Kerry County Council fireman gets suspended sentence for setting fire to gorse land

Judge said there was ‘a serious breach of trust’ by David Ahern (37)

A fireman with Kerry County Council has been given a seven month suspended sentence for starting a fire on State owned gorse land, on the afternoon of Easter Monday, 2020.

David Ahern (37) a member of the Killorglin fire service had contested the charge of criminal damage by arson, in an area of bogland off the main Ring of Kerry road.

Ahern of St James Gardens, Killorglin, had denied he committed arson in that he damaged by fire property, namely gorse land at Cromane Upper, Killorglin, on April 13, 2020.

He had also denied that he dishonestly, by deception, induced the fire service department of Kerry County Council to pay him the sum of €151.04 for attending a fire at Cromane Upper, Killorglin to make a gain for himself contrary to Section 6 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud) Act, 2001.

He was convicted of the arson charge, but acquitted of the deception charge in December at the sitting of Cahersiveen District Court.

At the sentencing hearing held in Tralee on Monday, his solicitor Brendan Ahern said his client maintained his innocence. The solicitor asked that the ultimate sanction not be applied, given the defendant had no previous conviction.

There had been a lot of publicity and this had been difficult for his client and his family, the solicitor said.

The defendant, a father of two young children, had been suspended from the fire service since he was charged with the offence.

Judge David Waters said he was "more than satisfied" that David Ahern was guilty of the offence he was convicted of. The main mitigating factor was his lack of previous convictions, the judge said.

There was “a serious breach of trust” and it was “a serious matter,” Judge Waters said.

However he would suspend the sentence on David Ahern’s own bond of €600 euro, he said.

The court in Cahersiveen in December, heard how the defendant was one of a crew of nine who attended the scene to put out the fire on the Easter Bank Holiday Monday of 2020. Around 1.5 acres of State owned land was burnt.