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Fine Gael senator John McGahon found not guilty of assault outside Dundalk bar in 2018

The defendant pleaded not guilty on Tuesday.

John McGahon
John McGahon
Image: Oireachtas

COUNTY LOUTH FINE Gael senator John McGahon has been cleared of a charge of assault causing harm following a four day trial at Dundalk Circuit Court.

The 31-year-old of Faughart Gardens, St. Mary’s Road, Dundalk had pleaded not guilty to assaulting Breen White causing him harm at or about Park Street, Dundalk on June 16th, 2018.

Senator McGahon told gardai he had acted in self-defence. The court heard the case arose from an incident that night when the defendant put his arm around Mr White’s wife as she and her husband were leaving The Rumhouse pub/ restaurant as if to say “you’re coming with me”.

Replying to prosecuting counsel Carl Hanahoe BL Mr White said he told Sen McGahon to leave his wife alone, but words were exchanged outside followed by “handbags stuff” before there was a scuffle and the next thing he knew he was on the ground “getting knocks and bangs about the head.” He said he thought water was running down his face… but it was blood.

When asked by defence barrister Hugh Hartnett S.C who threw the first blow, Mr White replied: “As far as I’m concerned it was John.” When pressed again, the witness said: “I can’t say for definite.”

He described the defendant as acting like a bully.

Mr White denied pulling Sen McGahon to the ground and claimed the accused had fallen as he was drunk and from the momentum of another person who had intervened.

Mr White said he never had a grip of the defendant by the neck and denied that the accused had acted in self-defence.

Linda White said the defendant had been ‘shouldering and chesting’ her husband and claimed he was aggressive and sneering while her husband told him to get back and stop poking him.

She said three of John McGahon’s friends were pushing the defendant back, but he broke free and brought her husband to the ground.

She said these men were pulling him off her husband and claimed the accused was on top of her husband “thumping him and thumping him” while he was ‘flat on the ground’.

Mr White’s son Cormac Rafferty told the jury he was crossing the street when “out of nowhere there was a scuffle” and he saw his father lying on the ground being punched repeatedly on the head by John McGahon whose friends were trying to pull him off.

The jury was shown CCTV footage from the night and heard that Mr White told a doctor that he had been assaulted by four people who had kicked and punched him in the face and he was treated for superficial lacerations on the forehead and bridge of his nose.

A garda gave evidence of meeting the defendant on the night and said he had been intoxicated but was not detained.

The court heard that when Sen McGahon was arrested four months later he told gardaí that as everybody was being moved out of The Rumhouse he put his arm around a woman’s shoulder.

He said it was totally innocent and friendly and something he did regularly.

He said he offered an apology to the couple when Mr White took issue with his behaviour but more words were exchanged outside and as tensions increased he thought Mr White was going to kick him but he didn’t and pushing and shoving followed.

Sen McGahon told gardai someone he knew from school put his arm around him in a bid to calm him down. He said Mr White was in his face getting up close and aggressive and lunged at him but missed him and hit the ground. Sen McGahon said he too ended up on the ground having retaliated and said he had hit the complainant with open-handed slaps.

He added there was quite a lot of blood on Mr White’s face from where he hit the pavement after lunging at the accused.

The trial was heard before a jury of four men and seven women after one of the jury members was taken ill on Tuesday night.

After failing to reach a unanimous verdict following over two and a half hours of deliberations the jury was told by Judge Dara Hayes he would accept a majority verdict of at least 10-1 and following a further four hours of deliberations the jury returned its ‘not guilty ‘.

Following the verdict, Judge Hayes adjourned the issue of the defence costs to later in the year following a request from Senator McGahon’s barrister Hugh Hartnett SC.

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Welcoming his acquittal Mr McGahon said he was now looking forward to getting back to his work as a senator.

“I’m extremely relieved and delighted to have been found not guilty.

“I maintained my innocence throughout this process, and this has been proven.

“I thank the jury for reaching this verdict having heard all evidence since Tuesday. I would like to thank them for their careful attention throughout.

“I also want to thank my legal team of Hugh Hartnett SC, James McCullough BL with Conor MacGuill solicitors.

“Since 2014, I have worked tirelessly on behalf of the people of Dundalk and Louth. There are a lot of issues which affect my constituents and that is my sole focus.”

Shortly after the verdict, Fine Gael released a statement in which the party supported Sen McGahon.

“Senator McGahon has always maintained his innocence and a jury has found him not guilty. This matter has now concluded.

“Senator John McGahon, as always, will continue his work as a public representative for the people of Louth.”

About the author:

Richard McCullen

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