| 11.1°C Dublin

Affair that cost Minister his job was sparked by confrontation with two seven-year-old girls

The man at the centre of the Trevor Sargent Garda scandal challenged two seven-year-old girls before he was assaulted by his neighbour.

In an exclusive interview with the Herald today, Stephen Mulvany, the second man involved in the case which led to Mr Sargent's resignation, claimed that he was only standing up for his child when he assaulted Dominic McGowan.

Mr Mulvany (35), said he was doing what any parent would when his child was challenged by his neighbour at the time.

"It started off because he confronted two seven-year-old girls," Mr Mulvany said. "He said they were pulling a road sign out of the ground. I approached him. I went over and asked him what he thought he was doing," he added.

"He said that the two girls had caused damage because they were swinging out of the road sign. There was hysterics on the street. A row ensued and he got boxed."

Mr Mulvany, originally from Blanchardstown, said that he doesn't claim to be innocent in the affair and has admitted that he headbutted Mr McGowan in the incident.

But he said that he was simply a father intervening in a row with neighbours.

"I don't want any sympathy. I have a lot of convictions. At the end of the day, I gave the man a box," he told the Herald.

After the incident, Sargent wrote a letter condemning the assault and supported Mr McGowan's version of events.

"Mr McGowan's behaviour was totally in line with advice received from Fingal County Council in that he asked two children to desist from removing a sign from Cardy Rock Close," he wrote to the garda station. "The girls' estimated age is 10 or 11. Mr McGowan undertook to tell the parents of these girls about the incident, as he was advised to do by officials in the Council previously.

"The father of one of these girls, in the manner of a bully, assaulted Mr McGowan with a severe headbutt, resulting in Mr McGowan being hospitalised with a suspected broken noise (sic) and sprained wrists which still cause him pain," he added.

But Mr Mulvany was critical of Minister Sargent's intervention and he said that he was subsequently threatened with eviction from his council home.

"Because of the pressure from Sargent, because of him, the council came down on us," he said. "It was never his business, but he made it his business."

Mr McGowan and Mr Mulvany were charged with public order issues and appeared in court. Mr McGowan was subsequently found guilty of threatening behaviour and was fined €500 while Mr Mulvany was sentenced to four months for assault and breach of the peace.

"I was convicted of public disturbance. He [Sargent] was actively pursuing that I be evicted. At the end of the day, it was caused by Dominic (McGowan). He got sympathies from Trevor Sargent."

In his letter to the gardai, Minister Sargent said that Mr McGowan was concerned for his life. But Mr Mulvany refuted this allegation.

"He said he was concerned for his life, it's rubbish," Mr Mulvany said. "It was a row and he came out the worst for it.

"I did hit him. I don't want any sympathy for me. I have a record," he added. "But he (Sargent) went to extreme lengths to get us out."