Former republican terrorist convicted over gang attack at disputed apartment block
Former INLA member Dessie O’Hare, who was known as the ‘Border Fox’, told gardaí he was employed by businessman Jim Mansfield Junior to evict an employee and his family from their home, the Special Criminal Court has heard.
The three-judge court was also told during O’Hare’s sentence hearing yesterday that the employee pleaded with him to be given a few days to leave his property voluntarily but the defendant refused, saying: “Get out right now.”
Mr Justice Tony Hunt said that despite O’Hare’s counsel having made “a thought-provoking” plea in mitigation on his behalf, a non-custodial sentence was an “unlikely outcome”.
O’Hare (62), of Slate Rock Road, Newtownhamilton, Co Armagh, admitted last January to assaulting John Roche, causing him harm, at The Towers, Garter Lane, Saggart, Co Dublin, on June 9, 2015.
He also pleaded guilty to falsely imprisoning Martin Byrne at Rathcoole and Saggart on the same date.
The non-jury court was asked to take two counts of falsely imprisoning Mr Byrne’s wife and son into consideration.
At yesterday’s hearing, Detective Superintendent Colm O’Malley summarised the facts of the case.
He told prosecuting counsel Shane Costelloe SC that Martin Byrne was employed by James Mansfield Senior for almost 20 years.
Mr Mansfield Sr had run a number of prominent businesses before his death and Mr Byrne had provided a security-type arrangement for him and his extended family.
A number of Mr Mansfield Sr’s properties were in the process of or had been brought into Nama by the time of his death, the court heard.
James Mansfield Jr had taken over the running of his father’s business at this time and the portfolio of properties included a block of apartments called The Towers, close to Citywest. Mr Mansfield Jr was having particular difficulty reacquiring control of the apartments at The Towers, which was not under the control of Nama and was the subject of a dispute between him and other people.
The court heard that Mr Mansfield Jr asked Mr Byrne to accompany him to a business meeting in May 2015 with a view to seeing if his interest in the tower block could be reacquired.
Mr Byrne felt “uncomfortable” with the nature of the proposed meeting but Mr Mansfield Jr insisted he go with him to a business park, where they were met by O’Hare and Declan Duffy.
Mr Byrne told the men at this meeting that he could not partake “in the conversation” as Mr Mansfield Jr had his own interest in the proposed subject matter. Mr Byrne was perceived as the person who had called off the meeting and he left with his employer, Mr Mansfield Jr.
There was a deterioration in the two men’s relationship after the aborted meeting, which resulted in very little contact between them at this time, said Mr Costelloe.
The court heard that during this time Mr Byrne and his family lived in two units at The Towers, which was owned by Mr Mansfield Jr.
Mr Mansfield Jr contacted Mr Byrne to have a further meeting and they went to the same business park on June 9, where again O’Hare and Duffy were waiting in a room. At this point, Mr Mansfield Jr left the room and five other men came in and Mr Byrne was “blocked off” from leaving.
Mr Byrne was told in “no uncertain terms” that he and his family had to vacate The Towers, before he was brought to the courtyard of the building and placed into a car by the men. Mr Byrne pleaded with O’Hare to give him a couple of days to leave his home but the defendant refused and said: “Get out now”, before he was placed in a car.
Three cars drove in convoy back to The Towers and Mr Byrne was assaulted by the men in the car until they arrived at the gates of The Towers. O’Hare was in a different car at the time.
Following this, John Roche came to the gate and was asked to open it but he refused to do so and ran into the complex. Mr Byrne explained to the men that if they drove slowly at the gates they would open automatically.
Meanwhile, some of the other men went to look for Mr Roche and found him in a nearby house.
Five men including the defendant dragged Mr Roche from his house and assaulted him on the ground by kicking and punching him. CCTV footage of the assault was shown to court.
O’Hare was seen kicking Mr Roche four times while the other men punched and kicked him. Men can be seen bringing Mr Byrne’s wife and his son past the scene of the assault and towards the complex gates. Mr Roche and Mr Byrne were then brought to the same apartment but a resident at The Towers saw what was happening and made a 999 call to gardaí who soon arrived, said Mr Costelloe.
O’Hare and the other six men fled the scene at this point, the court heard.
According to Det Insp O’Malley, an investigation commenced and arrest warrants were issued. O’Hare had returned to Northern Ireland at the time but he ultimately came back to the jurisdiction of his own volition and presented himself at Clondalkin garda station with his solicitor in January 2018. The defendant had prepared a statement for gardaí.
The three members of the Byrne family have since been placed in the Witness Protection Programme, the court heard.
O’Hare has four previous convictions which include possession of a firearm, for which he received a five-year suspended sentence at the Special Criminal Court in 1977.
He also received a six-month sentence for assaulting a garda in 1979 and began serving a nine-year sentence the same year for possession of a firearm.
In 1988, O’Hare was sentenced to 40 years’ imprisonment for two offences; false imprisonment and assault causing grievous bodily harm.
As a result of the Good Friday Agreement, he was released from that sentence in October 2008.
O’Hare was remanded in custody until April 11 when he will be sentenced.