Football chairman charged with public order offences

 

The Shelbourne Football Club chairman, Mr Oliver Byrne, was charged with public order offences because he had refused to obey a garda direction to stop taunting St Patrick's Athletic FC supporters with "the two fingers" during a confrontation at a match, Dublin District Court heard yesterday

Sgt John O'Sullivan was giving evidence on the first day of a case against the Shelbourne boss arising out of an incident in the directors' box at St Pat's home ground, Richmond Park, during a game on August 16th last.

Mr Byrne is denying breach of the peace and failing to obey a garda direction. The case, which is scheduled for another three days next July in the court, is expected to hear evidence from nearly a dozen witness from each side, Judge Timothy Lucey was told.

A third charge against Mr Byrne of assaulting a fan during the match was withdrawn yesterday.

The court heard the incident was in the aftermath of a dispute between the two clubs over the deduction of nine league points from St Pat's for fielding an unregistered player in three matches. The points were subsequently restored by an arbitrator and a later High Court challenge by Shelbourne against this decision failed.

Concern had been expressed at a pre-security meeting about Mr Byrne's personal safety when Shelbourne next played St Pat's.

Towards the end of the game, gardaí were alerted that there was a problem in the directors' box. Sgt O'Sullivan, who was in charge of Garda match security, said he went to the directors' box, where he could see Mr Byrne giving two-fingered gestures to St Pat's supporters.

He could hear them chanting "Ollie out, Ollie out", but he did not hear some fans calling him names. He went up into the directors' box, where Mr Byrne was continuing to taunt the supporters who were very angry. "Mr Byrne was in a rage and hopping up and down in the directors' box."

When Sgt O'Sullivan told him to sit down, he lunged towards the officer, but was restrained by other people in the box. He was then warned that if he did not stop he could be arrested under Section 8 of the Public Order Act. "This conduct continued even after I had given him the direction; it was of no benefit either to him or me."

Sgt O'Sullivan said he decided not to arrest him then because he feared for his own safety. A file was later submitted to a senior officer and the DPP, and Mr Byrne was subsequently charged.

The sergeant denied that Mr Byrne had simply been putting up a finger on each hand to indicate that the score was now 1-1. He also denied that Mr Byrne's agitation towards him (the sergeant) was frustration at not having been properly protected from the St Pat's fans.

The hearing resumes on July 25th.