Pub row | 

Fine Gael Senator accused of assault says man attacked him 'like a boxer', court told

Mr McGahon also said he tried to "retaliate" with "open hand slaps."

Fine Gael Senator John McGahon arriving at Dundalk Circuit Court accused of assault causing harm. Photo: Mark Condren

Andrew Phelan

A Fine Gael senator accused of raining blows on a pubgoer in an “explosion of violence” was defending himself after the man attacked him “like a boxer,” a court has been told.

John McGahon’s defence lawyer told a jury the evidence against him was “more than dubious” and argued that the fight outside a Dundalk bar was started by the alleged victim, Breen White.

The Louth senator maintained in garda interview that Mr White had “lunged” at him but missed and fell to the ground, sustaining facial injuries.

Mr McGahon also said he tried to "retaliate" with "open hand slaps."

Judge Dara Hayes began delivering his charge to the jury this afternoon following a three-day trial at Dundalk circuit court.

Mr McGahon (31), of Faughart Gardens, St Mary’s Road, Dundalk denies assault causing harm to Mr White on Park Street in the town on June 16 2018.

The row happened in the early hours of the morning as they left the Rum House pub where the Whites and Mr McGahon had been socialising separately.

It has been alleged Mr McGahon put his arm around Mr White’s wife Linda and said “you’re coming with me.” According to the prosecution, words were then exchanged, escalating to a physical confrontation, initiated by Mr McGahon who used excessive force.

Mr McGahon did not give evidence but his defence lawyer told the jury in closing arguments that it was Mr White who instigated the violence by pushing him.

Today, Garda Ashley McEvoy said the accused was intoxicated when he stopped him that morning.

He arrested him by arrangement on October 20, 2018 and interviewed him at Dundalk garda station. Mr McGahon said in interview he had been at a wake that night and met his cousin and friends in the bar later.

At the end of the night, he said everyone was being “shifted out” of the pub, including a group who had a share in a race horse and had been celebrating.

People were moving toward the door and “I put my arm around the shoulder of a female” who was part of that group, he said.

It was “totally innocent and friendly, something I would do regularly,” he told gardai.

The woman’s husband - Mr White - took issue with this “and said as much to me".

Mr McGahon said he offered an apology and they went out ahead of him. He followed and as it was raining, they all stood in the shelter.

“I said there was no need for him to be so annoyed or angry with me and to accept my apology,” he continued.

He said Mr White became more confrontational, tensions rose and at some point, he said, Mr White “lifted his leg towards me.”

This “increased my panic, I thought he was going to kick me,” Mr McGahon continued.

He said Mr White did not kick him but there was “pushing and shoving between us" before someone got between them.

He said Mr White “lunged” at him in an aggressive manner.

“He missed me with his lunge and he hit the ground,” Mr McGahon said. “He hit it fairly flat on. I ended up on the ground with him. I tried to retaliate with open-hand slaps perhaps two to three times.”

He said at this point someone pulled them apart. They were both on the ground and got up. There was “quite a lot of blood from where he hit the pavement” from the lunge, Mr McGahon said.

Senator John McGahon with his posters for the 2020 General Election

The gardaí stopped him and told him to go home after he gave his name and address.

Gda McEvoy agreed with defence barrister Hugh Hartnett SC that Mr McGahon was cooperative and a man of good character with no prior convictions.

Prosecutor Carl Hanhoe BL said Mr White's injuries included superficial lacerations to his forehead and nasal bridge.

In his closing arguments, Mr Hanahoe described the case as “a scuffle or handbags that got completely out of control” and led to someone the ground with another “raining blows” on them.

It was an “extraordinary stretch of credulity” to state that Mr White’s multiple injuries were caused by him falling over, Mr Hanahoe argued.

“The prosecution’s case is at all times throughout this incident, Mr McGahon’s blood was up and he was the aggressive party. He initiated the incident, approaching the couple as they waited for a lift to go home.”

Mr McGahon was “incapable of being restrained” throughout, he said.

Even if Mr White pushed him out of the way, “what occurred thereafter was an explosion of violence, it wasn’t self defence and it was utterly disproportionate.”

He characterised Mr McGahon’s movements on CCTV as “prowling” and “going in for more.” He said the fact that Mr White had previously made a settlement with the Criminal Assets Bureau was “not at all relevant.”

Mr Hartnett in his closing argument to the jury said the case was very serious for Mr McGahon and self defence arose. He said his client had put his arm around a woman he did not know in a nightclub in a narrow area where everyone was moving out. It was not sexual assault, it was done in a "sense of fun," Mr Hartnett said. Maybe he should not have done it, and he apologised.

"That is not initiating an aggressive assault," he said.

There was no doubt Mr McGahon was "making a nuisance of himself," was being "loquacious" and they "didn't want to listen to him."

Video showed Mr McGahon not "poking" Mr White in the chest but gesticulating, he said.

He told the jury, the CCTV showed it was in fact Mr White who initiated violence by pushing Mr McGahon twice. One push was so hard it sent him out into the centre of the road, Mr Hartnett said. Mr McGahon was seen coming back in, and there was no evidence of him striking any blow at this early stage. It was clear that Mr White caught Mr McGahon by the throat and "rammed his hand" into the accused's face, he continued.

Mr Hartnett said the CCTV showed Mr White coming "out of his corner like a boxer" and "going in there to attack." It also showed that "the first man down is Mr McGahon."

Mr White got "hit in self defence," Mr Hartnett said.

He added that he had brought up the CAB issue not to blacken Mr White's character but to examine his reliability as a witness.

The evidence against Mr McGahon was "wanting" and "more than dubious," he said, asking the jury to acquit.

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