DERRY. GARY DONNELLY CONDANNATO PER GRAFFITI “ANTI-INTERNAMENTO”
A leading dissident republican and two other men have been told to pay almost £3,000 for the damage they caused to Derry’s historic walls last year or face going to jail.
The warning was issued on Wednesday by District Judge Barney McElholm at Londonderry Magistrates’ Court to Gary Donnelly, 43, from Iniscairn Road in the Creggan area of the city and to Liam Brogan, 51 and Terry Porter, 56, both from Carnhill.
Donnelly, who was elected a member of the new Derry-Strabane super council following May’s local government elections, was, along with his co-defendants, told by Mr McElholm: “I am going to be blunt about this. It is clearly a case where a measure of restorative justice should be applied, but if that is not done I think everyone understands what is going to happen.
“I am therefore adjourning sentencing in this case until 5 November to see if restitution has been made.”
After they were told by the judge that he was “considering a custodial sentence”, all three defendants, following their conviction, waived their right to a pre-sentence report.
The defendants denied causing criminal damage to the city walls on 1 February last year by painting anti-internment slogans on a section of the walls overlooking the Bogside area of the city.
They were photographed and filmed by police officers daubing white paint on the walls.
Although they denied the charge, the defendants instructed their barristers not to contest the prosecution evidence against them and none of the three gave evidence.
Their barristers said all three “have been advised of the potential consequences of not giving evidence”. The defence barristers said all three men believed their actions were a political protest against internment.
Mr McElholm said having read the tendered evidence and having viewed photographs of the incident, it was “quite clear all three were caught red-handed or in this case literally white-handed since they were covered in white paint at the scene”.
“They were observed at the scene by police officers being involved in these matters,” the judge added.
“The defence is all three believed they had the right to do this. No-one has a right to damage historic monuments. As regards their political protest, these men were about 30 years too late because to my knowledge internment ended in the 70s”, he said.
A prosecution barrister told the District Judge that the cost of removing the paint from the calls was £2,292.
Mr McElholm said that cost would have to be borne by the ratepayers of the city.
“This sort of behaviour is not political protest, it is juvenile behaviour in the extreme. There are all sorts of ways of making political points, but to paint slogans on a historic monument is just vandalism,” he said.
“What are the proposals to repay the good people of this city for the expense of having to remove this graffiti because I do not believe the ordinary citizens should have to pay for those who indulge in the juvenile behaviour of this kind.
“This is a serious matter for the city. The walls are clearly of local and international significance. They are probably the premier tourist draw for this city.
“They bring income into the city and they give joy to those people who enjoy historic monuments and history in general therefore any criminal damage to the walls or indeed to any other historic monument is to be discouraged.”