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File photo. Courtroom. PA Archive/PA Images

Three men in their 50s who criminally damaged Queen Victoria street signs in Cork told to donate to charity

Judge Paul Kelly found the facts proven against all three men in the case before Cork District Court.
THREE MEN IN their fifties who criminally damaged signs bearing the name of Queen Victoria with black paint have been told by a judge that they will get the benefit of the Probation Act and avoid a criminal conviction if they each pay €250 to charity.

Diarmuid O’Cadhla, Tom O’Connor and Anthony Walsh, who all have addresses in Cork city, had denied two counts of criminal damage to street signs at Victoria Road. 

The trio also denied two counts of criminal damage to signs at Victoria Cross and one count of criminal damage to a sign at Victoria Street, Military Hill in Cork city.  O’Cadhla is a former councillor with Cork County Council where he represented the People’s Convention. 

Cork District Court heard that it was the case of the State that Ó Cadhla (59) from Upper Beaumont Drive, Ballintemple, O’Connor (59) from Mangerton Close, the Glen, and Walsh (55) from Carrigmore Park, Ballinlough, committed criminal damage at three streets on 2 February 2017. The offences were contrary to the Criminal Damage Act 1991.

Judge Paul Kelly found the facts proven against all three men. 

He said he would give the men the benefit of the Probation Act if they each paid €250 to the St Vincent de Paul by mid December. He adjourned the case until 16 December to facilitate the handing over of the funds. 

Detective Garda Neil Walsh says that gardaí received a complaint from the local city council that five street signs had been criminally damaged at three locations. The word Victoria, in both English and Irish, had been covered over with black paint. 

Detective Garda Walsh said that from his enquiries he determined this was part of a campaign from a group called Cork Street Names Campaign. 

“These are a group who campaign against street names with connections to the British monarchy, in particular Queen Victoria whom they called the Famine Queen. 

“The three suspects more or less identified themselves – in an article in The Irish Examiner on February 3rd 2017, there was a photo of two of the suspects painting the street signs and on that date, Diarmuid Ó Cadhla conducted a radio interview with PJ Coogan on The Opinion Line on 96FM.”

Cork City Council Director of Services, Gerry O’Beirne said that the cleaning of the signs and putting them back in their rightful homes cost €800. 

O’Cadhla conducted his own defence in Irish. He insisted his actions weren’t criminal and that the intention of the trio had been simply to generate debate about the naming of streets in Cork.

He claimed that they took their actions after the local authority had declined to meet them to discuss such matters

He said that commemorating Queen Victoria by naming streets in Cork after her was an insult to those who perished in the Famine. He insisted he was supported by large numbers of people in his actions.

O’Connor also admitted painting over the signs but he denied that he had criminally damaged them. 

“We didn’t damage anything – the signs were all rusty and falling down – it was justice, justice for the Irish people – I speak for myself and I am proud of what I’ve done.”

Walsh said he had taken offence to the City Council’s decision to deem MacCurtain St the Victoria Quarter. 

“It almost killed my soul. That man died so we could have a free country. And they did that to his memory – terrible … -we did not set out to do any damage, we were just making a point.”

Judge Kelly said that while he had no doubt about the sincerity of the convictions held by the three men, they had set out in a very calculated way to deface the signage.

“Their motives may have been to make a political point but that does not entitle them to break the law. I accept they did not go out to cause wanton damage – it was very precise damage in furtherance of a particular view but that is not permissible. I have to find the facts proved.”

Comments are closed as the case remains before the courts

Olivia Kelleher