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Woman admits assaulting Sinn Fein councillor who intervened when she 'verbally abused Polish couple' on a Belfast bus, court hears

By Alan Erwin

Published 02/04/2015


A woman has admitted assaulting a Sinn Fein councillor who intervened when she verbally abused a Polish couple on a bus in Belfast, a court heard today.

Mary O'Neill's lawyer confirmed she was pleading guilty to all charges linked to Tuesday's alleged disorderly outburst onboard a Translink service into the city.

It was also revealed that the diminutive 57-year-old defendant has racked up 132 previous convictions in the last four years.

Granting her bail to return for sentencing next month, a judge warned she will be jailed if she re-offends in the meantime.

O'Neill, of Limestone Road in Belfast, is charged with three common assaults on members of the public, two assaults on police, and disorderly behaviour in the Donegall Street area.

One of those she allegedly attacked is Sinn Fein councillor Mary Ellen Campbell.

As the accused appeared on the dock at Belfast Magistrates' Court, defence solicitor Niall O'Neill said: "These matters are accepted."

Police opposed her application for bail due to fears she will commit further offences.

"This defendant has 132 previous convictions," a PSNI constable disclosed.

He said O'Neill is alleged to have been verbally abusive towards Polish people on the bus.

"Other members of the public intervened and were then assaulted," the officer added.

Mr O'Neill stressed how no statement of complaint was made by the Polish nationals.

"My client made full admissions to the assaults thereafter," he said.

According to the lawyer O'Neill had a clear record until she was 53.

Most, if not all, of her offences occurred during a period of homelessness, the court heard.

With accommodation now secured for her, the lawyer expressed "quite optimism" that she was over the worst.

On being told that O'Neill's offending was fuelled by alcohol, District Judge George Conner said: "These last four years have been a disaster."

Deciding to grant bail, he added: "I'm sympathetic to her plight - if she loses that address it's going to be further downhill.

"But she has to start to take some responsibility for her own life."

O'Neill was released on condition that she does not drink in public.

Judge Conner warned her: "It's wholly unacceptable behaviour and it cannot be repeated, otherwise you must expect an immediate custodial sentence on May 1."

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