Charges against two members of the former Occupy Galway who had been accused of vandalising Galway City Council property with anti-austerity slogans written in chalk were withdrawn by the State this week. However, there was surprise when applications were made by both men looking for taxpayers to pay.
Judge Mary Fahy refused the legal aid applications for 27-year-old Christopher Duignan of 22 St Cormac’s Park, Kilcormac, Offaly, and 20-year-old Mark McKenna of 158 Laurel Park, Newcastle.
Earlier this year both men appeared before Galway District Court charged with criminal damage by defacing stone walls at Kennedy Park, Eyre Square, with handwritten slogans in chalk, contrary to Section 2(1 ) of the Criminal Damage Act 1991 on May 17, 2012. A decision on legal aid applications was reserved pending DPP directions.
When the case resumed at last Monday’s court sitting, Inspector Brendan Carroll made an application to withdraw the charges in relation to both men.
Defence barrister, Patrick McCullough BL, said that Duignan was unemployed and had just finished a FAS course and that McKenna is a student who earns only €100 per week from social welcome, €50 of which goes towards paying rent.
“The court must access the charge, the matter has now been withdrawn, it is not appropriate for legal aid. There was never the chance in my view of someone going to jail for writing chalk on a wall. Taxpayers should not be put to the expence of this,” said Judge Fahy.
When it was put to McKenna that his parents, who are farmers, would like many other parents help him financially, McKenna then admitted that the family own “a couple of hundred acres” of land prompting an eruption of laughter, and disbelief, from the body of the court.
“You’re very honest. I’m sure there’s a cow that will pay for the legal fees,” quipped Judge Fahy before refusing the legal aid applications.