'We had a beer, there was no lock-in' - Ring quizzed by gardai at city pub

Former Lord Mayor Nial Ring told the Herald he no longer owns the building which houses The Ref pub

Ken Foy and Luke Byrne

A former Lord Mayor of Dublin was questioned by gardai investigating a suspected lock-in at a city centre pub in alleged breach of coronavirus regulations.

Last night, Independent councillor Nial Ring denied any wrongdoing and commended gardai for the "professional and polite" way they had handled the situation .

He insisted there had been no breach of the Covid-19 rules.

The incident under investigation by Fitzgibbon Street gardai began at around 11pm last Friday when officers observed three men outside The Ref pub in Ballybough in the north inner city.

The Ref pub

"Gardai became suspicious after observing these three men and they then heard what they thought were people inside the pub," a source told the Herald last night.


"Gardai then attempted to gain entry to the pub by knocking on the shutters for a period before a man, who they understood to be the owner, let them in.

"On entry, five males were found to be present in an upstairs area and they were all sent home after their details were obtained."

There were no arrests, and the case is being investigated under anti-coronavirus regulations, which require that all non-essential businesses, including pubs, be closed.

Gardai, who have been given sweeping new powers by the Government to fine or detain those who do not comply when given orders to return home, launched their first operation, Operation Fanacht, which involved 2,500 gardai being placed on checkpoints countrywide over the Easter weekend.

Records from the Land Registry show Mr Ring and his business partner Liam McGrattan took out a mortgage on the building housing the pub, 70 Ballybough Road, with AIB in August 2006.

Mr Ring told the Herald he no longer owns the building.

Mr McGrattan is listed as the licensee for alcohol sales there, according to Revenue Commissioners records.

When contacted by the Herald, Mr Ring said: "There were five of us upstairs in my office, which is completely separate from the bar downstairs, which I have no access to, when I answered the door to gardai.

"This is my work office and I was there with my business partner and a couple of his colleagues and we were each having a bottle of beer after completing an important business matter.

"We were all two metres apart and what we were drinking did not come from the pub downstairs.

"I think the gardai are doing a great job in policing the Covid-19 crisis and they were very professional and polite when they entered the premises. I am 100pc behind their efforts.

"They spent around 10 to 15 minutes here and were asking what was going on. Of course they asked was the drink from the bar downstairs, but it wasn't.

"The gardai were doing their job in a professional manner and they had a good look around the bar before they left.

"There is absolutely no issue here, and there was no lock-in.

"There was no breach of the regulations, and I have complete respect for how the gardai went about their business."

The city councillor served as Lord Mayor of Dublin from June 2018 to June 2019.

It previously emerged that Mr Ring spent €366,000 of taxpayers' money on hospitality during his year in office.

He spent €28,488 on "beer" in three months and €35,240 on "red and white wine" over 12 months.

In addition to the cost of alcohol for the thousands of people Mr Ring invited to the Mansion House, more than €13,000 was spent on commemorative pens and pencils engraved with his name.


In February last year, it emerged that the then Lord Mayor managed to save his home from a bank sale after raising well over €1m to pay debts he owed Bank of Ireland Mortgage Bank.

Dublin Circuit Civil Court heard Mr Ring and his wife, Joyce, were named in repossession proceedings, and that a three-mortgage debt amounting to €903,420, together with the bank's undisclosed legal costs bill, could be struck out.

Mr Ring's counsel told Judge Jacqueline Linnane the extent of the new funds, and where and how they had been raised, could not be divulged as it might breach data protection legislation.

Only days before that court hearing, Mr Ring was hailed a hero after catching a fleeing burglary suspect in the city centre. The suspect was subsequently detained and arrested by gardai on patrol.