A COPE worker, who had been operating a bus service collecting homeless people and bringing them to shelter, was assaulted by one of the people he was trying to help, the Galway District Court heard yesterday.
Gerry McDonagh (39 ), a homeless man with extreme alcohol difficulties, was jailed for five months after pleading guilty to the assault.
Inspector Mick Coppinger told the court that COPE Galway runs a bus service which collects homeless people from the streets and brings them to sheltered accommodation. On March 6 at 9.50pm McDonagh, who had been staying at Fairgreen Hostel, had been picked up in Forster Street. When he got onto the bus he then assaulted a COPE worker. The inspector said that the injured party, who liaises with homeless people like McDonagh, is now “quite fearful” as he was punched and had to seek the assistance of gardai.
“Any assault can be frightening. This man was helping him,” said Judge Fahy.
Defence solicitor Sarah O’Dowd said that her client had been on temporary release from prison when the assault occurred and on the night in question McDonagh had been in a highly intoxicated state. She said McDonagh thought that the worker didn’t want him on the bus and he was anxious to get back to the hostel. Ms O’Dowd added that her client suffers from extreme addiction to alcohol.
“He’s been in court before for being very abusive in the A&E,” said Judge Fahy.
Ms O’Dowd explained that the defendant, who has no family in Galway, gets paranoid thoughts when drinking and thought that he was going to be kicked off the bus.
Judge Fahy said that the injured party is a social worker doing extra work so that homeless people are not left out in the cold weather and that he could be left disillusioned as a result of this. She then convicted and sentenced McDonagh to five months in jail.