Rathkeale mother is charged with extortion offence

A RATHKEALE mother-of-seventeen has appeared before the District Court charged in connection with an alleged extortion racket in the west Limerick town.

A RATHKEALE mother-of-seventeen has appeared before the District Court charged in connection with an alleged extortion racket in the west Limerick town.

At a special sitting of Newcastle West Court on New Year's Day, Judge Mary O'Halloran refused an application for bail made by solicitor Ted McCarthy on behalf of 52-year-old Bridget Ryan of Fairgreen, Fairhill, Rathkeale.

Detective Garda Patrick Lee gave evidence of charging Mrs Ryan on New Year's Eve. She is accused of making an unwarranted demand for money with menaces from Patrick Hegarty at 7 Fairgreen between December 14 and Christmas Day, namely that she demanded €24,000 from Mr Hegarty or his house would be blown up if he did not pay.

When charged with the offence, Mrs Ryan told gardai she was "not guilty of these charges".

Detective Inspector Tom O'Connor opposed Mr McCarthy's application for bail on the grounds further serious offences might occur should Mrs Ryan achieve bail.

Mr McCarthy said the State's evidence was "speculative" and that the accused was prepared to abide by any conditions of bail set by the court. He also argued that Mrs Ryan was the sole carer for her husband, who has cancer of the throat.

The court heard that Mrs Ryan had 11 daughters and six sons and Superintendent Joe Roe suggested that one of the children could look after their sick father. But Mrs Ryan said only one of her adult daughters lived in the Rathkeale area. She added that she alone was trained to feed and medicate her husband through a tube.

Supt Roe also indicated that the State would object to any application for legal aid for Mrs Ryan as she was a woman of considerable means. Mr McCarthy said that an application could be made to the court in due course with the submission of a statement of means.

Judge O'Halloran remanded Mrs Ryan in custody to appear before Kilmallock District Court on Friday next, January 7.

The court heard that Mrs Ryan was arrested in the midst of an ongoing Garda operation in Rathkeale which had seen armed members of the Regional Support Unit on duty in the town around the clock for the past 10 days.

Two teenage boys arrested earlier this week as part of the investigation – led by Supt Roe and Det Insp O'Connor – have been released from custody pending a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions.