MEMBERS of two Skibbereen families have been directed by a district court judge to seek mediation after they appeared in the district court on charges arising from a bar room brawl in Skibbereen.
Not only did Judge Mary Dorgan insist that they seek mediation, but she also directed that a probation officer’s report be prepared in respect of each of the five co-accused before the case comes before the January 23rd sitting of Skibbereen District Court.
The case involved 13 witnesses – including Garda Kevin Kennedy on behalf of the State – and took more than six hours to hear during the course of a special sitting earlier this week.
Ray Hennessy, solicitor, appeared on behalf of Dan ‘Danny’ Minihan (58), of Pound Lick, Skibbereen, who was charged with a Section 2 assault on Anne O’Brien at Cotter’s Bar at Main Street, Skibbereen, on December 28th 2015.
Anne O’Brien (52) of 21 Pound Hill, Skibbereen, was charged with a Section 2 assault on Danny Minihan and with a Section 6 Public Order offence, which alleged that she engaged in threatening or abusive words or behaviour.
Anne O’Brien was legally represented by Colette McCarthy, who also acted for her two daughters. Carla O’Brien (28) of 4, Gortnaclohy Heights, Skibbereen, was charged with a Section 3 assault on Danny Minihan, causing harm; and a Section 6 Public Order offence.
Her sister, Aoife O’Brien (21) of 21 Pound Hill, Skibbereen was charged with a Section 2 assault on Danny Minihan and a Section 6 offence.
The fifth defendant, Darren O’Brien (31) – the son of Anne O’Brien – who also gave 21 Pound Hill, Skibbereen, as his address, was charged with a Section 2 assault on Danny Minihan, and a Section 6 offence. He was represented by Luke O’Donovan, solicitor.
Insp Fergal Foley explained to Judge Dorgan that the families have ties: namely that Darren O’Brien had been in a relationship with Danny Minihan’s daughter and they have two children together. The court was told that the relationship had broken down and that Darren O’Brien was upset about this.
During the proceedings, Mr O’Donovan indicated that his client, Darren O’Brien, was pleading guilty to throwing a punch to Danny Minihan’s face, but claimed he only did so because Danny Minihan had a grip on his mother’s dress with one hand, and a grip on her wrist with the other, and would not let go.
Colette McCarthy challenged what she called ‘numerous inconsistencies’ in the evidence given by various witnesses claiming that they undermined the credibility of the witnesses.
Ray Hennessy focused his cross-examination on the fact that it was Anne O’Brien who approached his client in the bar shortly after midnight. The solicitor maintained: ‘We wouldn’t be here today if she hadn’t.’
But Colette McCarthy claimed that an alleged derogatory comment (‘what are you talking to that asshole for?’) and a threat (‘I will get you’) that Danny Minihan is alleged to have made to Darren O’Brien while he was talking to his son, Jeremy Minihan, in the toilets, a few minutes before the incident in the bar, was the cause of all the trouble.
Colette McCarthy also produced photographs of Anne O’Brien’s lace and satin dress showing where the lace had been ripped along the neckline and not on the sleeve, as Danny Minihan had claimed.
Danny Minihane was the first to give evidence. He said he saw his son talking to Darren O’Brien – the father of his two grandchildren – in the men’s toilets and that Darren was clearly upset, but he denied making any disparaging remarks.
Back in the bar he said: ‘There were no hostilities … I didn’t know anything until I was struck several times into the head by Anne O’Brien.’
Danny Minihan claimed he used his right hand to hold the upper right sleeve of her dress in a bid to keep her at arms-length. He said Carla O’Brien threw the contents of a pint glass in his face and brought the base of the glass down on his nose, twice, causing it to fracture and bleed, and that Aoife O’Brien also struck him while he was still seated in the bar.
He gave evidence too against Darren O’Brien, saying he threw a punch into his face during the commotion and, throughout it all he said: ‘I didn’t defend myself.’
Colette McCarthy put it to him that he had her client ‘pinned’ forward by his grip on the neck of her dress, but Danny Minihan said: ‘That is a made-up story.’
Publican, Michael O’Driscoll, gave evidence saying: ‘I was told there was a commotion up the other side of the bar but didn’t see anyone strike anyone.’ He admitted to Insp Foley: ‘They are both good customers. I don’t want to be involved in the bloody thing at all.’
In cross-examination by Luke O’Donovan, Michael O’Driscoll said he did see Danny Minihan holding onto Anne O’Brien’s dress and that Danny Minihan had blood pumping from his nose.
Several witnesses for the Minihan family corroborated Danny Minihane’s evidence, with some variations in testimony.
Jeremy Minihan, an off-duty guard, and his wife, Catherine Deane, who is also a guard, and was eight-months pregnant on the night of the incident corroborated Danny Minihan’s evidence.
In evidence in his own defence, Darren O’Brien denied that his plea to the Section 2 assault charge, and his assertion on the night that he thought he had broken Danny Minihan’s nose, was designed to cover for his sister, Carla O’Brien.
He said: ‘I told him to let her (my mother) go and he said, “Fuck off”. I have never been in trouble before, but I panicked, and feared for my mother’s safety at the time, so I hit him.’
When Anne O’Brien gave evidence, she spoke of her regret in approaching Danny Minihan that night and asking him ‘what his problem was.’
She said Danny Minihan grabbed her, called her, and her daughters, ‘tramps’ and that she, in turn, had called him ‘a bully.’ She said: ‘He was sniggering into my face.’
Anne O’Brien said it was only when Michael O’Driscoll, the owner of the bar, told Danny Minihan to let her go that she was able to stand up straight. She denied hitting Danny Minihan.
Aoife O’Brien also denied striking Danny Minihan, as did her sister Carla O’Brien, but they both admitted that their brother struck him to try and loosen his grip on their mother.
On the night of the incident, Gda Kevin Kennedy said he received a complaint from Anne O’Brien alleging that Danny Minihan assaulted her, and that he subsequently received a complaint from Danny Minihan alleging that Darren O’Brien assaulted him.
After considering the evidence, Judge Mary Dorgan struck out the Section 2 assault charges against Anne O’Brien and Aoife O’Brien, but said everything else would stand.
The judge said she would not record any convictions in respect of any of the other charges until the mediation process had been concluded and the probation officer’s reports were submitted in January: ‘These two families should be behaving properly towards each other. I want to know that mediation has had a positive outcome.’