Exotic creature with gold-buttoned blazer makes an impression at court

Wed, Jul 25, 2012, 01:00

The regulars at the Dublin District Court were fascinated at the arrival of Seán FitzPatrick into their world, writes MIRIAM LORD

THIS WON’T have been the first time globetrotting businessman Seán FitzPatrick stepped into an airport arrivals hall to be met by a welcoming party.

He would have scanned the line of well-dressed people holding up names on rectangles of cardboard, recognised his own and walked to his chauffeur.

Or more likely, because he was so rich and so important, the driver would have instantly come to him.

The smartly dressed people were there for him again yesterday morning, waiting at dawn in Dublin Airport as the night-flight from the US touched down.

They didn’t need to hold up any card.

They know their man – it’s more than three years since gardaí began investigating the financial affairs of Seán FitzPatrick. They know him inside out. And at 5.37 precisely, they arrested him.

So began another chauffeured journey from the airport for high-flying Seánie.

He was taken to the Bridewell Garda station and charged in relation to alleged financial irregularities at Anglo Irish Bank.

FitzPatrick was held in a cell, before he was led to a prison van to join the rest of the defendants, part of the normal daily transfer to the Courts of Criminal Justice.

The dapper former millionaire wasn’t wearing his gold watch yesterday. The navy blazer draped over his wrists concealing that essential accessory of custodial bling – handcuffs.

Then Seánie’s journey continued on to the CCJ, a huge steel, glass and marble edifice – the Celtic Tiger’s gift to the criminal classes.

It’s been described as the judicial equivalent of a Nama hotel. A neat bit of symmetry.

It was business as usual in the District Court, save for the huge influx of crime reporters and finance correspondents and colour writers fighting for space among the morning flotsam of petty offenders.

Judge Cormac Dunne got to work, dealing briskly with the list.

It’s not a nice place to be. A smell of stale beer hung in the air at the back of the room. Sickly looking young men and women waited to be called, familiar with the drill when their time came.

The judge dealt patiently, courteously and compassionately with the people who came before him. Some could barely keep their eyes open, others sat with trembling hands.

Twenty cases were heard before Seán FitzPatrick’s name was called. Everyone wanted to see him. The regulars as fascinated as the rest, because they had asked about the fuss and wanted to witness the arrival of this exotic creature into their world.

A side door opened. FitzPatrick walked into court, took a few paces to his left and sat in the place reserved for defendants.

A young man sat next to this reporter. He fidgeted, stood up and sat down, watching, open-mouthed. His face was sweating and his skin had a waxy, grey pallor about it.

“He’s rich, isn’t he?” he asked, pulling up the zip on his Ralph Lauren Polo jacket. “How much is he worth? That fella probably has enough money to buy this courthouse.” Next to him was an older man. He too wore the uniform of branded leisurewear.

“Free legal aid. He’s going to ask for free legal aid!” he sniggered.

Seán FitzPatrick looked towards the body of the court, seeking out his sister, who would later go bail for him. Then he looked away, towards the window.

He was wearing the navy blazer now, his hands free to cross his arms tightly over his chest. Apart from saying “Good morning” to the judge, he didn’t have to speak.

Every detail was noted. Tweeted, no doubt, on the spot.

That blazer with gold buttons on the cuffs, the deep blue shirt, the marshmallow pink silk tie, with its discreet pattern and beige chinos. He wore black soft leather slip-ons.

Corporate casual his uniform.

The hearing was over in eight minutes. FitzPatrick is due back in court in October and will have to sign on in Irishtown Garda station every week until then.

The defendant looked tired and anxious. There are some things even the deepest tan can’t conceal.

Indignation was running high in the seats next to us. The stick-thin youngster told us he is homeless. “Thanks to him” he said, jabbing a finger at FitzPatrick, although he clearly didn’t actually know who he was.

FitzPatrick contemplatively stroked his chin, allowing the reporters to note the rich mahogany colour of his hands.

After he left, the court returned to normal. The reporters left.

The young man’s turn came. His solicitor explained that his case had gone “sideways.” The court had hoped his housing situation might have improved.

Sadly, it hadn’t and we heard how he had been living in a rat-infested home with his mother and her eight children.

Judge Dunne adjourned his case again.

Then Seán FitzPatrick returned to sign his bond and allow his sister, Joyce O’Connor, put up an independent surety of €10,000.

She walked to the top of the courtroom to sign the document, the man with her holding her handbag under his arm.

After a brief consultation with his solicitor, the former chief executive of Anglo prepared to leave. As he walked across the marble floor to the doors, he saw the bank of photographers and reporters outside.

With that, he stiffened his shoulder, put on a slight smile and strode out, arms swinging.

Then, with a number of gardaí clearing the way, Seánie Fitz climbed into the back of a waiting taxi and was driven away.

Just another day in the District Court.

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