FALL FROM GRACE |
Ex-senator kicked out at gardai before calling them ‘c***s’ and ‘paedos’
The judge imposed a four-month sentence suspended on the condition James Heffernan did not re-offend for 18 months.
Yesterday at 09:18
A FORMER senator was arrested three times in 24 hours for public order offences in Dublin after a failed bid to enter his name as a candidate for a Seanad by-election, a judge has heard.
James Heffernan, 43, shouted “profanities” at a Trinity College Dublin (TCD) security man, gave bar staff the finger when refused service, and kicked and lashed out at gardai before calling them c***s and paedos, Dublin District Court was told yesterday.
Heffernan, with an address at Main Street, Kilfinane, Co. Limerick, was found guilty of obstruction, being intoxicated to the extent he was a danger to himself and others, and using threatening and abusive words or behaviour with intent to provoke a breach of the peace during incidents on February 12 and February 13, 2022.
Judge John Cheatle imposed a four-month sentence suspended on the condition Heffernan did not re-offend for 18 months.
He had 33 prior convictions: 14 under the Public Order Act, three assaults, thefts including burglary, and road traffic offences.
Heffernan, who contested the charges, told the court he had been in Dublin on February 12 on business to hand in nomination papers to run in the Seanad by-election in TCD, but they were not accepted.
Garda Thomas McConville encountered the former politician around 5 pm, “highly intoxicated”, unsteady on his feet, abusing and “shouting profanities” at a TCD security man.
That night, Garda Seamus Barry had been dealing with a violent individual on the ground in Crown Alley in Temple Bar at about 1.25 am.
He suddenly felt a liquid pour over his back. He turned, and Heffernan was holding a plastic container which he had discarded.
Garda Barry said the man he was arresting was screaming obscenities but was not asking for help.
Garda Joe O’Connor witnessed it and spoke to the accused, who was intoxicated and almost immediately began abusing gardai, calling them “c**** and paedos”. He began to kick and shout as he was handcuffed and arrested for the second time.
He said there was no CCTV footage from the Old Storehouse near the incident.
Their cameras did not point at the scene.
The defence argued that other cameras should have been checked.
Heffernan claimed the man under arrest was gasping and could not breathe, and he spoke to gardai about it.
However, he denied pouring the drink on the garda or shouting verbal abuse.
Garda Barry said at 5.30 pm that day, he met the accused “unsteady on his feet” at Jervis Street, and there was a strong smell of intoxicating liquor from Heffernan, who gave the middle finger to staff in TP Smiths pub.
The court heard he had been refused service after entering with an opened tin of the non-alcoholic energy drink Monster.
He denied that he had been drinking alcohol earlier.
Heffernan told the court he understood pub etiquette and finished the Monster drink outside.
However, he claimed he was refused service “without a valid reason” when he re-entered the pub to order a hot whiskey.
He admitted he had been dishevelled and sleeping rough the night before.
Defence counsel Maeve MacCabe submitted that Heffernan’s behaviour was rude and annoying but not threatening, and one out of six charges was dismissed.
Pleading for leniency, counsel said Heffernan had a “spectacular fall from grace”.
He was halfway through a community and addiction studies degree course at the Technological University of the Shannon.
He had been diagnosed as bipolar and completed treatment for alcohol addiction, and “having battled his demons now helps other people battle theirs.”
Garda O’Connor spoke up for him and said he now looked like a different person.
Heffernan, a qualified primary school teacher, and an ex-member of Limerick Co Council, was elected for Labour to the 24th Seanad in 2011.
He lost the party whip the following year when he voted against budget cuts.
He joined the Social Democrats in 2015 but was an unsuccessful candidate for the party in the 2016 general election.