Man avoids prison after attempted petrol bombing and bus attack

June 16, 2017

A Manorcunningham man who was involved in an attempt to petrol bomb a house before attacking a bus has been sentenced to community service.

Paul Sweeney (27) of Rooskey, Manorcunningham, was part of a gang of five who carried out the crimes in September 2009.

The court heard how the gang “ran riot” on the night of the incidents which took place at Croagh Patrick in Letterkenny and the Port Road.

The four co-accused appeared before the courts previously. Sweeney, who was 19 years old at the time of the crimes, was in Australia when the case came to court. Sweeney returned to Donegal last year and appeared at the Letterkenny Circuit Court this week.

The court heard that on the night of September 6th, 2009, three young men were seen running away from a house at Croagh Patrick in Letterkenny after the owner was woken by breaking glass.

Garda Derek Connaughton said the occupant of the house saw the three men running from an alley beside the house and phoned gardaí. One of the men was carrying a hammer.

When he went downstairs he saw broken glass and what he thought were two petrol bombs that had not ignited. The items were sent for analysis and it was determined that they were the components of an improvised incendiary device.

On the same night two men from Co. Fermanagh who were on a bus as part of a stag party were attacked. Five men arrived in a car and attacked the bus on the town’s Port Road breaking windows using a crossbar and a wheel brace. Fingerprints belonging to a co-accused, Alan Parke, were found on the bus. Counsel for the State Patricia McLaughlin (BL) said the five men tried to get on the bus. Sweeney swung a wheel brace and hit one man, injuring him on the leg.

One of the men on his bus suffered injuries to his hand as he tried to prevent the accused getting onto the bus.

Sweeney was arrested and interviewed on five occasions. He initially denied any involvement but eventually admitted his role.

The court heard Sweeney had previous convictions for minor public order matters. Defence counsel, Fiona Crawford (BL) said Sweeney has been working in Australia and London since 2012. She said he came back voluntarily last year.

On the night Sweeney was a member of a group of young fellas “running around Letterkenny causing havoc”.

She said he has mellowed in the eight years since the incidents and is now a mature 27-year-old.

Judge O’Hagan said he was quite taken aback when he heard the original evidence at a previous sitting. “They literally ran riot on the night and carried out a series of senseless crimes terrifying all before them,” he said.

He said he would impose the same sentence that had been imposed on the co-defendants.

The judge sentenced Sweeney to two years in prison for assault causing harm but substituted it with 240 hours community service. He imposed the same sentence for criminal damage to the bus and attempted arson. All three sentences are to run concurrently.