Judge Mary Devins sent out a clear message this week that public scenes of violence between warring families will not be tolerated in her district.
The judge jailed seven members of a feuding family at the district court sitting in Castlebar on Wednesday.
The defendants all pleaded guilty to being part of a violent outburst which effectively laid the shop at Mulroy’s Filling Station, Moneen, Castlebar, under siege during what the judge described as a ‘mini riot’ in the middle of the day on March 4 last.
Each of the seven defendants - four women and three men - were jailed for three months and fined €500 each.
The violent confrontation involved two men swinging a pick-axe handle and a hurley while their wives wrestled with each other, pulled hair and shouted abuse.
Shocked customers took cover behind the counters of the shop during the fracas.
The fight broke out when Martin (20 ) and Rose Maughan (21 ), of 1 Laveymore, Charlestown, walked into Mulroy’s at 2pm on March 4.
Thomas (23 ), Owen (19 ) and Rosie (22 ) Maughan of Culmore, Swinford, followed them into the shop and they began fighting, both verbally and physically.
Annie Maughan (27 ), of 2 Laveymore, Charlestown, arrived into the shop with a hurley in her hand, which Martin took from her.
Kathleen Maughan (22 ), of Culmore, Swinford, then came in with a pick axe handle, which Thomas took from her.
Garda Georgina Gallagher said Thomas and Martin were fighting, swinging the hurley and pick axe handle, while Rose and Rosie were fighting, falling against the counters, and pulling each other’s hair.
The outburst was brief as those involved appeared to “run out of breath”. There were no injuries or damage to the shop.
Owner Alan Mulroy ushered the family out of the door and pushed a row of trolleys against it.
When gardaí arrived, Mr Mulroy gave them the broken hurley and a clump of woman’s hair which he found on his shop floor.
Gary McDonald BL, instructed by Whelan Murtagh solicitors, representing Martin, Rose, and Annie Maughan, said the fight arose out of a long running family feud and tension surfaced on the date in question.
Denis Molloy, representing Thomas, Owen, Rosie, and Kathleen, said while tension still exists, his clients tell him they now “keep to their own side” and avoid each other.
Mr McDonald asked the judge to consider adjourning sentencing for six months to see if the family could manage to put their feud behind them.
Judge Devins rejected the suggestion entirely.
“Why should innocent, law abiding, people be put in fear while you swing at each other with pick axe handles and hurleys. This wasn’t affray. It was a mini riot.”
The judge said the defendants had held a commercial premises under siege.
“You are going to prison today,” she said. “I can’t impose anything other than a custodial sentence or that would be to say to these seven people ‘ah well, it was just a little blip’. Affray is a serious thing.”
Judge Devins said she would have imposed a 12 month sentence had the defendants not pleaded guilty.
The court heard Rose Maughan, Kathleen Maughan, Rosie Maughan, and Owen Maughan have no previous convictions.
Martin Maughan has three previous convictions. Annie Maughan has two previous convictions.
Thomas Maughan has 15 previous convictions relating to theft, traffic offences, criminal damage, and public order.
Judge Devins fixed recognisance at €300 own cash bond for each of the defendants.