Monday 18 February 2019

O'Dea tells of trauma of false assault allegations

Barry Duggan

A security guard has received a three-month suspended prison sentence for making a false complaint to gardai that he was assaulted by Defence Minister Willie O'Dea.

After sentence was passed on Matt Larkin (35) yesterday, Mr O'Dea said the episode was "traumatic" and a horrible experience.

He added that he learned from the experience that it was important people act as witnesses and urged others to come forward in other cases as "that's what makes the system work".

Larkin, of Altamira Court, Thomondgate, Limerick, was convicted of falsely telling officers that the politician assaulted him in the Bank bar in Limerick city on the night of September 22/23 last year.

In Limerick District Court, Judge Tom O'Donnell said the case was one of the most bizarre he has ever presided over, but that it was also a serious matter which took up a lot of garda time.

Mr O'Dea was asked to provide testimony in the State's prosecution against Larkin.

"Despite my reluctance to go as a witness, because of the obvious pressure you are under in my job, when you are high profile, you don't want to be associated with this sort of publicity. I decided to go, the main reason being I have often encouraged people who were in worse situations to go forward as witnesses," he said.

"It was quite traumatic; it was very difficult on my family. My mother is elderly and not in good health. Members of my family were embarrassed by this. My wife's father died recently, so it hasn't been a particularly easy time for us.

"It really is one of the most horrible things imaginable to be the subject of a false accusation when you are trying to prove your innocence, even though you have done nothing wrong."

After studying CCTV footage from the pub, Judge O'Donnell said the defendant had let the minister know, in no uncertain terms, his views on Shannon Airport, the Corrib gas field, the health services, the Mahon Tribunal and Bertie Ahern.

The judge said he did not accept that Mr O'Dea grabbed the accused man by the throat.

"I don't accept for a minute that he (O'Dea) thumped him (Larkin) in the stomach," the judge added.

He said it was clear that the minister was not put out of the premises, as Larkin's statement claimed. "It is manifestly clear that he (O'Dea) left of his volition," said the judge.

it was strange that Larkin held a drink in his hand throughout the entire alleged assault, returned to the company he was with in a jovial mood, went on to a nightclub and did not make the complaint for seven days.

Judge O'Donnell said Larkin's statement, made to gardai on October 5, was the kernel of the matter and it was false.

State solicitor Aidan Judge told the court Larkin had 14 previous convictions for offensive weapons, road traffic charges, failure to comply with the directions of a garda, engaging in threatening and abusive behaviour and intoxication.

Judge O'Donnell handed down a three-month suspended prison sentence on the condition that Larkin be of good behaviour for 12 months.

The judge added that Mr O'Dea was a high-profile politician and politicians have to be thick-skinned, but that even a minister was entitled to down time.

Mr Larkin has said he will appeal the sentence and fight the matter all the way to Europe if necessary.

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