Phonecall to dad helps gardaí nab Rose burglar

Anne Lucey

A man who broke into the International Rose of Tralee office where he took and consumed a bottle of wine has been sentenced to a 18 months in prison for this and other offences.

Accused Thomas McDonagh (37) with an address at 6 O'Connell's Avenue Listowel made a phonecall from the Rose office where he was drinking the wine and this was how Gardai identified him, the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee was told.

There had been no room at the town's homeless shelter Arlington Lodge and he was going to sleep in an outhouse at the back of the Ashe Memorial Hall - which houses the Kerry county museum and Rose of Tralee festival offices - but he could not get into the outhouse, Mr Liston said.

Mr McDonagh pleaded guilty to a total of six offences.

Outlining the offences, Tom Rice Prosecutor, said a man who parked his car at the Basin Tralee on April 21 last returned to find his wallet and €150 cash missing.

On the night of May 19 McDonagh had broken into the Kerry County Museum, in one part of the Ashe Memorial Hall, and then into the Rose of Tralee Offices which are another section of the building.

"Both premises were broken into on the night. A mobile phone originating from the Museum was found in the Rose of Tralee Office?" Mr Rice put it to investigating Detective Garda Brian Mackey.

Mr Mackey agreed and said gardai had identified the telephone which had been used to call Mr McDonagh's father in Galway. A bottle of wine belonging to the Rose of Tralee Office had been drunk and €40 petty cash was stolen. The court heard €700 worth of damage was caused to the Ashe Hall.

Two days later at Rock St. Tralee when a car owner opened the door of his parked car, Mr McDonagh fell out and tried to flee. The car owner ran after him and affected a citizen's arrest and held onto him until gardai arrived. He had caused €300 of damage to the car.

A search of Mr McDonagh revealed property belonging to another woman whose car had been broken into in Ashe Street - however gardai were unable to say it was Mr McDonagh who had smashed the window of the woman's car.

Mr McDonagh had "a bad record" and had spent significant periods of his life in prison here and abroad, the court was told. There was a background of drugs and alcohol also.

Detective Mackey said the accused had 104 previous convictions and is currently serving a nine month sentence.

Mr Liston acknowledged his client had "a terrible record". In mitigation Mr Liston said the earlier part of the year had been a particularly bad time for Mr McDonagh whose mother had died in early February on his birthday.

Mr Liston asked for leniency and said that his client was very remorseful.

Judge Thomas O'Donnell handed down a three year sentence suspending the last 18 months and three other concurrent sentences of 18 months.