'Like Duffy's Circus': Limerick publican caught in crossfire of love triangle

Maria Flannery


Maria Flannery

Judge Mary Larkin: ‘Satisfied’ to convict the defendant

Judge Mary Larkin: ‘Satisfied’ to convict the defendant

AN ONGOING dispute between two women over one man was “like Duffy’s Circus” and led to the assault of a publican, a Limerick court has heard.

Mary Phillips, with an address at Lower Maiden Street, Newcastle West, was convicted of assault of a third, unrelated woman, and fined €250 for the attack on January 28, 2017.

Margaret Hartnett, the proprietor at Mag’s Bar on Bridge Street in the town, was the victim of the assault, which led to the two women grasping at each other’s hair. Ms Hartnett was left with bruises to her side and lost “clumps of hair” after the assault.

Ms Phillips, who has one previous public order conviction, was coming to the bar to see Noreen Crawford, with whom she had bad blood, and the publican had been trying to stop a fight breaking out when she was struck, Newcastle West court heard.

Before the incident, the court heard that there had been a marriage between Noreen Crawford and John Farrell. Mr Farrell is the ex-partner of Mary Phillips, who has two children by him.

Ms Hartnett gave evidence that she was told on the night that Mary Phillips was coming “to cause trouble” with the Crawfords.

The publican said that Ms Phillips arrived at the door and “was incoherent”. Ms Hartnett informed her that she would not be coming in.

The pub owner said that Ms Phillips came into the bar after her anyway, and started to go towards where the Crawfords were sitting.

“I put out my two hands and said go away. She pushed me aside to get to Noreen Crawford,” said Ms Hartnett, who added that the defendant was “shouting incoherently”.

Ms Hartnett again tried to go between the two women, and Ms Phillips pulled the back of her hair and pushed her face down into the ground, before starting to punch and kick her, the court was told.

In her statement to gardai after the incident, Ms Hartnett said that Mary “slapped me into the chest, thumped me”.

The publican said that she was “protecting my pub and everyone inside it”.

Another woman who was working on the night, Tina McMahon, phoned the gardai.

In her evidence, Ms Phillips denied the events laid out in Ms Hartnett’s evidence, saying that she arrived for one drink and had a civilised conversation with Ms Hartnett at the door, before the publican punched her on the left of her face. She claimed that her glasses were knocked off her face after the slap, and she could no longer see what was going on.

She also denied being drunk, saying “I’m not a drinker”. She was thrown out of the pub afterwards by two bystanding patrons, one of whom was her own nephew.

Inspector Alan Cullen suggested that the reason why there was such an effort to get her out of the bar by one of her own family members was “because of her behaviour”.

In her evidence, Noreen Crawford said that Mr Farrell arrived at the bar, where she and her mother Caroline were having a drink, and said “Caroline, Mary Phillips is coming to sort you and Noreen out.”

Ms Phillips had been “against” John and Noreen being together, and there was significant hostility between the two women.

The court heard that Noreen had phoned Ms Phillips on one prior occasion and spoke in abusive terms, making allegations about the paternity of one of Ms Phillips’ sons.

On the stand, Ms Crawford said that “Mary never reached out to get me the way Margaret is saying”. However in her statement to gardai, Ms Crawford described the aggression shown by Ms Phillips.

The court was told that Ms Crawford is no longer with Mr Farrell. She and Ms Phillips are now on good terms.

They walked up to court together on the morning of the hearing, the court heard.

Insp Cullen made an application to treat Ms Crawford as a ‘hostile witness’, because her evidence on the stand differed to the statement made to gardai immediately after the incident.

“Noreen’s position has changed, she is now friendly with Mary and this change of mood is why Noreen had to be treated as a hostile witness,” said Insp Cullen.

Mary Phillips declined to give a statement to gardai after the incident was reported.

Garda Mark Mannix, who attended the scene at 10.50pm on the night, said that Ms Hartnett was missing hair from the back of her head and had a visibly red face.

Caroline Crawford, Noreen’s mother, said that she thought Mary had been treated unfairly by the publican, but admitted that there were “issues” between Noreen and Mary.

“It’s like Duffy’s Circus between the two of them over one man,” she said.

Making the decision to convict, Judge Mary Larkin said that “Ms Hartnett was alerted to a possibility of violence in her pub” and was justified in making efforts to prevent an incident.

The judge noted that Ms Phillips, when giving evidence, was quite aggressive towards the inspector.

She said that there was “no doubt in my mind that the aggressor here was Mary Phillips”.

There was a “high level of aggression” between the two women, especially since Noreen Crawford “made allegations about the paternity of one of Mary Phillips’ children,” concluded the judge.

“Her own nephews threw her out of the bar,” she added.

Judge Larkin also said that she was satisfied that the statement made to gardai by Noreen Crawford was true account of what she witnessed, disregarding Ms Crawford’s conflicting evidence on the stand.

“I have absolutely no difficulty in convicting,” said Judge Larkin, imposing the €250 fine.