Public order incident between neighbours in Offaly like 'appalling' Eastenders
A PUBLIC order incident involving neighbours in Tullamore was likened to the BBC show Eastenders by Judge Marie Keane on Monday.
Eight people had initially pleaded not guilty to breaches of the peace in Arden View on December 29, 2019 and a full hearing was scheduled in the District Court.
However, following a ruling from Judge Keane that CCTV footage from cameras at the home of one of the defendants was going to be accepted as evidence, guilty pleas were entered by all the parties.
One of the accused, John Sheridan, 64, of 185 Arden View, pleaded guilty to assaulting Patrick Conroy, along with his admission of a breach of the peace.
Noel Sheridan, 124 Arden View, and his partner Michelle Mahon, of the same address, pleaded guilty to breaches of the peace.
The court heard they were in dispute with their neighbours Patrick Conroy, 51 and Edel Conroy, 49, who lived in 90 Arden View.
They too admitted breaches of the peace, as did Stephanie Conroy, also 90 Arden View, and her boyfriend Brian Yates, summonsed at 46 St Cormac's Park, Kilcormac.
A similar guilty plea was entered by another member of the Conroy family who was 17 at the time of the offence.
All of the defendants were present in court on Monday but they sat in separate parts of the courtroom when the case was called.
Colm Doherty, solicitor for John Sheridan, objected to the CCTV evidence, saying that it breached security legislation, raised privacy issues and captured parts of the street which were not relevant to the allegations before the court.
Donal Farrelly, who represented the Conroys and Brian Yates, said his clients had no problem with the footage.
Judge Keane was told by Sergeant James O'Sullivan that Patrick Conroy was the owner of the CCTV and his daughter had provided it to the gardai.
Sergeant O'Sullivan said it incriminated the Conroys as well as the Sheridans.
After Judge Keane rejected Mr Doherty's objection, the solicitor consulted with his client for a period and later told the court John Sheridan would be pleading guilty.
Mr Farrelly then said his clients would also be pleading guilty, as did Noel Sheridan and Michelle Mahon, who represented themselves in court.
Outlining the facts, Garda Tom Dunne said the guards were called to Arden View where members of both families were outside their homes and it was alleged Patrick Conroy had been assaulted by John Sheridan.
Footage of the incident, which Garda Dunne said lasted about five minutes in total, was viewed and the parties before the court were prosecuted for their involvment, though Edel Conroy and Michelle Mahon's involvement was “very minimal”.
He said the others came out with bats and planks of wood and were gesturing. There were no independent witnesses.
He said the defendants were neighbours, living diagonally across from each other apart from John Sheridan who lived a couple of minutes' walk away and had gone up in his car to where the incident occurred.
He said John Sheridan assaulted Patrick Conroy and the dispute had been going on for a number of years and it all seemed “to come to a head” on the date of the offences.
The court was told that apart from Noel Sheridan, who last public order offence was in 2002, none of the accused had convictions for such offences.
While Noel Sheridan had 11 previous convictions in all, and John Sheridan four, dating back to 2001; Patrick Conroy two, the most recent one being in 1991, and Brian Yates, two, the last one being 2002. one of the other defendants had any convictions.
Mr Farrelly told the court the initial upset was caused when Patrick 'Paddy' Conroy was assaulted and Stephanie Conroy got involved because she was protective of her father Paddy and her boyfriend Brian Yates, who was outside working on a car with Paddy at the time of the assault.
The 17-year-old male who was also involved had ADHD and autism and the melee developed as a result of the assault, Mr Farrelly added.
Mr Doherty said there was history between the families and when his client John Sheridan arrived the incident had already developed and children were upset.
John Sheridan's concern was for the welfare of his grandchildren, of whom he had seven.
A father of three who worked in an abbatoir in Roscrea, and who was married for 40 years himself, both Mr Sheridan and his wife had sufferered health serious concerns in recent times. He regretted what had happened and asked the court for leniency.
Noel Sheridan told the court he had been living there for seven years with his partner Michelle and three small children and every time they passed by the Conroy family would be sneering and jeering.
He said they could not let their kids out to play and because of that they were being denied a childhood.
He said what was going on was “horrendous” and added that Patrick Conroy had been cautioned by the gardai. He asked Judge Keane for permission to show her photographs.
Mr Farrelly objected and Judge Keane said she would not view the pictures.
Ms Mahon said her family were living in an absolutely horrible situation and she was trying to rear three small girls, one of whom could not sleep at night because of the incident.
She could not let the kids out to play and the situation was making life hell.
“All I want is a bit of peace in the house,” said Ms Mahon, adding that the situation was upsetting and it was the kids who were suffering.
Judge Keane said what she had heard had all the characteristics of an episode of “that most appalling show” Eastenders.
“I refuse to watch it as I say I feel I'm dealing with it live every day,” she said.
She said the carry-on from neighbours with children and grandchildren as young as 10 was utterly disgraceful and the children had to see neighbours wielding weapons and pieces of wood.
“How things could have come to this stage simply beggars belief,” she said.
She described Paddy Conroy and John Sheridan as the two protagonists and said it was high time they copped themselves on and obeyed the law.
It was a waste of time for the gardai having to call up to regulate the defendants because they were unable to regulate themselves.
“I can't understand if it's so intolerable for you all that you don't just move away if you can't get on with your neighbours.”
She said the episode reminded her of a speech she heard at a retirement function years earlier where a man noted that the “two torments” of his life were not present, a “bad wife” and a “bad neighbour”.
“It's something I've never forgotten because he's absolutely correct,” she said.
She said in cases of such difficulty the people involved either had to live with it or get away from it.
She told the families they were visiting awfulness on their own families and other people and referring again to Paddy Conroy and John Sheridan, she added: “It is utter nonsense and you ought to be ashamed of your lives to be here today.”
The judge also noted the date of the incident, December 29, and said she had no doubt it was a time when children were enjoying their Christmas presents.
She fined Patrick Conroy and John Sheridan €250 and applied the Probation Act in the case of the other defendants, ordering them to enter into €100 bonds to obey the laws of the land for two years.
“This is an utter disgrace and you people need to consider the damage that you're visiting on your children and grandchildren.”
She also made an order for the destruction of a number of items which had been seized and which the gardai said were weapons.