At last week’s sitting of Carrick-on-Shannon Circuit Court Bernard McDonagh, 21 Cuain Ard, Dromod received a custodial sentence in relation to a series of incidents in the Carrick-on-Shannon area while he was handed a suspended sentence for threats he made against Gda Chris Rush and his family.
The defendant was convicted of a spate of burglary and criminal damage offences that occurred at 12 businesses in the Carrick-on-Shannon area and sentenced to two years and three months in prison while he was also convicted of making a threat to kill a member of An Garda Siochana for which he received a two year prison sentence, suspended for a period of two years.
Mr McDonagh was arraigned before matters were heard in relation to the majority of charges and entered a plea of guilty to criminal damage and burglary at the following locations: Leitrim Crystal, Bridge St, Carrick-on-Shannon on April 8/9, 2017; Trinity Books, Bridge St, Carrick-on-Shannon on April 8/9, 2017; Coffey’s, Bridge, St, Carrick-on-Shannon April 9, 2017; Aura Leisure, Carrick-on-Shannon on April 9, 2017; Library Court, Park Lane, Carrick-on-Shannon on April 17, 2017; Victoria Hall, Quay Rd, Carrick-on-Shannon between April 24 and April 26, 2017; Hope Foundation, Market Yard, Carrick-on-Shannon on May 1, 2017; Noel Sweeney’s Dental Surgery, Old Dublin Rd, Carrick-on-Shannon on May 1-2 2017; Reynolds’ Butcher, Main St, Carrick-on-Shannon on May 3, 2017; Emerald Star, The Marina, St George's Terrace, Carrick-on-Shannon on April 3, 2017 and Leitrim County Council Motor Tax Office, St George’s Terrace, Carrick-on-Shannon on April 9, 2017. Mr McDonagh had previously entered a guilty plea in relation to charges of criminal damage and burglary at NDLS, Townspark, Carrick-on-Shannon on April 3, 2017.
In evidence, Detective David Donnelly told the court in the first quarter of 2017 there were a series of burglaries committed in the Carrick-on-Shannon area. Businesses were targeted during hours in which they were closed with the modus operandi being smashing doors or windows to get access to money from tills or poor boxes.
As a result of investigations the defendant was identified as a suspect and on May 3, 2017 a burglary was reported. Gardaí went to the scene at Esquires, Carrick-on-Shannon and the defendant was arrested a short distance from the scene of the offence.
Det Donnelly said the defendant was “Intoxicated and seemed to be under the influence of medication.” Having been observed by a doctor it was determined Mr McDonagh was not in a fit state to be interviewed.
The following morning the defendant was interviewed and made full admissions to his involvement in the crimes.
Det Donnelly stated, “Initially he was hesitant. When the evidence was put to him he opened up and spoke freely about his involvement.”
The court heard that tills were forced open but the damage caused was of a limited amount with Det Donnelly commenting that in some premises there was €100-200 stolen and in other locations there was no money stolen.
The defendant was subsequently charged and appeared before Judge Kilrane at Ballyshannon District Court the following morning.
Det Donnelly said he investigated 95% of Mr McDonagh’s “involvement in crime” while he has been stationed in Carrick-on-Shannon and said the defendant has a total of 58 previous convictions.
Under cross-examination from Niall Flynn BL, the detective acknowledged the defendant was arrested initially as there were concerns for his own safety.
On the night of the incident in Esquires he was observed walking in the direction of the river with a big jacket and his pockets were said to be bulging.
Det Donnelly also agreed the defendant has struggled with addictions to alcohol and medication.
Gda Chris Rush gave evidence in relation to a threat made against him at Carrick-on-Shannon Garda Station by the defendant.
Gda Rush said on July 20, 2017 he was dispatched to answer a call of a male acting suspiciously and checking out cars near the boat club. En route to the scene Gda Rush met an intoxicated male who gave his name as Bernard McDonagh.
A mini-crowbar was discovered in the possession of Mr McDonagh who argued that it was for “domestic use.”
Mr McDonagh struggled when arrested and was then conveyed to Carrick-on-Shannon Garda Station where he said the defendant made a threat to burn Gda Rush’s house, get his wife and rape his daughters.
Gda Rush added, “He made a threat to start intelligence on my movements, follow me home and get friends to smash my face and he would have an alibi.”
Mr McDonagh was seen by Dr Mendez from NowDoc who deemed the defendant to be in an unfit state to be interviewed and he appeared before Ballyshannon District Court the following morning.
Gda Rush added the defendant, “Wouldn’t answer my questions. He mainly said it was none of my business and he would explain to the judge.”
Under cross-examination from Mr Flynn, Gda Rush said, “His general behaviour was belligerent, confrontational and threatening.”
Gda Rush acknowledged he received an apology from the defendant saying, “I accepted the apology but it doesn’t negate the threat. I had to explain to my family and review security.”
Gda Rush agreed with Mr Flynn’s comment that the defendant has a notorious history of thefts and burglaries but there are no instances of extreme violence in Mr McDonagh’s history.
Mr McDonagh was called by Mr Flynn to give evidence and put forward his version of events.
Addressing the court Mr McDonagh said, “I don’t remember (making the threats) but I accept what the Gda said.
“I wrote him a letter of apology and I sincerely do apologise to him.” Mr McDonagh added, “I wouldn’t say those words if I was sober.” To this day I can’t believe I said it but I accept what the Garda said.”
Mr McDonagh told the court he started taking prescription medication in 2013 following the breakup of his marriage adding that he hasn’t seen his children in six years.
The defendant told the court, “I’m on medication for nerves, anxiety, depression. Some of them I don’t even know what they’re for.”
When asked why he carried out the burglaries, Mr McDonagh replied, “Money for drink and drugs. I know if I was off drink I’d be a better person. I don’t intend to go down that road again.”
Mr Flynn told the court the defendant had previously run as a candidate in the local Council elections and had been studying law in Athlone IT but had to give up the course due to depression he was suffering from.
Under cross examination from Donal Keane BL the defendant insisted, “I’m not one of those gangster people carrying out threats. I’m shocked by what Gda Rush said.”
Addressing Judge John Aylmer, Mr Flynn said, “There is nothing I can say to take away from the gravity of the words used against Gda Rush. He is ashamed these threats took place.
“He co-operated with Gardaí and then some. He volunteered evidence the Gardaí did not know about or seek.”
Mr Flynn continued, “Mr McDonagh was arrested because of Sgt Byrne’s fear for his safety which gives some weight into his mental state at the time of offending.
“He is articulate and is capable of living a crime free life.
“This is not a man who is a lost cause. He has a lot of life to live and he has a lot to give.”
The State was represented by Donal Keane BL and Noel Farrell, State Solicitor.