Man for court in connection with Athlone attack
Crowd gathers outside Garda station where man is being questioned
People gather outside Athlone courthouse and Garda station, where a man in his 30s is being held in connection with an alleged serious sexual assault on two girls. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
A man is due to appear in court tomorrow charged in connection with a serious sexual assault on two young girls who were attending a birthday party in Athlone last Saturday afternoon.
The two girls, aged six and nine, were back with their families today after being treated in hospital following the attack.
Up to 100 people were still gathered tonight outside Athlone Garda station where the man was questioned during the day.
The man is due to appear at a District Court later tomorrow, but gardaí have opted not to name the location.
Earlier, community leaders in Athlone called for calm as a crowd gathered at the station. Anthony Francis (33), a plumber and father-of-two from Athlone who helped organise the protest, said the gathering was a way of highlighting people’s anger at what happened.
“We need this to be highlighted,” she said. “People are sickened. People are angry. My own kids play right beside where this happened... We want people who are involved in these kinds of attacks to know that we won’t put up with this.”
He insisted the protest was peaceful and would continue until the community was satisified that justice was done.
Joanne Hewitt (32), a mother-of-two, said the attack meant she felt she could no longer let her children play unsupervised.
“I’m physically, physically, physically sick. They’re only babies. I’m just thinking of my children. I live in a cul de sac. From now on, I’ll be out the front with them at all times. They have to have a bit of childhood - but we can’t be careful enough.”
Mayor of the town, Cllr Gabrielle McFadden, called on residents of not to over-react and to have faith in the Garda investigation.
“People shouldn’t panic. Gardaí are doing their job. They shouldn’t comment or do anything to jeopardise this case. It’s important that people settle down. There is nothing to be gained by standing outside the Garda barracks; justice has to take its natural course.”
Another local councillor, Aengus O’Rourke, said that while people’s anger was understandable, the Garda should be allowed to complete their investigation.
“Due process is underway and we have to see what transpires,” he said. “This was barbaric. The entire town is in shock. Our thoughts are with the families and the girls - this is a trauma that goes way beyond comprehension.”