Monday 15 July 2019

Retired garda tells court he was assaulted at scene of Strokestown eviction

Two men remanded in custody charged with offences in wake of eviction

The home in Strokestown, Roscommon
The home in Strokestown, Roscommon

Marese McDonagh

A retired Garda told a court on Friday that he had made a complaint to Gardai about a serious assault on him at the scene of an eviction at Falsk, Strokestown Co Roscommon last December.

There were angry scenes at Castlerea District Court after a Donegal man charged with violent disorder at  Falsk,  some days after the eviction, was remanded in custody after four people willing to be independent sureties in his bail application were deemed unacceptable.

Earlier a crowd of about 20 anti-eviction protesters had gathered outside Harristown District court in advance of the appearance there of two defendants charged separately with offences at Falsk some days after the eviction.

Kevin Taylor, a retired Garda with an address at Dublin Road, Longford was one of four people who had offered to provide €5,000 as an independent surety in the case of PJ Sweeney (54) from High Cairn Ramelton, Co Donegal who is charged with violent disorder at Falsk on December 16 last.

Judge Marie Keane was told that the High Court  had approved bail for Mr Sweeney on Thursday subject to a number of strict conditions.

After his case was dealt with first at Harristown court and later at Castlerea District Court, Mr Sweeney  was remanded in custody. He is due to appear in Harristown District Court on January 25. 

Separately Martin O’Toole (54) from Stripe IrishTown, Claremorris Co Mayo was remanded in custody until February 1 after appearing at Harristown court charged with burglary and trespass at Falsk,  Strokestown on December 16 last.

In relation to Mr Sweeney’s case Judge Keane was told that his solicitor Alan Gannon had learned on Friday morning that Gardai had difficulty with the proposed independent surety mentioned in the High court documents who was willing to put up €5,000.

Sergeant Patrick McGirl said this was a sensitive  issue  which he did not want to elaborate on,  as that could be “prejudicial to our investigation”.

Mr Gannon said he felt his client  was being “boxed into a corner”.

The defendant’s long-term partner Sandra Roulston  told the court that she was willing to be the independent surety. She said she and the accused had five children together aged 11 to 30.

Judge Keane questioned the meaning of the term “independent” surety and asked how a spouse , long-term partner or child of an accused person could be deemed independent.

After she refused to accept Ms Roulston the case was referred to a later sitting of Castlerea district court where two more people who offered to be the independent surety were rejected.

Joseph McCarron from Diamond, Dungloe who had provided a printout of his bank statement was rejected after Sergeant McGirl pointed out that it was €3,969.25 overdrawn. Mr McCarron said he was “amazed” to learn that and said he had €5,000 in cash. Judge Keane  said she did not consider him an acceptable  independent surety.

Kevin Taylor confirmed that he had made a complaint to Gardai on December 12th about an alleged assault on him at Falsk on December 11th, the date of the eviction there.  He described it as a “serious, serious assault causing bodily harm”.

He agreed that the alleged offence committed by Mr Sweeney also related to the same address at Falsk, Strokestown.

Asked how he was aware of this location the retired Garda said he was aware of  the people living there.

He told the court that he knew Mr Sweeney as they both deal in horses.

When the Judge rose briefly supporters of Mr Sweeney shouted “Farce” and “Shame”.

When the case resumed Judge Keane said Mr Taylor had made a complaint in relation to an incident which she believed was “tangential” to the incident involving the accused and she wold not accept him as an independent surety.

She also said she was rejecting Mr John Gavigan of Portnoo, Co Donegal as an independent surety as he held certain opinions in relation to the type of matters involved in the case. Mr Gavigan was the proposed independent surety named in High Court documents .

She remanded Mr Sweeney in custody to Harristown court on January 25.

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