Forty-five men and one woman have appeared before a special court sitting in Mullingar charged with violent disorder.
The Director of Public Prosecutions has directed trial on indictment in each case for the offence which on conviction carries a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment.
A number of men were also charged under the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act with possession of a variety of implements including a golf club, a sword and a shovel.
All defendants were charged in relation to a single incident on July 29, 2008 when, what Gardaí describe as “large scale public order disturbances” took place at Dalton Park, a housing estate in Mullingar.
Gardaí from the Westmeath Division, supported by Gardaí from the Operational Support Unit (Dog and Air Support Units ) arrested the majority of those before the court early on Monday morning.
Almost €50,000 in cash sureties was presented to the court and all of those charged were released on bail by Judge John Neilan.
The majority were granted bail when they met an independent cash surety requirement of €1,000. Six men and one woman were granted lower sureties on the basis of submissions from their solicitors regarding their circumstances.
Two other defendants who face similar charges of violent disorder in connection with a separate incident were granted bail with an independent surety of €6,000 and their own surety of €3,000, with one third cash to be lodged in each case.
Strict bail conditions were applied, including a ban on entering certain estates in Mullingar and from entering all licensed premises in the State.
The defendants must also sign on twice-weekly at their local Garda station and are prohibited from gathering in public in groups of more than two. Apart from one Dublin resident, all live in Mullingar, and are mostly obliged to observe a curfew between 8pm and 8am.
Judge Neilan relaxed the conditions for Ms Martina Giff of 263 Dalton Park, a mother of four who is expecting her fifth child, saying she should not be prevented from accessing any care she might need.
There was a considerable Garda presence with up to 70 members at the courthouse. Members of the Dog Unit and a helicopter were also present as the defendants, who were in custody were accompanied into the building.
There were a number of outbursts in the court, with one man being detained for contempt and another who suffers with diabetes was threatened with contempt for making accusations that Gardaí had not provided him with food and drink.
He and other defendants still present had, however, been provided with a hot lunch when the court rose briefly.
The majority of the defendants were granted legal aid.
In the case of Martina Giff and her partner Seán Dinnegan, Judge Neilan imposed a bail payment of €250 following a request from their solicitor saying that they were anxious about being able to meet the costs of their daughter’s communion in May.
They were keen that “their little girl should be able to dress as well as her classmates”.
Mr Dinnegan had earlier been removed from the court for acting in contempt. When Judge Neilan said that Gardaí were at liberty to re-enter charges should anyone breach their bail conditions, Mr Dinnegan shouted out that they had been trying to report breaches for the last three years and were “getting the deaf ear every fucking time” from Gardaí.
Judge Neilan described the offences before the court as “very serious” and said he was reluctant to advance any bail at all to Anthony Dinnegan of Macetown, Cloughan, Mullingar who was charged with criminal damage and possession of a weapon as well as violent disorder.
The court heard that when Noel Moore of 268 Dalton Park was charged his response was “who’s to protect ourselves only ourselves?”
James Dinnegan of 224 Dalton Park said he had been “very badly treated by the Gardaí”. However, Judge Neilan said the Gardaí were entitled to their good name and he should put his complaints in writing so they would have the right to reply. He threatened to remand Mr Dinnegan to Cloverhill if he persisted in his outburst.
Michael Nevin (36 ) and Martin Nevin (39 ) both of 7 St Anthony’s Cottages were charged with possession of weapons, a shovel, and a sword respectively.
Michael Nevin (29 ) of 174 Dalton Park replied, “I was there but I had no sword”. He was charged with possession of a weapon as well as violent disorder.
All are to appear before a further special sitting of Mullingar District Court on Monday, February 16.
Included in those present were over 20 members of the Nevin family, nine Dinnegans, and eight McDonaghs.