Couple in court over threatening behaviour towards tourists in Malin Head

Two tourists were ‘intimidated’ and verbally abused by a Malin Head man and his wife, who take a ‘very strident view of trespassing’ on their land, a court has heard.

Friday, 20th September 2019, 12:30 pm
The Gallaghers own land around Banba's Crown in Malin Head.
The Gallaghers own land around Banba's Crown in Malin Head.

John and Veronica Gallagher, Ballyhillion, Malin Head, both pleaded guilty at Carndonagh District Court to threatening/abusive/insulting behaviour on September, 18, 2018.

Garda Inspector Shaun Grant told the court, which was sitting in Buncrana Courthouse, that two tourists, a brother and sister, had parked at a layby at a gate in an area known as Banba’s Crown.

They were taking photographs of the landscape when Gallagher and his wife arrived and told them to leave the area. They were ‘abusive and intimidating.’

The court heard that Gallagher told the tourists: ‘Get off our land, the animals don’t like being photographed.’

The man said he’d move the car and Gallagher then spoke in Gaelic. The man did not know what he said.

Gallagher ‘became aggressive and the man thought he was going to be assaulted.’ He reported the incident to Gardai and his sister was ‘very shaken.’

Defence solicitor Frank Dorrian told Judge Paul Kelly he had encountered Gallagher before.

He has previous convictions including assault and assault causing harm.

Mr Dorrian said the couple own land in Banba’s Crown, a ‘place of scenic beauty,’ which ‘attracts a lot of tourists and walkers.’

He added that the couple take a ‘very strident view of trespassing on the land,’ something that is ‘ongoing and continuous.’

The court was told that ‘a lot’ of signs warning of trespassing were erected,

Mr Dorrian said the car was parked at his client’s gateway to his driveway, which is ‘innocuous enough’ but was seen by Gallagher as ‘another example of people running roughshod on his property.’

The language then ‘became more colourful.’ Mr Dorrian said the visitors were ‘unaware’ Gallagher had a ‘lifetime of trying to protect his property.’

“Many, many people have trespassed on his property and he is very sensitive to this.”

Mr Dorrian told how he has ‘explained’ to the couple how ‘there is a better way to do this politely and ask people to stop what they are doing, in a nice way’.

“But, it is a culmination of a lifetime of annoyance.”

He said Gallagher was ‘no closer than five or six feet away’ from the man. He added how the Gallagher’s farm is the ‘single most important thing in their lives and they’re very precious about it’.

Judge Kelly said the conversation was had previously ‘in relation to his behaviour and to tourists.’

“He is entitled to zealously guard his property, with the full backing of the law, as long as he stays within it himself.”

Judge Kelly said that, given the early guilty plea, he would deal with the matter by way of a fine, but added how ‘given the record’ Gallagher has ‘built up, he would want to be very careful in the future.’

Judge Kelly fined John Gallagher 150 euro and also fined Veronica Gallagher the same amount.