Suspended jail terms for pair’s role in rampage at ancient fort

An Grianan Fort in Burt.
An Grianan Fort in Burt.

Two Creggan men who were part of a 40-strong gang who wreaked havoc at Grianan Fort last weekend appeared at Buncrana Court yesterday.

Raymond McCormick, (20), of 8 Balbane Pass and William Sweeney, (20), of 4 Oakland Park, had been remanded in custody since the last sitting of Letterkenny District Court on Monday last.

Garda Eddie Doherty recounted how the two accused were part of a group of 40 people who had gone on a rampage of destruction at An Grianan Fort in Burt.

He revealed how a drink-fuelled party took place at the ancient fort last weekend. When he arrived he found a scene of carnage in which revellers had defecated in a holy well and on walkways. Beer cans and women’s underwear was found strewn on the inside of the walls and parts of the fort had been dismantled. Tourists visiting the ancient site from as far away as America and China had witnessed the scenes and had also been verbally abused.

The two accused had been charged with causing criminal damage by throwing cans and also some ancient stones from the fort.

Solicitor for the two accused, Patsy Gallagher, said it was “outrageous” that stonemasons from Leitrim were transported to the site at a cost of €900.

“This is a personal view but I think it is outrageous that a Government Department take people from Leitrim to fix a wall. There are members of the Office of Public Works in Letterkenny who could have done this. I think this was an extra expense for these people to come all the way from Leitrim,” he said.

However, Judge Paul Kelly said the court was not talking about fixing a wall.

“This is a 3,000 year-old national artifact. These people were from the National Monuments Dpt. and I’m actually surprised this is as low as it is and I’m surprised they will be able to repair it at all,” he said.

Mr Gallagher added that he could not understand that there were not people locally who could fix the monument. He stressed that his clients were two of 40 people and they were not the main culprits.

Garda Inspector Michael Harrison said he was objecting to the men’s release as they lived across the border. “Their addresses are in Derry city, they have no residence here. If they got bail we would never see them again or the €900.

“The OPW have been extremely reasonable in their figures and I would ask they be remanded in custody until the money is paid.”

Judge Kelly replied that the accused were not getting out until the money was paid. After the matter was adjourned, Mr Gallagher said the money was in court to pay the OPW. He said that having spent almost a week in prison both men were “trembling with fear at the thought of going back behind bars”.

Judge Kelly said: “They are very fortunate to have family willing to stand by them and bail them out. They may be able to prevail upon their comrades, the other people involved, to pay their part.

“What they did on this day and especially the treatment of visitors was absolutely appalling - intimidating and harassing an American woman and Chinese family. It will not be tolerated.”

He sentenced both men to one month in prison but suspended the sentence for 12 months.