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Firefighter who deliberately set fire he later helped put out still in fire service as he says he's innocent

Extra pay was given to those who responded to the fire as it happened on Easter Monday

David Ahern

Alan Sherry

A KERRY firefighter who was given a suspended sentence earlier this month for deliberately setting a fire he later helped put out has not been fired from the fire service as he is still protesting his innocence.

David Ahern (37) of St James’s Gardens, Killorglin, was last month found guilty of Criminal Damage in relation to starting the fire on April 13, 2020, at Cromane Upper, Killorglin.

A full crew of nine fire personnel, including Ahern, responded to the Easter Monday call-out.

Extra pay was given to respondents as the call-out occurred on a bank holiday.

Ahern was handed down a seven month suspended sentence at Tralee District Court earlier this month .

A spokesman for Kerry County Council told the Sunday World this week that Mr Ahern has not been fired from the fire service despite his conviction but is currently suspended from duty.

“The sentence is being appealed and my understanding is it still before the court. It was said in open court that he is currently suspended,” the spokesman said.

He said that remained the case this week and will continue to remain the case until Mr Ahern’s appeal is concluded.

The Sunday World asked Mr Ahern if he wanted to comment on his sentencing this week but he declined through his solicitor.

“My client does not wish to make any statement on the matter at this time. I can confirm that an appeal has been lodged against the decision of the Court.”

Judge Waters reiterated that the evidence he heard last month in Cahersiveen Court House left him “more than satisfied” that David Ahern was guilty of criminal damage.

He said that David Ahern’s lack of remorse and continued refusal to accept culpability made it very hard for him not to impose a custodial sentence. He also said the man had breached trust through his actions.

He added, however, that the 37-year-old’s previously unblemished record had “to be given huge weight”.

On that basis – and with some reluctance, he said – he suspended a seven-month prison sentence for a period of one year. He asked David Ahern to enter into his own bond of €500.

Around 1.5 acres of State-owned land was burnt as a result of the blaze started by Ahern - with nine firefighters tackling the inferno at a cost of €1,500.

Ahern had denied setting the fire but was spotted acting suspiciously in the area by locals who took his registration plate details.

Amanda Langston, who was also present, took down the reg plate of the car which was later traced back to Ahern's partner. Ahern later admitted he was the driver of the vehicle on the day.

Ms Langston said her mother Eileen had first drawn her attention to the car which was on the brow of a hill. She said it had stopped for two or three minutes before she saw a man get back in and reverse while smoke started to rise.

"I ran outside and he was driving slowly... I was waving and he was coming by our front wall. I was right at the wall, I was signing 'hey, hey' to him... He looked directly at me and put his foot on the accelerator. I saw his face," she said.

Ahern told gardai he was driving the car that day and was on his way to Glenbeigh when he realised he had no phone and cigarettes. He said he stopped by the side of the road to search for them but didn't leave the vehicle when his pager went off and he went to the fire station.

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