Thursday 19 September 2019

'This is my town - and this is my chip van' - court hears claims Healy-Rae sons and friend 'assaulted' man after 'queue jump'

Accused: Jackie Healy-Rae, right, and his brother Kevin arrive with their solicitor Padraig O’Connell at Kenmare Court in Co Kerry at an earlier hearing. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Accused: Jackie Healy-Rae, right, and his brother Kevin arrive with their solicitor Padraig O’Connell at Kenmare Court in Co Kerry at an earlier hearing. Photo: Don MacMonagle

Ralph Riegel

A BRITISH tourist alleged two sons of Independent Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae and their friend assaulted him after one son was publicly challenged over queue-jumping in Kenmare during the 2017 Christmas festivities.

Councillor Jackie Healy-Rae Jnr (23), his brother Kevin Healy-Rae (22) and their friend Malachy Scannell (34) have vehemently denied a series of assault charges arising from disputed events in Kenmare, Co Kerry on December 28 2017.

All three appeared before Judge Dave Waters at Kenmare District Court for a hearing which had to be adjourned after just four of the eleven prosecutions were dealt with following a day in evidence.

British national Kieran James, who was in Kenmare visiting Irish cousins, claimed he was attacked twice in the space of a few minutes by the two brothers after his wife, Lauren, had commented on Kevin Healy-Rae barging to the top of a queue at a chip van in Kenmare square.

When challenged over his actions at the chip van, several witnesses claimed Kevin Healy-Rae commented: "This is my town - and this is my chip van."

Mr James told Inspector Paul Kennedy he had been socialising that night in the Kerry town with his wife, Lauren, his Irish cousins and had consumed a maximum of six pints and a meal.

He said Kevin Healy-Rae, who was unknown to him, had forcibly pushed his way to the top of the long queue at the chip van around 2.30am and placed his food order.

When Mr James' wife, Lauren, objected and publicly commented that there was a queue, it was alleged that Kevin Healy-Rae turned to the British tourist.

Mr James said the defendant stared at him before aggressively pacing around and muttering: "Not tonight, not tonight."

The British man, concerned at what he said was bizarre and aggressive behaviour, told him: "Don't talk to me."

Mr James said he had seen Kevin Healy-Rae in a pub earlier dancing alone on a dance floor and "bouncing off a wall."

The British man said: "As far as we were concerned, that lad may have been on drugs."

Defence counsel, Brian McInerney, later said that comment was "beneath contempt" and did not form any part of the case.

Mr James' Kerry cousin, Jane O'Sullivan, who was in school with the Healy-Rae brothers, said she had also seen him on the pub dance floor that night and Kevin Healy-Rae was "very intoxicated."

Mr James insisted he did not know either of the two Healy-Rae brothers on the night.

The complainant said the young man who had jumped the chip van queue left before returning with two other young men (the other two defendants) and a confrontation erupted.

Mr James said Kevin Healy-Rae shoved him in the chest and he then pushed him back.

Suddenly, he said he was grasped around the neck by Jackie Healy-Rae, placed in a choke-hold and could not breathe.

Others intervened to stop the incident and Mr James, who had been left red-faced and breathless by the choke-hold, said his group then decided to immediately leave the area without their food despite having paid for it.

One of his Irish cousins said that "these guys are well connected around here so we had better get out of here."

Their group had walked just 40 yards when he claimed a second incident then occurred.

"These three lads were charging up the street towards us," he said.

Mr James said Jackie Healy-Rae grabbed his arm, forced it behind his back and he suddenly found himself being repeatedly punched.

His cousin, Cornelius 'Neily' O'Sullivan said he saw Jackie Healy-Rae punch Mr James full force into the face.

Mr James said the incident only ended when someone shouted that the gardai were coming and he claimed the three young men fled on foot.

Mr James said his nose was left bleeding and broken.

He had sustained a cut over his eye, pain to his shoulder and a chipped tooth.

Lauren James said she was shocked by her husband's face.

"His face was almost unrecognisable. His forehead was swollen. His nose was pushed to one side. I told him they have broken your nose," Mrs James said.

Judge Waters was told the complainant later underwent two surgeries for the injuries he sustained.

Defence counsel, Brian McInernery BL, put it to Mr James that the two brothers and their friend vehemently disputed his version of events.

Mr McInerney argued that Kieran James was in fact the aggressor on the night and some of his Irish family had "a serious dislike of the Healy-Raes."

"They would like to see them taken down a peg or two," the barrister argued.

Mr McInerney put it that Mr James had been the instigator of the incident by being aggressive and intimidating towards Kevin Healy Rae who was just 18 at the time.

He alleged that Mr James had been repeatedly staring at the young man.

"You were the aggressor. You attacked Kevin Healy-Rae. Jackie Healy-Rae saw that you were grappling and then he grabbed and restrained you to prevent an attack on a member of his family," he said.

Mr McInerney said Jackie Healy-had acted to "rescue" his brother.

"(It was) lawful self defence - it was an unprovoked attack," the defence counsel claimed.

Mr James rejected this version of events.

Judge Waters adjourned the hearing having heard evidence from four of the eleven prosecution witnesses and viewed four minutes of CCTV security camera footage from the Main Street of Kenmare.

He adjourned the matter for mention to September 25 to determine the availability of a Tralee courtroom with CCTV facilities.

Judge Waters was told up to another day of evidence may be involved.

Jackie Healy-Rae Jnr - who was elected to Kerry Co Council at last May's Local Government elections in the Castleisland area - faced a number of assault charges.

One count is of alleged assault causing harm to Kieran James at Main Street in Kenmare on December 28 2017 contrary to Section 3 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997.

A second count is of alleged assault to Mr James at East Park Lane in the south Kerry town on the same date contrary to Section 2 of the same Act.

Kevin Healy-Rae is charged with alleged assault causing harm to Mr James in Kenmare on the same date.

Mr Scannell, who has an address at Inchinacoosh, Kilgarvan, Co Kerry, is charged with alleged assault causing harm to Mr James in Kenmare on December 28.

He also faces a charge of alleged assault causing harm to Cornelius 'Neily' O'Sullivan on Main Street, Kenmare.

Mr Scannell faces a third charge of alleged criminal damage to a pair of prescription eye glasses belonging to Cornelius 'Neily' O'Sullivan at Main Street, Kenmare contrary to Section 2 of the Criminal Damage Act, 1991.

Both Jackie and Kevin Healy-Rae are grandsons of Jackie Healy-Rae Snr, the late Independent TD for Kerry South whose election in 1997 began the Healy-Rae political dynasty.

Jackie Healy-Rae Snr served until his retirement from the Dáil in 2011.

The young men's uncle, Danny Healy-Rae, is also an Independent TD for Kerry.

Jackie Healy-Rae Jnr is an aspiring politician and is deeply involved in election campaigns for his father and uncle.

His brother, Kevin Healy-Rae, operates a successful disc jockey business in Kerry.

Both brothers have an address at Sandymount in Kilgarvan, Co Kerry.

Mr Scannell is a close friend of the brothers.

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