By Edwin McGreal
This morning’s (Wednesday’s) sitting of Castlebar District Court was adjourned just before noon amid chaotic scenes as members of the Integrity Ireland group applied to place Judge Kevin Kilrane and prosecuting Superintendent Joe McKenna under citizens’ arrest.
At 11.45am Judge Kilrane rose from his bench and adjourned the entire court list to September 15 while some people in the public gallery shouted at him to ‘get off the bench’.
Integrity Ireland describe themselves as a group who encourage ‘openness, transparency and justice in the institutions of the Irish State’ and also as ‘serving as a support network for wronged citizens’.
Two members of Integrity Ireland, Stephen Manning and Colm Granahan, were taking civil summonses against Garda Sergeant Peter Hanley and County Registrar Fintan Murphy arising from incidents at a sitting of the County Registrar’s Court in March of this year, relating to home repossessions. Approximately 20 Integrity Ireland supporters were in the courtroom.
Mr Manning’s application was thrown out by Judge Kilrane, who said Mr Manning had not put Sergeant Hanley on notice to appear. Mr Manning said this was unfair and asked the judge to adjourn the matter, arguing for leniency on the basis of being a lay litigant. Judge Kilrane said that District Court rules had not been followed by Mr Manning and that Mr Manning should either ‘equip yourself’ or employ a solicitor.
Mr Manning said citizens were being stopped from obtaining justice in Ireland. He claimed he and others had been assaulted at the County Registrar’s Court in March. He described today’s ruling by Judge Kilrane as ‘a farce’.
Mr Granahan’s case against Fintan Murphy was adjourned to November. Judge Kilrane said this was due to the fact that there was a High Court notice to Mr Granahan, and that this case had to run its course first.
Mr Granahan argued that the High Court notice was flawed and invalid and said he was not served properly.
Judge Kilrane repeated that he was adjourning the case and said he was ‘prohibited’ from dealing with it as there was a related High Court case.
Mr Manning interjected to argue that Judge Kilrane was in contempt of his own court and called the judge ‘a disgrace’. He argued that the High Court document ‘has to be ignored’ and said adjourning it on this basis would set a precedent.
Judge Kilrane then said he was rising for ten minutes, and when he returned he said the he was putting the matter back to later in the day, as ‘we have to get on with the list’ (of other cases due before the court today).
At this stage, Mr Granahan said: ‘Because of your breach we are placing you under citizens’ arrest’.
He asked prosecuting Supt Joe McKenna to assist with this. When Supt McKenna did not, Mr Manning said he was placing Supt McKenna under citizens’ arrest and sought a garda sergeant to assist.
Mr Manning said to Integrity Ireland supporters in the crowd that they had ‘the option’ to enforce the arrest. Mr Granahan replied ‘No, we are not going to turn into thugs like them’, pointing at gardaí.
Judge Kilrane tried to call the next case at which stage Integrity Ireland members in the public gallery started shouting ‘Off the bench’. So loud was the ensuing uproar and banging of fists that the courtroom started to vibrate.
Judge Kilrane continued attempting to proceed with the court list. Mr Manning told him he was ‘committing criminal acts’, adding ‘This is our court’. Mr Granahan told Supt McKenna ‘don’t turn a blind eye to me. I pay your wages’.
Judge Kilrane rose from the bench and said he was adjourning the full court list to September 15.
Members of Integrity Ireland remained in the courtroom afterwards, and at 11.55am the alarm in the courtroom went off.
Aside from the two civil summonses taken by Mr Manning and Mr Granahan, a total of 46 criminal prosecutions were due to be heard today, along with two family-law cases, three debt cases and two licensing cases.