Controversial senator to face trial over Temple Bar public order incident

James Heffernan
James Heffernan

A FORMER senator is to fully contest public order charges in connection with his arrest after he walked into a crime scene in Dublin’s Temple Bar.

Ex-Social Democrats and previously Labour party member James Heffernan from Limerick was granted legal aid when he appeared at Dublin District Court on Thursday.

The 37-year-old had been arrested and taken to Pearse Street Garda Station following his arrest on the night of March 10 last year in Temple Bar square where gardai had to set up a perimeter in relation to another unrelated incident, a serious assault which had occurred in the area.

Mr Heffernan, who was still a senator at the time, was released without charge later that night, however, gardai at Pearse Street station subsequently had a summons issued for him in connection with his arrest.

The ex-senator, with an address at Main Street, Kilfinane, Co. Limerick, was scheduled to appear at Dublin District Court on Thursday to face two offences under the Public Order Act.

One charge is for failing to leave the Temple Bar square area on March 10 last year in a peaceful and orderly fashion after being directed by a garda, an offence which can result in a fine and a sentence of up to six months in jail.

The second charge is breach of the peace by engaging in threatening, abusive and insulting words or behaviour, which can also lead to a fine as well a three-month sentence.

When his case was called at just after 10.30 on Thursday, there was no sign of the former Social Democrats senator. Garda Noel Gibbons asked Judge Gerard Jones to issue a bench warrant for Mr Heffernan’s arrest, adding that the former politician “already has two bench warrants in existence”.

Judge Jones issued the bench warrant, however, about an hour later Mr Heffernan turned up to court.

His solicitor Brian Keenan explained that when the case was called earlier that morning his client had been making his way to Dublin from Limerick.

Dressed in blue jeans and a striped shirt, Mr Heffernan stood and approached the bench when his case was called but he did not address the court.

Judge Jones agreed to cancel the warrant and he acceded to Mr Keenan’s request to order full disclosure of prosecution evidence.

The solicitor said, “it will be a matter that will be fully contested”. Judge Jones adjourned the case until a date in September when it will be listed for him to formally enter a plea and possibly have a later trial date set.

Mr Keenan made an application for legal aid which was granted after the judge noted there was no Garda objection.

On Thursday evening, Mr Heffernan appeared at a late sitting of Dublin District Court after arranging with gardai to have an older bench warrant executed. He was charged with failing to appear in court in Limerick city on May 19 last. Gda Gibbons said Mr Heffernan’s reply to this charge was: “I attended court that day and the judge left the bench”.

There was no objection to bail in his own bond of €100 and Judge Jones ordered him to appear again on this charge on June 23 next. He was again granted legal aid.

The former primary school teacher and ex-member of Limerick Co. Council was elected for Labour to the 24th Seanad in 2011 but lost the party whip the following year when he voted against budget cuts. He joined the Social Democrats in 2015 and was an unsuccessful candidate for the party in last year’s general election.