Monday 9 December 2019

'Moronically stupid act' - son of ex-TD Ivor Callely accidentally set man alight by letting off firework in nightclub, court hears

Oliver Callely
Oliver Callely
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

A SON of former politician Ivor Callely accidentally set a man alight by letting off a firework at a packed nightclub in a "moronically stupid and dangerous act," a court heard.

Oliver Callely (27) had been earlier celebrating Dublin's win over Mayo in the All Ireland football semi finals when he ignited a blue firework in a smoking area at popular Dublin venue Copperface Jacks.

He dropped it but it "took off", hitting and setting fire to the clubber, who had to go for treatment at a hospital burns unit. Callely was on bail for an unrelated previous assault in the same nightclub at the time.

He went to the New York on a student graduate visa before he was charged over the firework incident and ended up spending nearly a month in a US Federal prison before he was extradited.

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Judge Karen O'Connor ordered a probation report and adjourned sentencing at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to next February.

Callely, of St Lawrences Road, Clontarf pleaded guilty to unlawfully igniting a firework at Copperface Jacks on September 6, 2015.

Det Gda Niall Murray told Maurice Coffey BL, prosecuting, the incident happened on a large first floor balcony that was a designated smoking area at the back of the building on Harcourt Street.

The victim said he had been out with friends when he saw a spark and heard a bang to his right, and he “caught on fire.” It was on his left arm around the elbow and left side around the stomach area and he patted himself down to put out the fire.

He did not feel too much pain at first, but then was brought to an on-site medic and the next day went to a GP, who told him to go to A&E. From there, he was referred to a hospital burns unit and was in the care of the unit for two months.

The court heard Callely’s friends had “pleaded with him” not to light the three-inch blue firework, but he lit it with a cigarette lighter and dropped it.

It seemed to “take off” or project outward and struck the victim between the arm and body.

Gardai accepted the firework was not deliberately thrown at the man.

The accused had later met gardai by appointment but before he was charged, he travelled to the US. He was arrested there under an International Arrest Warrant and ended up spending nearly four weeks in a Federal prison before being returned here.

The victim’s injuries had impacted on his sports career and he was still uncomfortable and suffered “itchiness.”

Callely had no prior convictions but was previously given the benefit of the Probation Act for assault causing harm to another person in the same club. He was on bail for this at the time of the fireworks incident, the court heard.

Defence Barrister Dean Kelly said it was a “moronically stupid and dangerous act.”

The victim had been “extremely fair” and magnanimous in saying he did not wish the accused to be given a custodial sentence, Mr Kelly said.

“As bad as it was,” there was no question of any intent in Callely’s “carry on” but it was reckless, he continued.

Det Gda Murray said there was only a “tenuous” link between the accused and the victim,and Mr Kelly said there was no “animus” between them.

Callely drank “a great deal too much” on the night and was “innocently possessed” of the firework, Mr Kelly said.

He had it as a result of having watched the match and “fireworks being let off in a garden.”

The time Callely spent in custody in the US was “very brutal,” Mr Kelly said. He had gone there on a graduate visa and was working in a cafe in Manhattan before he was arrested. It was “not the case” that he fled, but took the opportunity to go as the visa was “time limited.”

As a result of his behaviour, a future in the US was something that was now “shut to him.”

His sister and her husband had put up his €2,500 bail and he had been a “model bailee” since, Mr Kelly said.

Callely’s parents were separated and his family circumstances over the years had been “troubled and difficult,” particularly in terms of his relationship with his father, Mr Kelly said.

The court heard of difficulties that had been posed by the public profile of the accused’s father.

The accused had not enjoyed “any kind of positive relationship with his father for a considerable period of time.” He was not offering his “difficult” family life as an excuse.

Callely was supported in court by his mother and sister who were “decent, hardworking people."

Several testimonials were handed into the court and he had now got employment through family members but his life and career were “somewhat on hold.”

Mr Kelly said the victim had said he could have suffered more serious injuries.

Judge O’Connor said Callely had been told not to light the firework by his friends and did it anyway.

She directed €1,000 to be paid to the victim and adjourned the case for a pre-sentence probation report. The court heard bail money would also be available when returned.

Ivor Callely, during a long political career, was a Dublin city councillor and health board chairman, as well as serving as a TD for Dublin north central and junior transport minister in the early 2000s.

In 2005, he was forced to resign from the Cabinet after reports that a painter who worked on Eastern Health Board contracts had painted his home. Callely resigned from Fianna Fail in 2010 amid controversy over expenses.

In 2014, he was jailed for five months after he admitted fraudulently claiming €4,207.45 in Oireachtas expenses while he was a senator.

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