A Co Tyrone man who racially abused a woman and child for not wearing face coverings in a shop “is fixated on Covid and used the language out of fear and anger”, it has been claimed.
Malachy Patrick McIlvanna admitted disorderly behaviour on January 28.
He declined to be present at Dungannon Magistrates Court in person – again due to Covid fears – but joined the proceedings by video-link from his solicitor’s office.
The court heard police arrived at the scene, just as McIlvanna (51), of Springdale, Dungannon, was leaving, and on speaking with the victims, it emerged he had challenged both for not wearing face coverings.
They were very shaken by the incident as McIlvanna had spoken to them in an aggressive and abusive manner, calling them “black c***s” and “black b*****ds”.
The adult female showed police video footage she had captured on her phone, in which McIvanna is clearly identified and heard calling the victims “f***ing black c***s”.
McIlvanna was cautioned and during interview claimed he was very offended by the victims' “disrespect by not wearing masks”.
As a result of being so worked up, he “may have used racist language, but did not consider himself to be a racist person”.
A defence lawyer told the court: “Whether my client considers himself racist or not is irrelevant because he clearly is. The comments made were deplorable.”
He continued: “The defendant is fixated on Covid. He was extremely and overly disturbed about the risk of COVID. That continues and played some part in the incident. It’s not an excuse and in no way condones what he did.”
While claiming the language was used “out of fear and anger”, it was acknowledged the court would not accept fear played any role.
Deputy District Judge Sean O’Hare told McIlvanna: “This was a disgraceful lack of respect for the people you were engaging with. You used racist and abusive language to the victims, one of whom was a child. This case is aggravated by racial hostility and that will be reflected accordingly.”
In terms of penalty, the judge noted McIvanna had: “ruled out all community disposals as unacceptable” because he felt unable to manage these, although no medical evidence to support this was provided.
“I treat that as self-serving,” Judge O’Hare remarked.
He imposed a sentence of two months' imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.