O’Hare says he was working for Mansfield at time of assault

Former INLA member ‘The Border Fox’ to be sentenced next week for attack on ex-CityWest employee

Dessie O’Hare pictured arriving at court on Wednesday for his sentencing hearing. Photograph: Courtpix

Dessie O’Hare pictured arriving at court on Wednesday for his sentencing hearing. Photograph: Courtpix

 

Dessie O’Hare, the former INLA member known as “The Border Fox”, was working for businessman Jimmy Mansfield jnr when he was part of a group which attacked and attempted to evict a family from their home, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

The man they targeted was Martin Byrne who had worked for almost 20 years for deceased businessman Jim Mansfield snr, the father of Mr Mansfield jnr.

O’Hare (62), of Slate Rock Road, Newtownhamilton, Co Armagh, pleaded guilty on January 14th last to falsely imprisoning Mr Byrne at Rathcoole and Saggart on June 9th, 2015. He also pleaded guilty to assaulting John Roche, causing him harm, at The Towers, Garter Lane, Saggart, Co Dublin on the same date.

On Wednesday, through his barrister Sean Guerin SC, O’Hare pleaded for leniency in sentencing, saying the crime did not reflect his true character or the way he had lived since he had been released from jail 13 years ago.

Through Mr Guerin, O’Hare said the 20 years he had previously spent in jail had been very difficult for him and that being jailed again would be “particularly onerous” on him.

However, Judge Tony Hunt said the court had considered the possibility of a non-custodial sentence and said that outcome was unlikely. As a result, O’Hare, who has been on bail pending sentencing, was remanded in custody until he is sentenced next Thursday.

It is the first time O’Hare has been back in prison since his release 13 years ago as part of the Northern Ireland peace process.

The non-jury court was told on Wednesday that O’Hare was part of a seven-man gang who were evicting Mr Byrne and his wife and children from their home at The Towers apartments near CityWest, west Dublin, almost four years ago.

After being bundled in a vehicle and beaten, Mr Byrne pleaded to be given a number of days to leave the property he was to be ejected from. But O’Hare told him he was leaving immediately.

Mr Roche, who tried to block O’Hare and the men he was with from entering the apartment building where Mr Byrne and his family lived was subjected to a sustained group attack during which his head was stamped on repeatedly.

That attack was witnessed by another resident at the The Towers apartment block and they called the Garda.

When gardaí turned up on the scene, O’Hare and those he was with dispersed. However, five of the seven men have now been charged and dealt with by the courts, O’Hare the fifth in that regard.

One of those convicted for the attack was former INLA figure Declan ‘Whacker’ Duffy who was jailed for six years in January 2018.

There are two further cases pending against the remaining two men.

Det Supt O’Malley told prosecuting counsel Shane Costelloe SC that Mr Byrne was employed by Mr Mansfield snr for almost 20 years, providing security for him and his extended family. When Mr Mansfield died his son and other family members assumed control of the business and property interest, though some assets came under the control of Nama.

Jimmy Mansfield jnr contacted Martin Byrne in June, 2015, asking him to attend a meeting in relation to the dispute over The Towers apartments. File image: Collins
Jimmy Mansfield jnr contacted Martin Byrne in June, 2015, asking him to attend a meeting in relation to the dispute over The Towers apartments. File image: Collins

The court was told there were problems in regaining control of the The Towers apartments in Garter Lane, Saggart, Co Dublin.

Mr Mansfield jnr, the court heard, was in dispute with those who had control over the block, in renovated stables, though those people were not named in court.

In May, 2015, Mr Mansfield jnr asked Mr Byrne to accompany him to meet “two businessmen” at an industrial estate that was controlled by an unnamed member of Mr Mansfield jnr’s extended family. When they went to the meeting it became clear they were meeting O’Hare and fellow INLA figure Duffy.

The court was told when Mr Byrne saw who he was meeting he said he could not continue with the meeting, which was brought to a close after a very short period.

In the weeks that followed, Mr Mansfield jnr and Mr Byrne, who is now in the witness protection programme with his wife and children, had very little contact as their relationships was now strained.

However, Mr Mansfield jnr contacted Mr Byrne in June, 2015, asking him again to attend a meeting with him in relation to the dispute over The Towers apartments. While Mr Byrne was reluctant to go, he eventually agreed and went with Mr Mansfield jnr to the second meeting, on June 8th, 2015.

The meeting was to be held at the same industrial estate as the previous meeting. And in order to reassure Mr Byrne that nothing untoward was about to happen, Mr Mansfield rang his relative who controlled the industrial estate and put the call on speaker phone in his car. However, when Mr Mansfield jnr and Mr Byrne went into one of the units, O’Hare was again present with Duffy.

A further five men came into the room, blocking Mr Byrne’s exit and Mr Mansfield jnr also left the room. The seven men told Mr Byrne that he was being brought back to The Towers apartment block and that he and his wife and three children were being removed from the two units they occupied.

Mr Byrne was placed into a vehicle with some of the men and beaten as the men, with Mr Byrne as their hostage, drove in a three-car convoy back to The Towers.

When they reached The Towers a man occupying one of the apartments – John ‘Jay’ Roche – came out to the gate but he refused to open it and then ran off, back into his apartment. Mr Byrne was told this was a very serious development for him. He then told the men the opening mechanism on the gate was broken and if they drove their vehicles right up to the gate that it would open. They followed his advice and the gates opened.

Two of the seven-man gang then went to Mr Byrne’s apartment and took his wife and two sons out of the property. The other five went to the unit where Mr Roche lived. When he answered their call to his door he was bundled outside by O’Hare and was then subjected to a group assault.

The group attack left his arm and nose broken and saw him sustain bruising and cuts on his head, face, arms and elsewhere. It was recorded on CCTV which was shown to the Special Criminal Court.

The court was told that when the gardaí were called and arrived, Mr Byrne was sent outside by O’Hare to assure them there was no issue. However, one of the gardaí had worked at times at the CityWest and Finnstown House hotels – both owned by Mr Mansfield snr – and he knew Mr Byrne through the security work he did. The garda could see Mr Byrne was distressed, prompting O’Hare and his associates to flee.

O’Hare was later identified and charged. Though he had fled to the North by the time his arrest was sought, he agreed to present himself to the Garda in the Republic. He pleaded guilty and told the Garda that he was present on the day in June, 2015 when Mr Byrne was falsely imprisonment and assaulted and when Mr Roche was assaulted.

The court was told Mr Roche, who CCTV footage showed had been covered in blood from his injuries, did not cooperate with the Garda inquiry. However, Mr Byrne and his wife did cooperate and their evidence has been used to secure convictions against five of the seven men to date. They remain living in the witness protection programme almost four years after the attack.

The court was told they had been deeply affected by the attack and were now isolated in the witness protection programme.

Mr Justice Hunt, presiding, sitting with Judge Patricia Ryan and Judge Ann Ryan, was told O’Hare was sentenced in 1988 to two 20-year terms of imprisonment to run consecutively having been convicted of false imprisonment and grievous bodily harm.

That sentence related to the 1987 kidnapping of Dublin dentist John O’Grady who was held for 23 days and had the tips of two fingers cut off during the ordeal.

O’Hare’s first conviction was in July, 1977, for possession of a firearm with intent, and he received a five year suspended sentence. Two years later, he was jailed for six months for assaulting a garda. And just four months later, in November 1979, he was convicted of firearms offences and jailed for nine years.