Man gets 4 years for 'Love Ulster' assault on reporter

Sat, Mar 8, 2008, 00:00

A MAN who attacked RTÉ reporter Charlie Bird at the 2006 Love Ulster Parade riot has been given a four-year sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Graham Hanapy (25) shouted "you're an Orange bastard" at Mr Bird before punching him and knocking him to the ground.

He also shouted: "Fenian 'Free State' bastards, I'll kill you all" at gardaí who arrested him.

Mr Bird was treated in hospital for a fractured cheekbone, bruising and soft-tissue damage.

Hanapy, of Fortlawn Park, Blanchardstown, pleaded guilty to violent disorder and to assaulting Mr Bird causing him harm on O'Connell Street on February 25th, 2006. Judge Patricia Ryan imposed sentences totalling four years and suspended the final year on strict conditions.

Garda Finian Dempsey told prosecuting counsel Seán Gillane that he saw protesters throwing missiles at gardaí on O'Connell Street, and panicked members of the public running for cover. As he passed Clerys store he saw Mr Bird being chased by Hanapy and a number of other men.

He saw Hanapy catch Mr Bird and strike him in the face, knocking him to the ground. Hanapy then punched Mr Bird in the head as he lay on the ground before a number of people intervened and helped him to his feet.

Garda Dempsey said Hanapy came at the journalist again but Mr Bird was able to fend him off. Mr Bird was also struck in the head by another person as he was getting up.

Garda Dempsey said he pursued and arrested Hanapy, who was intoxicated and extremely aggressive.

Mr Bird, who was not in court, told gardaí he was working in the city centre on the day.

He was near the GPO when he heard someone shout "Charlie Bird, you're an Orange bastard" before he was assaulted and knocked down. Mr Bird's victim impact statement said he had been left "feeling shaken and battered" by the assault and was in shock for 36 hours afterwards.

He said he continues to attend physiotherapy for back pain.

Hanapy told gardaí he had a limited recollection of events but accepted he could have committed the assault.

Garda Dempsey said he was satisfied Hanapy did not have any political agenda for his actions.

Garda Dempsey agreed with defence counsel Isobel Kennedy SC that Hanapy had identified himself on CCTV images which showed him holding and firing various missiles at gardaí.

Ms Kennedy said Hanapy was disgusted by his actions and came from a decent, hard-working family. She said his seven previous convictions had been for minor offences and he had taken a large amount of alcohol and some antidepressants on the day.

Ms Kennedy handed into court letters of apology written by Hanapy to Mr Bird and the Garda public order unit, expressing his deep shame and regret.

She said he had lost his job and his relationship with his girlfriend. He was now attending counselling and having treatment for addiction problems.