephen’s Green.
She remanded the accused on bail, to appear in court again September 8.
Sunday’s incident was the seventh time the €80,000, publicly-funded statue was vandalised since it was unveiled by President Michael D Higgins in January 2019, on the 35th anniversary of Luke Kelly’s death.
The 1.8-metre-high marble bust by sculptor Vera Klute features copper wire used for Kelly's trademark hair and beard.
The statue was installed after a lengthy campaign to pay a public tribute to the late Dubliners’ singer.
It is located close to Kelly's childhood home at the corner of Guild Street and Sheriff Street, at the mouth of the Royal Canal.
Dublin city council has said it cannot rule out having to remove the statue due to the incidents, with cleaning costs to date totalling €3,000.
Another statue of Kelly, which is located near St Stephen's Green Shopping Centre, has also been targeted by vandals since it was erected.
The incidents were among a series of acts of vandalism of public sculpture in the city, with the carved ‘Tree of Life’ near St Anne’s Park partially burned and a statue of Republican Seán Russell painted with rainbow colours recently.