'No option' | 

Cork grandmother jailed for harassing Ukrainian refugees living in hotel

Margaret Buttimer (68) pleaded not guilty to charges related to an incident at the Munster Arms Hotel in Bandon on January 26.

Margaret Buttimer at a previous appearance at Bandon District Court

Neasa CumiskeySunday World

An Irish grandmother has been jailed after claiming that Ukrainian refugees staying at a Cork hotel were “rapists and criminals” earlier this year.

Margaret Buttimer (68), of no fixed abode but with a previous address in Bandon, pleaded not guilty to charges related to an incident at the Munster Arms Hotel in Bandon on January 26.

Detective Garda Nigel Whelton told the Bandon District Court that he arrived at the hotel shortly after 3pm that date following reports of a woman causing a disturbance.

He said they observed Ms Buttimer causing “a scene” in the reception area.

She was shouting about the Ukrainian refugees who were living in the hotel and accused them of being “rapists and criminals”.

“She wanted to know how many Ukrainian nationals were staying in this hotel, what was the cost to the Irish people, and saying ‘these Ukrainians are rapists and criminals’,” Detective Whelton said.

He said he asked Ms Buttimer to stop as the situation was “escalating” and “she was making a scene”, but she continued to cause disruptions.

Ms Buttimer was escorted outside the hotel and advised to desist and comply with gardaí.

However, Detective Whelton said he had “no option” but to arrest Ms Buttimer after “numerous attempts” to get her to desist.

She was taken to Bandon Garda Station and later charged.

Ms Buttimer's solicitor Plunkett Taaffe said that his client had asked if refugees in the hotel had been vetted as opposed to calling them rapists and criminals.

Detective Whelton said that he heard Ms Buttimer’s words “clearly”.

The court heard that Ms Buttimer had 13 previous convictions, including failure to comply with Covid restrictions and other recent incidents at the Munster Arms Hotel.

She was under Probation Service supervision and a psychiatric report requested at an earlier court date was not available in time for this hearing.

Judge James McNulty sentenced her to 16 weeks in prison, backdated to when she entered custody and with half of the sentence suspended on the condition that she stays away from the Munster Arms hotel and any other facility accommodating asylum seekers.

“I suspect that she has been influenced by others, some of them are close to her and who have a warped and nonconformist agenda,” the judge said.

“I suspect she is under a malign influence.”

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