NewsCourts

Woman who sent obscene messages to Aras an Uachtarain to be sentenced

Anne Fennell
Anne Fennell

A woman who sent obscene phone messages to Aras an Uachtarain threatening to bomb President Michael D Higgins if he visited England, will be sentenced later for this and for harassing her local priest.

On one occasion Anne Fennell (57) referred to President Higgins as a “ladyboy” and on another told the receptionist that “the President and Sabrina Higgins would go home in plastic bags if they set foot on English soil”.

She made repeated threats to bomb the president over a number of phone calls in April 2014 and again in October the same year.

Today Judge Melanie Greally heard additional evidence of a campaign of harassment against the accused's parish priest

Fennell of Monastery Gate Green, Clondalkin ,Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to making persistent annoying phone calls and sending obscene or menacing phone messages to Aras an Uachtarain, the Department of Finance, the European Commission Representation, An Post Dublin Mail Centre and the constituency offices of TDs Alan Kelly, Aodhan O Riordain and Noel Coonan between February 2 and December 1, 2014.

She also pleaded guilty to harassing Fr Desmond Byrne at an address in Clondalkin on dates between September and October 2006. Fennell has no previous convictions.

Judge Greally heard during the sentencing hearing last December that the entire area around Dáil Éireann had to be searched on November 18, 2014 when Fennell called to say there would be a bomb at the main gate.

The parliamentary usher who took the call later told gardaí that Fennell, a former An Post worker, had hung up “screaming”.

Today Garda Aisling McGowan told Fiona Murphy BL, prosecuting that Fr Byrne came into contact with Fennell in 2000 as he regularly visited her invalid mother at the time.

The woman later died and in October 2005 Fr Byrne began to receive numerous nuisance calls from Fennell. She also ordered taxis and takeaways to his home.

The priest was later blacklisted by local cab firms as a result of the bogus bookings and had to get his neighbour to call a taxi for him on one occasion when he needed one in an emergency.

Gda McGowan said sometimes Fennell would call and remain silent on the phone, while on other occasions she would say a few words. The priest recognised her number and her voice.

CCTV footage captured Fennell hanging around the priest's home. She put brown sauce, crisps and chips through his letterbox and threw black paint over his garage door.

Fennell was arrested in November 2006 and accepted what she had been doing. She said she would pay for any damage and claimed to have had no recollection of doing it.

A victim impact report from Fr Byrne said the calls were a nuisance but he was not scared by them. He also had to install CCTV footage and change the phone system in his home. The priest said he was “happy to put it behind me”.

Kevin White BL, defending said there was no excuse whatsoever for Fennell's behaviour and she wasn't making any.

He told Judge Greally that his client struggled to cope with her mother's death and wrongly believed Fr Byrne was pushing her aside when he recommended that she join a local group.

The judge had noted last December, after photos were handed in of Fennell's home, that she lived in“ sub-human conditions” but was informed by Mr White today that she has made vast improvements to her living conditions since January.

He said she had set about cleaning up her house, had had it painted and had installed a washing machine. “She has started to look after herself,” Mr White said.

Judge Greally adjourned the case to next November and ordered an updated probation and psychological report for that date.

She addressed Fennell and said she had made significant changes for the better.

“I applaud her for the manner in which she approached her situation and this gives the court hope for optimism,” Judge Greally said before she added that Fennell should keep moving in the right direction.


Superintendent Michael Cryan told Elva Duffy BL, prosecuting, that Fennell apologised to gardaí when they arrested her after tracing the calls to her Nokia mobile phone.

She said she had been reacting to news stories on television and told officers she was “lonely”. She added that her threats were “just words”.

Supt Cryan said Fennell revealed that she rang Dáil Eireann weekly to complain about various issues.

He agreed with Mr White that his client lived alone in “very poor circumstances” out of a sleeping bag in a bottom room of her house.

He accepted she had “no means or know-how” to carry out the threats and that she was angry at herself and the world.

Mr White submitted to Judge Greally that his client was “deeply, deeply regretful for her behaviour” and offered no excused for it.

He said she had a poor but good childhood, had once been in a relationship and had worked with An Post for 11 years.

He asked the judge to give his client a chance, adding that the public interest lay in her rehabilitation.

Supt Cryan described how Fennell had phoned the Department of Finance on February 26, 2014 “ranting and raving” and threatening to bomb President Higgins if he went to Britain.

She threatened the EU Commission with a bomb in March if Europe didn't “lay off” Cyprus and its economy.

On November 17, 18 and 19, 2014 she called Environment Minister Alan Kelly's Nenagh office and threatened him and his family with bombs and bullets.

She claimed that a previous bomb threat had been a “dry run” and that she would “put a bullet in (Mr Kelly's) head”.

Supt Cryan told Ms Duffy that Mr Kelly put extra security measures in place due to those calls.

He said Fennell threatened to send a bomb to the An Post Mail Centre if they posted water bills.

She called TD Noel Coonan's Thurles constituency office in November and December 2014 making obscene comments about him. She claimed that the bomb squad would have to open a brown envelope “present” sent to him.

She also phoned the office of TD Aodhan O Riordain threatening to blow up his car in November 2014.

Supt Cryan told Ms Duffy that the constituency office calls had been put through from a main Dáil Eireann switchboard and that way Fennell's number wasn't shown.

Supt Cryan described how Fennell had phoned the Department of Finance on February 26, 2014 “ranting and raving” and threatening to bomb President Higgins if he went to Britain.

She threatened the EU Commission with a bomb in March if Europe didn't “lay off” Cyprus and its economy.

On November 17, 18 and 19, 2014 she called Environment Minister Alan Kelly's Nenagh office and threatened him and his family with bombs and bullets.

She claimed that a previous bomb threat had been a “dry run” and that she would “put a bullet in (Mr Kelly's) head”.

Supt Cryan told Ms Duffy that Mr Kelly put extra security measures in place due to those calls.

He said Fennell threatened to send a bomb to the An Post Mail Centre if they posted water bills.

She called TD Noel Coonan's Thurles constituency office in November and December 2014 making obscene comments about him. She claimed that the bomb squad would have to open a brown envelope “present” sent to him.

She also phoned the office of TD Aodhan O Riordain threatening to blow up his car in November 2014.

Supt Cryan told Ms Duffy that the constituency office calls had been put through from a main Dáil Eireann switchboard and that way Fennell's number wasn't shown.