Armagh businessman and his son on trial accused of assaulting former Republican prisoner

Eugene Hanratty Sr
Eugene Hanratty Sr

An Armagh business man and his son have gone on trial accused of assaulting a former Republican prisoner who was jailed for firearms offences in the seventies.

The alleged victim told lawyers for accused Eugene Hanratty Senior (57) that it would be “very dangerous” for him to comment on the legitimacy of Mr Hanratty's oil business.

Mr Hanratty of Castleblaney Road, Crossmaglen and his 34-year-old son, Eugene Hanratty Jnr of Dundalk Road, Crossmaglen have both pleaded not  guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assault of Martin McAllister causing him harm at Castleblaney, Co. Monaghan on November 24, 2012.

Mr McAllister alleged that he was driving out of a narrow lane near his home when he met an oncoming Jeep driven by the younger accused.

The Jeep was pulled across the lane to block his exit, he said, and Mr Hanratty Snr quickly jumped out. He said the accused opened his car door and began punching and kicking him.

Eugene Hanratty Jr

He said he was pulled down to the ground and later pulled out of the car completely. He said that his nose and both his eye sockets were fractured during a “sustained” assault.

He said at one point Mr Hanratty Snr stomped on his arm. He denied a suggestion from Garnet Orange SC, defending Mr Hanratty Snr, that he had struck the first blow in what was “a fair fight between two men who knew better”.

“Not true. I did not strike him. I never got the opportunity to get out of my vehicle,” he said. Counsel put it to him that when his client began to get the better of him during a fight he went to get a pistol from the boot of his car.

Mr McAllister said this was untrue. He agreed that he did sometimes bring a licensed pistol in the car but only if he was driving to the firing range.

“I did not produce a pistol. I would pass a polygraph,” he told the jury.

He told Mr Orange that the background to the assault was his vocal opposition to the dumping of diesel laundering waste along the roads of south Armagh.

He said he was a very overt supporter of law and order in the area and that in 2010 he walked with Chief Constable, Matt Baggott down the main street of Crossmaglen. “This has made me very unpopular with certain people,” the witness said.

Mr Orange put it to Mr McAllister that the accused was “a well known business man running an entirely legitimate oil business”. The witness replied that he didn't know how legitimate it was.

Counsel again suggested it was entirely legitimate and said that the business had never had any Revenue issues. Mr McAllister replied: “It would be very dangerous for me to comment on that statement”.

The witness said that Mr Hanratty Jnr did not “lay a hand” on him during the alleged assault. The trial continues before Judge Martin Nolan and a jury.

The trial heard that Mr McAllister was involved in an escape from Portlaoise prison in August 1974 during which a prison officer was tied up. A month later he was arrested with a firearm while on the run in Armagh.

He was later sentenced to ten years for possession of firearms and ammunition with intention to endanger life.

“That is 42 years ago. That is very very ancient history, at a different time and a different period in my life,” he said.

Mr Orange put it the alleged victim that the background to this incident was a result of a dispute about shooting rights in a nearby duck sanctuary.

Mr McAllister agreed that there had been a previous confrontation when he met Mr Hanratty Snr and another man who were out hunting with shotguns and he asked them to get off the lands.

“Are you saying I got this done to me over a duck?” he said.