Ex-IRA man and anti-asylum seeker protestor jailed over arson threats at Kildare hotel

Stephen O’Rourke recorded himself saying he “would light them up like a Christmas tree”

Stephen O'Rourke

Stephen O'Rourke

Eamon Dillon and Finian CoghlanSunday World

A former IRA man who threatened to ‘light up’ refugees at a Kildare hotel has been remanded in custody until next month after being found guilty of making the threat and trespassing.

Athy man Stephen O’Rourke had turned up at the Abbey Wedding Venue in the town filming staff and live streaming himself in January.

He claimed his remarks, heard by gardaí called to the scene, referred to lighting them up all over social media.

Judge Desmond Zaidan at Athy District Court said O’Rourke’s excuse was “laughable… I’m taking that with a pinch of salt”.

One of his videos is still on his social media account in which he knocks on the window of the hotel and shouts: “What are you lying to the people of the town?”

“It will be interesting to see what they are covering up and who’s getting off them (sic) buses.”

A member of staff in the car park reminds O’Rourke he climbed over a wall to access the property and is trespassing.

It emerged in court this week O’Rourke also recorded himself saying he “would light them up like a Christmas tree.”

He was jailed for 28 days at Athy where Judge Zaidan said O’Rourke would be released if the Probation Service deem “he is no longer a threat to the public”.

O’Rourke pleaded guilty to three counts of trespass at the Abbey Wedding Venue on Stanhope Street in the town on 9-10 January, but not guilty to the arson threats.

The Co Kildare man was previously ailed for 18 months at the Special Criminal Court after he and another admitted membership of an illegal organisation.

Last week, Garda Paul O’Shea gave evidence how he had first encountered O’Rourke “trespassing, filming staff, and live streaming”.

“He said he would light up the refugees like a Christmas tree,” said Garda O’Shea which he confirmed to the judge had been recorded.

“He was saying he didn’t want any male refugees, they’re all bad people, but the majority are women and kids, with maybe four males,” he said.

Garda Sean O’Mahony said they found the incriminating words “on the defendant’s own phone for his followers”.

He told the court the “light them up” comment “was said to me, and I had serious concerns he would damage property

“He was very angry about refugees coming to town.”

Stephen O'Rourke

The co-owner of the hotel Dermot Ryan told court that every time O’Rourke came back he was “filming, banging on windows, very animated, a lot more angry about things.”

“A number of staff were fearful, and definitely felt things were escalating…[but] the gist of it was he didn’t agree with these people coming into our town.”

He said the hotel was bombarded online with negative reviews and racists comments which they reported to Google to get taken off the internet.

O’Rourke’s defence solicitor said his client’s behaviour was initially “very mannerly”, and the key statement in the case was that “he was going to light them up all over Facebook”.

Judge Zaidan told O’Rourke that his concerns about the immigration system is “a matter for the Oireachtas.”

“These people choose Ireland, and it’s up to the State to weed out good from bad…but for you to take out your anger on these people, it’s wrong,” said the judge.

“It is wrong of anyone to take the law into their own hands, but Mr O’Rourke may have a belief not based on objective analysis. There is a lot of misinformation out there.”

“Some may be here to abuse the system, but that is up to the authorities to police.”

Sgt Brian Jacob told the court O’Rourke had 10 previous convictions, including membership of “an unlawful organisation – the IRA” in 2002.

He was jailed for 18 months at the Special Criminal Court after he and another admitted membership of an illegal organisation.

The two men helped maintain a dissident republican training camp at Killart Bog in Co Kildare.

Noting the maximum sentence for each of the four charges was six months, Judge Zaidan remanded O’Rourke in custody until 14 March for final sentence

He ordered a Probation Report saying: “if it’s a good report and he’s no longer a threat to the public, then I will release him then”.

Today's Headlines

More Courts

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

WatchMore Videos