Councillor charged over breach of peace incident at council carpark

July 17, 2023

Donegal County Councillor Frank McBrearty has been charged with engaging in threatening, abusive or insulting words with intent to provoke a breach of the peace.

The charge relates to an incident at Donegal County Council County House car park, The Diamond in Lifford on December 13th, 2021.

The 54-year-old has also been charged that, on the same date at the same location that he did without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, wilfully prevent or interrupt the free passage of a vehicle in the said public place.

The charges relate to an incident involving another Donegal County Councillor and were mentioned at today’s sitting of Letterkenny District Court.

Mr McBrearty was not in court for the short hearing.

The summonses for the alleged offences were served on a property at Tullyrap, Raphoe, whereas Councillor McBrearty resides at Tullyvinney, Raphoe.

Solicitor for the accused, Mr Patsy Gallagher, said there were questions for the State to answer on where the address had been sourced from and why the summonses were issued to this address.

The Donegal County Councillor has also been charged with a public order offence contrary to section 6 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act on March 23, 2022 at Ballymacarry Lower, Buncrana.

It is alleged that he did use or engage in threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to provoke a breach of the peace or being reckless as to whether a breach of the peace might have been occasioned.

The charge is connected to an alleged incident outside the Inishowen Gateway Hotel while the The Association of Irish Local Government were holding a conference

When the matter was previously before the court it was struck out due to the summons having been sent to the wrong address.

“It was struck out, not dismissed,” Judge Cunningham had told Mr Gallagher at Buncrana District Court on Thursday last.

At today’s court sitting, Garda Sergeant Jim Collins said the State was seeking to amend the address on the summons.

Mr Gallagher asked if Gardai could advise where the address was obtained and why an amendment was required at this stage.

He said the summons has since been served personally on the accused at his home address. He said the summons was reissued as it had been previously served on an incorrect address.

Sergeant Collins said it was not something that would prejudice McBrearty and was ‘merely for recording purposes’.

“He is of course prejudiced,” Mr Gallagher contested. “This has had a lot of airplay. Why do they want to make an amendment, apart from to highlight the parties before the court.”

Judge Cunningham asked how McBrearty could be prejudiced if he had been served personally and a legal representative was in court on his behalf.

“Why was it served on Tullyrap in the first place?” Mr Gallagher asked. “Where is the confusion here? Where was that address got from?”

Sergeant Collins said the address was obtained from the Garda Pulse system.

“If it was got from Pulse, it raises questions which will take more airing,” Mr Gallagher said.

Sergeant Collins said he couldn’t comment directly on why Tullyrap was the address the State had for McBrearty.

Judge Éiteáin Cunningham said she was noting that Mr Gallagher was acting on the instructions of his client, who has ‘certain issues or questions he may wish to raise with the State’.

“The court doesn’t see any prejudice,” Judge Cunningham said. “From what has been opened, the court is of a view that no prejudice arises. It is a minor amendment.”

Mr Gallagher asked that the application to amend the summons be adjourned.

He said: “If the status quo remains until the Chief Superintendent can write to me and furnish statements on all matters.”

Mr Gallagher also noted the presence of Donegal County Council’s solicitor, Mr Michael Staines, in court on a watching brief noting it was adding to the cost to the public.

The case was adjourned until October 3, 2023.