A judge has warned rivalling factions embroiled in a bitter feud to call a truce before someone is seriously hurt or “eliminated”.
Judge Seamus Hughes issued the warning to both parties after details were heard at last week’s District Court sitting over how gardaí were becoming increasingly alarmed at the situation.
“It’s getting very serious,” said Detective Garda Joe Esler, as he gave evidence of having arrested and charged Margaret Stokes, of Lisnanagh, Edgeworthstown, Co Longford following an incident at the Aldi Car Park, Longford less than 24 hours earlier.
Ms Stokes was charged under the Public Order Act which included a Section 8 offence of failing to comply with the directions of a garda. The mother of seven was further charged with a Section 107 offence of failing to give information to Garda Paul Stuart as to the identity of the driver of a car during a previous incident.
Det Garda Esler said he arrested Ms Stokes as gardaí responded to an incident in the aforementioned car park.
During the course of those enquiries, he said Ms Stokes came upon the scene and quickly became “very abusive and threatening.”
Det Garda Esler said he asked Ms Stokes to leave the scene, but after failing to do so, he arrested her and brought her to Longford Garda Station. Under direct questioning from Judge Hughes as to the reasons behind the decision by the State to pursue a Section 107 charge against Ms Stokes, he said the matter stemmed from a previous incident two weeks earlier.
“The Section 107 is connected to an investigation that’s ongoing between two families from an incident on April 1 just gone by and is currently under investigation.
“The same two families were involved and a motor car was involved,” he said, which resulted in a “serious assault” to a man.
“This lady (Ms Stokes) was questioned over a car involved in the first incident on April 1.
“As a result, a young man was seriously assaulted.
“It’s alleged these people left the scene in a car registered to this lady.”
In defence, solicitor Brid Mimnagh put it to Det Garda Esler that her client was, in fact, asked about the alleged use of the car in the April 1 incident while in a cell at Longford Garda Station.
“I believe so,” said the Det Garda, with Ms Mimnagh also claiming Ms Stokes had given statements to another garda based in Edgeworthstown.
“She made statements, but didn’t answer the question,” said Det Garda Esler, in response.
Ms Mimnagh, though, was insistent in her stance over calling for the case to be adjourned.
“It’s not 24 hours since this incident occurred and it’s quite unfair that it would proceed today,” she said, while asking for all necessary statements to be disclosed to her office.
By way of a further means of mitigation, Ms Mimnagh revealed Ms Stokes’ husband had been “very seriously assaulted” as a result of the April 15 incident. Det Garda Esler said he was not in a position to confirm or deny Ms Mimnagh’s position, but did concede the car in which Ms Stokes’ husband had been sitting in, was damaged.
Ms Stokes, herself, attempted to add further clarity to what might have occurred by claiming she had been walking from a nearby Iceland discount store and was the victim in the incident. Passing his own opinion on the situation, Judge Hughes appealed to those involved in any contentious dispute to consider their actions.
“I am a long time here when it comes to feuds and this is serious,” he said.
“If things keep going on the way they are someone will get eliminated.”
The case was adjourned to a sitting of Longford District Court on May 21.
In the lead up to that, Ms Stokes was ordered to abide by a number of bail conditions, including a 9pm to 8am curfew, to sign on twice weekly at Granard Garda Station and not to enter the curtilage of the shopping complex where last Monday week’s alleged incident occurred.