Tuesday 19 February 2019

'They have let their profession down' - teachers spared jail for role in violent brawl at well-known Dublin pub

File photo: Conor Shannon, Michael Davitt and Seamus O'Cearra leaving CCJ. Picture: Caroline Quinn
File photo: Conor Shannon, Michael Davitt and Seamus O'Cearra leaving CCJ. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

TWO national school teachers and an accountant have been spared jail for their part in a violent brawl in a well-known Dublin pub.

Teachers Michael Davitt and Seamus O Cearra, as well as accountant Conor Shannon all walked free from court today after admitting violent disorder charges in the 10-man melee.

A fourth accused, warehouse manager and soccer team captain Stephen Cantwell also avoided a prison sentence while a fifth, electrician David McSweeney was jailed for six months.

Passing sentence, Judge Brian O’Shea said the teachers involved were “ambassadors for their schools” whenever they went out and they had "let their profession down and more importantly, they have let themselves down in the most egregious way.”

The five men pleaded guilty to violent disorder in a row that broke out at McGowan’s pub in Phibsborough on July 14, 2017.

McSweeney admitted an additional charge of producing a pint glass as a weapon.

At Dublin District Court this afternoon, Judge O’Shea gave O’Cearra (34) a one-month suspended sentence and ordered him to pay €800 to charity. O’Cearra from Mount Symon Green, Clonsilla, a teacher at Mary Mother of Hope national school in Dublin 15, had the sentence suspended for six months.

Davitt (34) from Clanmaurice Road Donnycarney, a teacher at Holywell Educate Together in Swords, was told he could avoid a conviction under the Probation Act if he pays €800 to charity within six months.

Judge O’Shea said he would also apply the Probation Act in the case of Shannon (33) of Glendale Estate, Leixlip, if he too pays €800 to charity.

Only McSweeney (31) from McKee Avenue, Finglas, was jailed after the judge noted that he had waited for the “perfect moment” to throw a pint glass full force into O’Cearra’s face, which escalated the brawl.

Cantwell (28), from Collins Avenue, was given a two-month suspended sentence.

Investigating officer, Garda Gerard Loughnane furnished CCTV footage of the brawl which was viewed by the judge.

The court heard the incident happened at 2.40am and up 10 people got into a row which continued even after staff tried to separate them.

Cantwell was observed kicking another man from behind – after he had been punched by that man earlier in the row.

Davitt was seen throwing a number of punches “but not at anyone in particular”.

He also suffered a bloody nose after receiving a blow to the face.

McSweeney threw a glass which hit O Cearra, who was injured and suffered a cut to his forehead.

O’Cearra was kicked, but he was also observed punching one man in the face knocking him against the bar and to the floor.

Shannon was knocked down and was seen throwing punches, “but was not observed assaulting any person in particular”.

No damage was caused to the pub, but bottles and glasses had to be cleaned up afterwards. None of the staff were injured, the court heard.

The accused all apologised.

Michael Hanahoe solicitor, for O Cearra, Shannon and Davitt said they were “extremely ashamed” of their behaviour, and had got caught up in the melee.

Mr Hanahoe said Davitt was attacked when he was walking towards an argument, Shannon walked towards him, and then the “whole rumble” went “topsy turvy” and others became involved who were intent on throwing more punches.

His three clients got “caught up the fray” and threw punches wildly, he said. It happened over a short span of time in a confined space.

Judge O’Shea said none of the accused had made any attempt to retreat or walk away.

Stephen O’Mahony solicitor, for the other two accused, said the fight was instigated by other people who were not before the court. Cantwell had been knocked out for a short period when he was punched, and he was “probably the least involved,” Mr O’Mahony said.

McSweeney was trying to protect Cantwell when he threw the glass and did not intend to hit anyone, Mr O’Mahony said.

Judge O’Shea said he believed this to be “nonsense” and said McSweeney had waited and aimed the glass.

McSweeney had been out with friends celebrating his birthday on the night.

He had 27 previous convictions for public order and other offences and the judge said it was a reasonable inference that he had a drink problem.

Cantwell previously had a problem with alcohol and “thinks that’s in the past,” the court heard. He had nine previous convictions for offences including assault.

He was captain of the senior team at Drumcondra Football Club, the judge noted.

Shannon had one previous conviction for a minor assault and the other two accused had no prior convictions.

“Some (of the accused) are members of the teaching profession and every time they go out they are ambassadors for their respective schools,” the judge said. “They have let their profession down and more importantly, they have let themselves down in the most egregious way.”

The proprietors licencee and staff at the pub did their “very best to control what occurred here,” the judge said.

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