Belfast Telegraph

Beaten ex-prisoner 'had walked with PSNI chief on streets of Crossmaglen'

By Declan Brennan

An Armagh businessman and his son have gone on trial accused of assaulting a former republican prisoner.

The alleged victim told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that it would be "very dangerous" for him to comment on the legitimacy of an oil business belonging to one of the accused, Eugene Hanratty Senior (57).

Mr Hanratty of Castleblaney Road, Crossmaglen, and his 34-year-old son, Eugene Hanratty Jnr of Dundalk Road, Crossmaglen, both pleaded not guilty to assaulting Martin McAllister causing him harm at Castleblaney, Co Monaghan, on November 24, 2012.

Mr McAllister alleged that he was driving out of a narrow lane near his home when an oncoming vehicle driven by the younger accused blocked his exit.

He said Hanratty Snr quickly jumped out, opened his car door and began punching and kicking him. Mr McAllister said he was pulled out of the car and his nose and both eye sockets were fractured during a "sustained" assault.

He said at one point Hanratty Snr stamped on his arm. He denied a suggestion from Garnet Orange SC, defending Hanratty Snr, that he had struck the first blow.

Counsel put it to Mr McAllister that when his client began to get the better of him during a fight he went to get a pistol from the boot of his car. Mr McAllister said this was untrue. He agreed that he sometimes brought a licensed pistol in the car but only if he was driving to a firing range. "I did not produce a pistol. I would pass a polygraph," he said.

He told Mr Orange that the background to the assault was his vocal opposition to the dumping of diesel laundering waste along the roads of south Armagh.

He said in 2010 he walked with the then Chief Constable, Matt Baggott, down the main street of Crossmaglen. "This has made me very unpopular with certain people," the witness said.

Mr Orange put it to Mr McAllister that the accused was "running an entirely legitimate oil business". The witness replied that he didn't know how legitimate it was.

Counsel again suggested it was entirely legitimate and said that the business had never had any Revenue issues.

Mr McAllister replied: "It would be very dangerous for me to comment on that statement".

The trial heard that Mr McAllister was involved in an escape from Portlaoise prison in August 1974 during which a prison officer was tied up. A month later he was arrested with a firearm while on the run in Armagh.

He was later sentenced to 10 years in prison. Mr McAllister said: "That is 42 years ago. That is very, very ancient history, at a different time and a different period in my life."

The trial continues.

Belfast Telegraph


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