Belfast Telegraph

Dail accused 'staging a protest'

A property developer accused of damaging the gates of Leinster House with a cement truck has claimed that he staged the protest over his unfair treatment by the banks.

Joe McNamara was released on bail after he was brought before Dublin District Court charged with criminal damage.

His solicitor, Cahir O'Higgins, told the court his client had been "merely exercising his constitutional right to express an opinion".

A handful of supporters cheered as the 41-year-old, of Dun na Carraige, Blackrock, Co Galway, emerged from the courthouse. Outside, Mr O'Higgins said: "Joe wished to make a legitimate protest at what he believes to be his unfair treatment at the hands of the banks."

Mr McNamara was remanded on nominal bail of 200 euro to appear again on November 25, pending directions from the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The builder was arrested after he blocked the entrance to the Dail with a cement mixer truck, which was emblazoned with the words 'Toxic Bank Anglo'. Mr McNamara, who is originally from Achill Island, Co Mayo, and reported to owe Anglo 3.5 million euro, was quizzed at Pearse Street Garda Station where he was charged and held overnight.

Mr O'Higgins told the court his client had been exercising section 40.6.1 of the Constitution, which guarantees liberty to express freely convictions and opinions. "I make the point that my client asserts his innocence in respect of this matter," added Mr O'Higgins.

Garda Sergeant John Egan said gardai had no objection to bail, but asked Patrick McMahon to make an order that Mr McNamara stay away from Anglo Irish Bank's headquarters on St Stephen's Green.

Judge McMahon dismissed the application by gardai, but made an order for Mr McNamara "not to come to the unlawful attention of gardai". He also granted an application by the solicitor that gardai preserve all CCTV footage from around Leinster House at the time of the incident.

The Government has admitted the state-owned Anglo Irish Bank was expected to cost Irish taxpayers at least 29.3 billion euro.

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