Two Belmullet men appeared in Belmullet Court last week after an argument over who was sitting in whose chair at a wedding in the town turned violent. The court heard there was ‘history’ between the two men going back 20 years.
Francis Gibbons of Toorglass, Belmullet, was charged with assault causing harm to Seán Donoghue during a wedding in the Broadhaven Bay Hotel in Belmullet on August 23, 2010.
The only people to give evidence were Mr Gibbons and his partner and Mr Donoghue and his wife. The court was told that other guests at the wedding declined to give statements to gardaí investigating the assault.
Judge Denis McLoughlin dismissed the case after saying he could not be convinced beyond all reasonable doubt the assault took place.
Mr Donoghue told Belmullet District Court that at approximately 2am he went for a dance with his wife, Margaret, before deciding to sit down. While they were sitting down he claimed Mr Gibbons came over to him and said ‘get the eff off my chair’. He said he knew Mr Gibbons and thought he was joking but claimed he continued to verbally abuse him about sitting on his chair.
He claimed he was getting up to move when he was pushed by Mr Gibbons, who then jumped on him. He claimed Mr Gibbons then got up, picked up a chair and hit it off his left leg.
Mr Donoghue said he was in severe pain and explained that he suffered a fracture to his left fibia and that he was off work for three months. He said he still suffers stiffness and pain when the weather is cold.
Under questioning from Mr Michael Bohan, solicitor for the defendant, he denied that he had twice sat on Mr Gibbons’ chair and that he was the aggressor. He said he only made a complaint to gardaí on September 23 because he had been in pain with his leg.
Garda David Lydon explained that when he received the complaint from Mr Donoghue, he went to the hotel to get CCTV footage but said it was ‘grainy’ and it did not clearly show faces.
Mr Gibbons told the court he was at the wedding with his partner, Aileen Brett, and explained that when they returned to their seats from the dance floor, the Donoghues were sitting in them. He said they got up but claimed Mr Donoghue gave him a bad look.
He said a half an hour later they went for a cigarette and a dance and when they returned, the Donoghues were again sitting in their seats. He said they decided to leave but he claimed when they decided to get their belongings from the table, Mr Donoghue said ‘what’s your effing problem’.
Mr Gibbons said he replied, ‘You know my effing problem, your sitting in my chair’ and claimed that Mr Donoghue tried to headbutt him and punch him, and that they got involved in a scuffle. Mr Gibbons accepted he hit Mr Donoghue but denied striking him with a chair.
When asked by Superintendent Pat Diskin, why Mr Donoghue would make a complaint against him, he responded that there was history between them and ‘perhaps it is a way of getting back at me for what happened back then.’
The CCTV footage of the event was shown to Judge Ray McLoughlin. Mr Bohan said that while it was not clear, there was no evidence of a striking action with a chair. Judge McLoughlin agreed, and pointed out if Mr Donoghue had been convinced he was assaulted he would have contacted gardaí straight away. He dismissed the case.