A BANDON grandmother who demanded to know from a local hotel how many Ukrainian refugees were staying there has been described by a judge as ‘a pity’ and that someone close to her may have a ‘malign influence’ on her.
Margaret Buttimer (68) of no fixed abode, demanded to know how much it was costing the State to house the refugees at the Munster Arms Hotel and was shouting that they were ‘rapists and criminals’.
At Bandon District Court last week, Ms Buttimer contested two public order charges arising out of an incident at the hotel on January 26th.
Det Gda Nigel Whelton said he was on duty that day when he was called to assist another garda dealing with a female causing a disturbance at the Munster Arms Hotel.
‘When I entered the hotel at 3.05pm, I saw the defendant shouting at two staff members.
‘She said she wanted to know how many Ukrainian refugees were staying in the hotel, how much it was costing the State and that they are rapists and criminals,’ said Det Gda Whelton.
‘We asked her to desist, outlined the offence but she continued and demanded to speak to the manager. I asked her to desist but it escalated and she was making a scene.’
The two gardaí escorted Ms Buttimer out the front door of the hotel onto Oliver Plunkett Street where she continued to shout about the Ukrainian refugees.
‘She refused to desist. I told her to leave the area in an orderly manner, but she said she would stay there till the morning until she got to speak to the hotel manager. I had no option then but to arrest her.’
Solicitor Plunkett Taaffe said his client told him that she had been asking if those staying in the hotel had been vetted rather than calling them ‘rapists and criminals.’ However, Det Gda Whelton said he heard what she said ‘clearly’.
Ms Buttimer told the court that she went into the hotel looking for the manager to find out how many Ukrainian refugees were staying there, when there are homeless Irish people on the streets in freezing conditions.
Mr Taaffe told his client that she can’t go around demanding answers. He asked if she would obey garda directions in the future. ‘I take each day as it comes,’ she replied and when asked by Insp Kay O’Donoghue if she would comply in future, she said she ‘really couldn’t say’ if she would.
Judge James McNulty found the charges of failing to comply with garda directions and engaging in offensive conduct proven.
The court heard that she has 13 previous convictions, with the majority of those related to breaches of Covid regulations where she refused to wear a mask in public places. Her more recent offences relate to similar public order incidents at the Munster Arms Hotel.
Mr Taaffe said she is already under the supervision of the probation services and that a psychiatric report which had been previously requested was not ready in time for her court hearing.
‘Her thinking is somewhat unorthodox and her logic will not be shared by everyone,’ he said.
Judge McNulty said he suspected she may have been influenced by others, that some of them are close to her who have a ‘warped and non-conformist agenda.’ He also said he suspects someone close to her is a ‘malign influence’ on her.
‘She’s a pity to be honest, but she’s also obliged to be law abiding and there is no need for her to be engaging in this behaviour.’ The court heard that she has currently no accommodation and the probation services were helping her to secure a place.
Judge McNulty sentenced her to 16 weeks in prison which he backdated to the time when she first went into custody in January.
He then suspended half of that sentence on condition that she is not to enter or attend the Munster Arms Hotel or any place where Ukrainian refugees from war are being accommodated.
Judge McNulty said that the court expects the probation services to liaise with the prison authorities in securing accommodation for her on her release.
Ms Buttimer previously claimed she was badly beaten up in her prison cell in Limerick, after having been jailed in January.
She alleged that she had been assaulted by another woman she was sharing the cell with, while Ms Buttimer was ‘praying to God’.