Waterford judge dismisses case against former Fianna Fáil candidate

Public order case caused contorversy as members of media excluded from sitting

Former Fianna Fáil European election candidate Kieran Hartley

Former Fianna Fáil European election candidate Kieran Hartley

 

A case involving a former Fianna Fáil European election candidate, which has caused a rift between An Garda Síochána and the Courts Service, has been dismissed.

Kieran Hartley, of Ballyboy, Kilmacthomas, Co Waterford, had a Section 6 public order charge dismissed by Judge Brian O’Shea at a special sitting of Dungarvan District Court.

The case, which saw four pre-trial sittings since September, has involved allegations that An Garda Síochána had falsified statements and also saw members of the press prevented from accessing a sitting on October 13th.

The Garda Press Office issued statements saying that gardaí were acting under the direction of Judge O’Shea on the day. However the Courts Service has disputed this.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, along with the National Union of Journalists, have called for an explanation from Garda management on how reporters were excluded from a case which was to hear a challenge to the authenticity of Garda statements.

Judge O’Shea previously dismissed the defence’s contention that Garda statements required further examination.

Earlier this month, he said journalists were “wrongly excluded from the court”.

The case centred on the cutting of a hedge, which the court heard was part of an “ongoing” row involving neighbours.

During Tuesday’s sitting in Dungarvan, it was outlined that Mr Hartley, who previously served as substitute MEP for Brian Crowley before leaving Fianna Fáil, had become involved in a heated argument with his neighbours on August 15th, 2020.

Dispute

He was alleged to have told his neighbour Eleanor O’Connor to “f**k off and go away” following her request that he stop cutting a hedge, which he had maintained was on his land.

Ms O’Connor told the court that when she asked if he was going to send her a solicitor’s letter, as he had done to others in the area, Mr Hartley had replied: “I’ll get you another way”.

Ms O’Connor also said Mr Hartley asked her if her mother had “ever tried to knock you down in a boreen” and if her father had “ever come at you with a chainsaw”.

She said he appeared “crazy” in their interaction.

Ms O’Connor’s account of events was echoed by her relative Roger O’Connor, who told the court that there “was no talking to” Mr Hartley during the row.

During a cross-examination by defence solicitor Frank Buttimer, Ms O’Connor’s recollection of the sequence of events was criticised as being inconsistent.

The defence also said a timeframe was altered on her statement to investigating Garda Thomas Daly without her initials of consent being evident on the statement, as required.

Sudden close

Judge O’Shea drew the hearing to a sudden close, saying he had decided that further witnesses would likely repeat what had already been heard.

Referring to the case as part of an ongoing dispute, he said that while the defendant’s language was “unsavoury, it could not amount to a criminal offence”, while he ruled that his threat to Ms O’Connor was open to both innocent and guilty interpretations.

He decided that the “benefit of the doubt” would go to the accused.

“Therefore there is no case to answer here,” Judge O’Shea said, dismissing the State’s case.