THE Garda Armed Support Unit had to be called in when uninvited guests barged their way into a christening party in Rathkeale and a full-scale fight broke out, Newcastle West Court has heard.
The incident began in the lobby of the Rathkeale House Hotel last March, Garda Errol Tuohy said, in the case of four men, including the father of the child being christened, who faced charges in connection with the fight.
Gardai stopped the fight in the hotel, the garda said, but people then moved out into the car-park where the armed support unit helped to bring the fight under control.
However, he told the court that one of the accused, Daniel O’Brien, the father of the child being christened, had been helping hotel management, when uninvited guests arrived at the party.
He had pointed out who was to be allowed in, and who was not, Garda Tuohy explained, but people got in through a side-door and a back-door.
The party, which was also a 50th birthday party, had been booked for 50 people but when the Gardai arrived there were approximately 100 people in the hotel, the garda said.
The four accused were Daniel O’Brien of Stratton Pines, Bishopstown, Cork; Trevor Wall of Chestnut Gardens, Newcastle West; Colm Folan of The Willows, Ballincollig, Cork and Thomas Keenan of Meelagh View, Mahon, Cork.
All four were charged with being intoxicated in a public place, with threatening and abusive behaviour and with failing to comply with the direction of a Garda last March 24.
In addition, both Mr Wall and Mr Folan were charged with causing an affray while both Mr O’Brien and Mr Keenan were charged with obstructing a peace officer.
Mr Keenan was not in court solicitor John Herbert said, because of family reasons and a bench warrant was issued.
Explaining the background to the case, Mr Herbert said that a number of uninvited people arrived at the party which was for Mr O’Brien’s first-born child.
They were not invited for good reason, he said. “Mr O’Brien engaged with them, asked them to leave. That quickly became very heated and a fight broke out in the lobby area outside the main function room,” Mr Herbert said. Others quickly became involved.
“None of the three men dispute the facts as outlined,” he went on and were pleading to the charges.
Mr O’Brien, he said, was married to a Newcastle West woman, which was why the function was organised in Limerick. “He was aware of the potential for difficulty. Unfortunately, he bore the brunt of a lot of it.”
The judge was told Mr O’Brien had seven previous convictions, the most recent being in June 2011 when he was given an eight-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months at a court in Cork.
Pleading for his client, Mr Herbert said he had settled down and was now married with a child.
“Can you address me on why the Garda armed unit had to be called. It sounds to me like an extraordinary debacle,” Judge Mary Larkin said.
“It was a containment exercise until the gardai could move in in safety,” Mr Herbert said
But the judge responded saying: “It was a bit of a free-for-all, started by Mr O’Brien who didn’t want to let people in.”
Garda Tuohy then explained that Mr O’Brien had been helping hotel staff, pointing out who was to be allowed in. “I didn’t see him fighting myself,” he said.
The judge remanded Mr O’Brien on bail to Cork City Court on the issue of his suspended sentence and then adjourned the current case against him to November 13 when it would be finalised.
Mr Folan, the court heard was 19 and a first cousin of Mr O’Brien’s and did some part-time work with his uncles.
He had no previous convictions, Judge Larkin was told and she fined him €150 for being intoxicated in a public place and €500 on the “more serious offence” of threatening and abusive behaviour.
She took the two other charges into consideration, saying she was very conscious he had no previous convictions. “I think he should get a chance.”
Mr Wall was 23 and engaged to Mr O’Brien’s sister-in-law, solicitor John Herbert said. “He foolishly became involved out of a misguided sense of familial loyalty,” Mr Herbert said.
He had 30 previous convictions including what the Judge described as “almost extraordinary” number for being intoxicated and for threatening and abusive behaviour.
“I take it this man has issues to address in relation to alcohol,” she said. “Obviously he doesn’t know when to stop.”
“Has he any interest in being involved in a drug and alcohol programme?” she asked.
“Sending him to jail doesn’t work. I am very conscious it was a family night and it is easy to get a rush of blood to the head when you feel your territory is being invaded even though sensible people don’t do that.”
“I have a difficulty with giving people terms of imprisonment ad infinitum. If he is given an opportunity now, it might serve as a wake-up call.”
She remanded Mr Wall to appear before Newcastle West court on November 13 and in the meantime to be assessed for addiction services.
But she warned him he was still bound by the bail bond conditions, which include a curfew.
“I am also directing that he be sober and of clean habits and avoid alcohol and other substances.”