Judge John Neilan’s patience with a man he formerly described as “a knight of the roads”, finally came to an end as he sentenced the alcoholic to four months in jail for threatening behaviour.
John ‘Jack’ Gaffney of Knockmant said asking him to give up alcohol was “the same as telling a child to stay away from sweets”.
He pleaded guilty to a number of charges of public intoxication, many of which involved gardaí finding him or hearing about him stumbling on the N4 or collapsed on the road.
He told Garda Loftus that he was like “a diseased looking animal” and that gardaí were “bitches” and “contrary bull calves” when they tried to arrest him at 6pm on April 24.
They had received calls of a man drunk on the westbound lane of the road, on the grass verge.
On March 10 this year he had actually fallen onto the eastbound lane at 10.30am and he was unsteady and drunk on the same road on September 2 and September 10 2009.
Mr Louis Kiernan said his client had managed to stay out of trouble for most of the time, but spent the money his brother gave him on tins of alcohol.
He wanted to address the court, but Judge Neilan said his words “would sound hollow regarding the way Gardaí treated him and picked him up off the road for endless years”.
Gaffney took the stand.
“Everything the Inspector gave is the truth,” the 47-year-old said. “He says about me calling gardaí as sick as bull calves. I said that and I apologise to them and to the court. I was abusive.”
“At this stage I have to learn now,” he said.
When he was asked if he had been in prison before, he answered “Twice, not once”.
Did he know Judge Kennedy [of the Circuit Court]? “Ah God, he was the first person to send me on my holidays,” he replied.
Had he learned his lesson? “That’s the same as telling a child to stay away from sweets,” he said, but admitted he had stayed off drink for stints of three or four months.
Where was he before? “In Portlaoise – I didn’t get drink.”
Had he been out travelling on the roads? “I gave up drink,” he said. “Ah that’s lies. It’s not that I gave up. I got it brought to me and drank it at home.”
Then he turned to the judge and said “He does his best. You did your best, in all fairness”.
Judge Neilan agreed that he had done his best but said he was worried “that a fatality is going to arise and that fatality will be you”.
He sentenced Gaffney to four months imprisonment, two months on each of two charges of threatening behaviour.
Would the judge consider making the sentences concurrent? “I would not,” he told Kiernan. “I have serious concerns about the health of Mr Gaffney who is possibly the most honest person to have come into court.”
However he said he had to protect members of the public.
“I’m not saying a sentence is the answer to all your ills,” he told Gaffney.
“But I have a job to do. I have to protect you and the people of the State. I have done all I can. I can’t have the Gardaí running around after you like nurse nanny.”