SATURDAY morning shoppers in Newcastle West “feared for their safety” after a brawl involving six men broke out at around 11.30am in the town’s square, a court has heard.
Traffic was held up and a vegetable stall was knocked over in the course of the melee which resulted from a row in a local pub.
Three local men had charges of affray against them dismissed at Newcastle West District Court this week relating to the incident which occurred on February 23 last year.
The three - James Corbett of 57 Sharwood Estate, Newcastle West and brothers Ronan and Niall Kelleher of Market Yard in the town - all denied the charges.
Garda Helena Carey gave evidence that she was on call in Newcastle West garda station that morning when she received a number of calls about a row that had broken out in the Square. She arrived on the scene around 11.30 and the parties had left. However, she spoke to a local barman, Jamie Lee at the Knight’s Inn (Lee’s), who told her that a fight had taken place involving three men from Broadford and three from Newcastle West. He also told her that people who were in the square at the time had feared for their own safety.
He identified a number of the men who had been fighting, including the three defendants. Shortly afterwards, Garda Carey met Niall and Ronan Kelleher on the street. She told the court that Niall Kelleher’s T-shirt was badly ripped. The two men had “minor cuts” to the face.
She also called to the home of three other men allegedly involved in the incident, all of whom were from Broadford. Two of these men were not at home and the third had injuries to his face. He declined to give a statement about the incident.
In the course of the investigation into the incident, the three defendants were arrested and taken to Newcastle West Garda station to be interviewed. During these interviews, the three made certain admissions in relation to the incident. The transcripts of these interviews were read out in court.
The court heard that the three men had been at a 21st birthday party the night before in Ardagh. At around 8am, they returned to Newcastle West and went into the Corner House bar where they met the three men from Broadford.
In his evidence, Niall Kelleher told the court that The “Broadford boys” began to “slag” Mr Corbett about his speech impediment. “I asked them to stop but they didn’t,” Mr Kelleher said.
Shortly afterwards, both groups were asked to leave the bar. They subseqently met on the street near Superbites restaurant where more words were exchanged. However, believing that the problems had been resolved, the three defendants went to Lee’s bar.
They stayed at the front of the bar, while the other group remained at the back. While they were there, one of the Broadford men came over and offered to pay for their drinks, which they declined. “I told him we were okay, we would buy our own,” said Mr Kelleher.
Shortly afterwards, Niall Kelleher went out to the smoking area to talk to the three Broadford men. “It had seemed that everything was okay,” he said.
However he claimed that while he was there, he received a blow to the back of the head and fell, knocking a table.
Hearing the bang, his brother Ronan and Mr Corbett came out to the smoking area with Jamie Lee.
In their evidence, all three told the court that they saw Niall Kelleher on the ground with one of the Broadford men standing over him holding an ashtray.
Following a tussle in the smoking area, the three Broadford men left the bar. After helping Mr Lee clean up the smoking area, Mr Corbett and the two Kelleher brothers also left the bar “two or three minutes” afterwards.
All three told the court that, as they exited the bar, they were again set upon by the other group. Ronan Kelleher told the court that he saw one of the Broadford men holding a glass “above his head”. He took the glass from the man and handed it back inside the door of the bar.
Niall Kelleher also gave evidence of being attacked as they left the pub.
“There was one of the boys behind the pillar and he struck me. Another of the boys had a pint glass,” Niall Kelleher said. “After that I ran out and went to go across the square. They caught me and they were trying to hit me and I was trying to defend myself.” During this altercation he fell into a vegetable stall that was on the street at the time.
He then ran back in the direction of Lee’s where he was pushed back into the porch of the bar by “one or two” of the other men.
“They threw me down and I knocked my head off the window,” he said, adding that they then began kicking him on the ground until Ronan Kelleher and James Corbett arrived and pulled them off him.
The barman Jamie Lee told the court that he saw the men fighting in the Square and said that traffic was stopped as a result. He said he then saw Niall Kelleher being “rugby-tackled” by one of the Broadford men into the porch of the bar with the result that his head “bounced off the window and broke it”.
Afterwards, the three defendants ran into another local bar where they cleaned themselves up and shortly afterwards left by the back door.
Under cross-examination by Supt Helen Deely, all three defendants said they were acting in self defence.
Solicitor Enda O’Connor, representing the three men, said that the evidence heard by the court showed that at all stages, his clients were “trying to get away from their aggressors”.
“On the morning in question, the three defendants were minding their own business when they were interrupted by a group of individuals from Broadford who commenced antagonising them,” he said.In relation to the incident outside Lee’s bar, he added: “it would appear that the Broadford gang would not leave and they waited outside the bar for [the defendants]. If they had not waited, this would not have happened,” he said.
In dismissing the charges against the three men, Judge Mary Larkin said: “The difficulty here is that we are only hearing one side of the argument.” However, she added that she found “the three young gentlemen to be quite reasonable witnesses”.