Retired garda alleges serious assault at Strokestown eviction

Angry scenes at court after Donegal man charged with violent disorder remanded

Burned-out vans and cars in the yard of the house in Strokestown in December. Photograph: Brian Farrell

Burned-out vans and cars in the yard of the house in Strokestown in December. Photograph: Brian Farrell


A retired garda told a court on Friday that he had made a complaint to gardaí about a serious assault on him at the scene of an eviction at Falsk, Strokestown, Co Roscommon, last December.

There were angry scenes at Castlerea District Court after a Donegal man charged with violent disorder at Falsk, some days after the eviction, was remanded in custody after four independent sureties were deemed unacceptable.

Earlier a crowd of about 20 anti-eviction protesters had gathered outside Harristown District court in advance of the appearance there of two defendants charged separately with offences at Falsk some days after the eviction.

Kevin Taylor, a retired Garda with an address at Dublin road, Longford, was one of four people who had offered to provide €5,000 as an independent surety in the case of PJ Sweeney (54) from High Cairn Ramelton, Co Donegal, who is charged with violent disorder at Falsk on December 16th last.

Judge Marie Keane was told that the High Court had approved bail for Mr Sweeney on Thursday, subject to a number of strict conditions.

After his case was dealt with first at Harristown court beside Castlerea prison, on Friday morning and later at Castlerea District Court, Mr Sweeney was remanded in custody. He is due to appear in Harristown District Court on January 25th.

Separately Martin O’Toole (54) from Stripe Irish Town, Claremorris, Co Mayo, was remanded in custody until February 1st after appearing at Harristown court charged with burglary and trespass at Falsk, Strokestown, on December 16th last.

When his case was called counsel Morgan Shelley, instructed by solicitor Phelim O’Neill, said he wanted to flag an issue . He said there would be difficulties with Judge James Faughnan dealing with the case as solicitors acting for Judge Faughnan and his wife had entered into legal correspondence wth Mr O’Toole. Judge Keane said this could be flagged at future court sittings.

In relation to Mr Sweeney’s case Judge Keane was told that his solicitor Alan Gannon had learned on Friday morning that gardaí had difficulty with the proposed independent surety mentioned in the High court documents who was willing to put up €5,000.

Sgt Patrick McGirl said this was a sensitive issue on which he did not want to elaborate, as that could be “prejudicial to our investigation”.

Mr Gannon said he felt his client was being “boxed into a corner”.

The defendant’s long-term partner, Sandra Roulston, told the court that she was willing to be the independent surety. She said she and the accused had five children together aged 11 to 30.

Judge Keane questioned the meaning of the term “independent” surety and asked how a spouse, long-term partner or child of an accused person could be deemed independent.

After she refused to accept Ms Roulston the case was referred to a later sitting of Castlerea district court where two more people who offered to be the independent surety were rejected. Joseph McCarron from Diamond, Dungloe, who had provided a printout of his bank statement, was rejected after Sgt McGirl said it was €3,969.25 overdrawn. Mr McCarron said he was “amazed” to learn that and said he had €5,000 in cash. Judge Keane said she did not consider him an acceptable independent surety.

Kevin Taylor confirmed that he had made a complaint to gardaí on December 12th about an alleged assault on him at Falsk on December 11th, the date of the eviction there. He described it as a “serious, serious assault causing bodily harm”.

He agreed that the alleged offence committed by Mr Sweeney also related to the same address at Falsk, Strokestown.

Asked how he was aware of this location, the retired Garda said he was aware of the people living there.

He told the court that he knew Mr Sweeney as they both deal in horses.

When the judge rose briefly supporters of Mr Sweeney shouted “farce!” and “shame!”

When the case resumed Judge Keane said Mr Taylor had made a complaint in relation to an incident which she believed was “tangential” to the incident involving the accused and she would not accept him as an independent surety.

She remanded Mr Sweeney in custody to Harristown court on January 25th.