Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Judge threatens to sue after drinking chemical in hotel water bottle

An Irish judge is threatening to sue a hotel for damages after drinking chemicals from a mineral water bottle.

District Court judge Sean MacBride claims he became violently ill when he drank the substance -- thought to be cleaning fluid or anti-freeze -- after ordering a bottle of water at the popular Hillgrove Hotel in Co Monaghan.

The judge, who oversees court sittings in the Cavan/Monaghan area, received medical treatment following the incident.

The incident sparked an investigation by gardai and was also referred to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The Irish Independent has learned the National Forensic Science Laboratory analysed the water bottle and it was found to contain a number of different chemical substances.

A file was subsequently sent to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), who concluded no charges should be brought.

However, Judge MacBride is now threatening to sue the hotel over the incident.

A statement issued by Vincent Crowley, a solicitor acting for the judge, said the matter was "likely to give rise to civil proceedings".

The incident occurred while Judge MacBride was staying at the hotel on March 23.

Judge MacBride, a former solicitor, ordered some bottled water to his room late that night.

But after drinking from the bottle, he became ill and had to go to hospital.

It is understood the incident was an accident and occurred after a member of staff had stored cleaning fluid or possibly anti-freeze in the bottle.

The bottle was later lifted off a cleaner's trolley and handed to Judge MacBride by a different member of staff.

The HSA was contacted by gardai following the incident and an environmental health officer from the HSE also visited the hotel.

A spokesman for the HSA said management at the hotel were advised to update their policies on the safe use and management of chemicals.

The hotel also received a formal complaint from Judge MacBride's legal representatives, which was later responded to by the hotel's insurers.

Yesterday, Audri Herron, the owner of the hotel, declined to answer a series of questions on the incident.

"It is the policy of the hotel not to discuss any matter pertaining to guests who stay at the hotel," a statement issued on her behalf said.

"The hotel, management and staff are fully aware of their obligations in relation to health and safety of employees and guests and exercise due care in this regard at all times."

It is not the first time that Judge MacBride, a major GAA supporter who was raised in Moville, Co Donegal, has hit the headlines.

He is renowned for making controversial remarks about some cases that have come before him.

Four years ago he told a packed courtroom that he would "blow the head" off any intruder who entered his home, but later apologised for his remarks.

He told Monaghan District Court: "If I had a licensed shotgun I would blow the head off anyone that came into my house. People have no business going into private houses."

In a statement subsequently issued through the Courts Service, the judge said that he regretted his choice of language.

"I want to make it clear that I am totally opposed to the use of guns and against all violence," said the former Fianna Fail member of Donegal County Council.

A year later he apologised for branding people from Co Tyrone typically "thick" after a case of mistaken identity involving a woman from the county.

Judge MacBride has a heavy caseload as a District Court judge who travels extensively throughout Cavan/Monaghan overseeing sittings in areas that include Bailieborough, Carrickmacross, Castleblayney, Cavan, Clones, Cootehill, Monaghan and Virginia.

Earlier this month the judge demanded armed garda protection after he was harangued by a man who he had sentenced for contempt of court.

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