A man who posted messages on Facebook about a company owner involved in the Strokestown evictions in Co Roscommon in 2018 has been found guilty of harassment.
Pensioner Tom Dignam (72) appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court in County Donegal having posted a series of messages on his personal Facebook account.
The messages referred to Aidan Devlin, managing director of Trinity Asset Management Services which is based in Mulhuddart in Co Dublin.
Devlin was involved in the eviction after his company were hired by KBC Bank.
The bank had bought the 33 acre farm at Falsk from the receiver following a legal battle.
Farmer Michael Anthony McGann, who owned the farm, and his siblings David and Geraldine were removed from the property on foot of a possession order during highly-publicised and distressing scenes.
Dignam was alleged to have posted a number of messages referring to Devlin and his role in the incident.
He referred to him as ‘Commander in chief’ of the eviction, a statement Mr Devlin said couldn’t be further from the truth.
Devlin reported the matter to Gardai and Dignam, of Dooish, Ballybofey, was arrested on November 20th.
Dignam was charged that between December 10th, 2019 and November 2nd, 2020, he harassed Aidan Devlin by persistently communicating with him by posting messages on Facebook.
Although Dignam was arraigned instead of answering ‘guilty or not guilty’, he instead said “I am innocent.”
When addressed about the law and if he understood what was happening, Dignam told the court on 22 occasions that “I do not understand what is happening.”
Judge John Aylmer said that from previous encounters with Dignam he did not accept this and he said he did not deem him an “unintelligent man.’
Dignam told Judge John Aylmer: “I am a living man. You have no jurisdiction over a living man.”
Judge Aylmer replied: “We are all living, Mr Dignan; there is no-one dead here.”
Witness Aidan Devlin told the court how he had been informed about four posts on Tom Dignam’s Facebook page.
He said he had been initially “indifferent” to the messages, in one of which Dignam called him a “scumbag”, as he wasn’t on Facebook.
However, he said when his children noticed the posts and the level of ‘vitriol’ that followed he became concerned.
In another post Dignam called Mr Devlin a ’scumbag who should be hounded at every opportunity’ and added that he was ‘scum of the earth’
“I felt very worried,” Mr Devlin said. “I considered it a direct threat to my own personal safety. I felt very disturbed. I interpreted it that violence against me or my family would visit my door.”
“I was frightened for my children and became concerned for myself and my wife and siblings,” he added.
Ms Patricia McLaughlin BL, Counsel for the State, said one of the messages had indicated that karma would prevail and another referred to Mr Devlin as the ‘Commander in chief’ of the eviction.
Mr Devlin added that his company’s role was to provide assistance to financial institutions, plaintiffs and the sheriff’s offices around country with, among other things, the execution of possession orders over properties.
Detective Garda Shane Killeen of Castlerea Garda Station told the court he arrested Dignam on November 20th and took him to Letterkenny Garda Station.
He showed Dignam a number of messages from Facebook and the accused confirmed it was his profile picture with a picture of himself and his pet Rottweiler dog, Tyson.
He confirmed that he was the chairperson and PRO of the Common Law Information Centre, a group involved in helping people in their dealings with the banks as well as the law and their rights.
He said all he wanted to do was to expose the wrongdoing of Mr Devlin and others when they used people from the North whom he claimed were operating without a licence.
Dignam confirmed that he had posted about Mr Devlin ‘so his neighbours and friends know what he is doing and to get onto him’.
He added that his group did not condone violence against any other man or woman.
Asked if he wished any harm on Mr Devlin, the accused said he did not and he would let the law take care of it.
The accused was asked by Judge Aylmer if he wanted to ask any questions of the two witnesses and he again replied “I do not understand what is going on.”
Through the two day trial, Judge Aylmer consistently asked Dignam if he understood what was happening as well as explaining the process of the trial but again the reply was the same.
The jury a jury of six women and five men retired and deliberated for one hour and 37 minutes before returning a verdict of guilty.
Judge Aylmer said he was adjourning the final sentencing until January next.
However, he instructed that he is not to communicate in any way, including electronically or through social media with the victim Mr Devlin.
He also told Dignam that he was not to come within one kilometre of Mr Devlin’s home or his place of work for a period of ten years.
When asked again if he understood the order, Dignam once again responded that he did not understand.