We seldom comment on court cases but the charging of a man at Dublin District Court caught our attention, as it did several other media outlets. He had been arrested on Saturday following what appeared to be the intervention of local people – or “vigilantes” as they have been described – in a sexual assault of a teenage girl.
Indeed, if you read some of the headings you might gain the impression that the real crime was that the man subsequently charged was the initial victim. Man ‘assaulted by vigilantes’…. Man injured by vigilantes….. and so on.
So who were the Posse Comitatus of Ballymun? And who was their unfortunate “victim’? The alleged attack appears to have been witnessed and locals appear to have raised the alarm.
The person now charged was seen attacking a young girl, and in the perception of some witnesses, perhaps even attempting to abduct her. Following this, local people including members of the victim’s own family, left their homes and apprehended the person, and held him for the Gardai, who subsequently arrested him.
He has been named as Anatol Botnari, and he has been charged with sexual assault of a juvenile.
The court heard he is aged 23, and is Moldovan. However, he does not hold a passport from Moldova, which is not an EU member state, but from Romania. Or at least that is what he claims because no passport appears to be have been presented in court.
Detective Garda Conor Garland cited this as one of the reasons why he was objecting to bail as he was unsure as to Botnari’s actual identity, and that the Gardaí were waiting to hear back from Interpol.
Botnari had also provided the Gardaí with two addresses; one in Clonsilla where the residents told Gardaí that Botnari was not living at that location, and another in Ballyfermot that he could apparently only identify through Google maps. This is where he claims to have left his passport, and yet the householders there also stated that he did not live with them.
McGarry then argued that not having an address was not grounds for denying Botnari bail – and bailed he was by Justice Ciaran Leddy. One the bail conditions was that he surrender his passport – the same one he failed to produce and claimed to have left in a house where the people who live there told Gardaí that he doesn’t actually live there and who were not in court. Am I missing something?
Are the establishment in this state really just trolling us? Here is a man who is almost a poster boy for many of the concerns that those involved in the recent protests have expressed.
The Gardaí are not certain of his identity. He was travelling under a passport issued by a country other than the one he claims to be from, and which has been highlighted in other European countries as a questionable means by which Moldovans enter EU states. He fails to provide a verifiable address, but is granted bail of €750. He claims to be working, yet is granted legal aid. He is freed on bail following what had all the appearances of being a serious sexual assault on a teenage girl at a bus stop.
Imagine the reaction of the girl’s family when they read the court reports. Imagine the reaction of the broader community in Ballymun, and of people further afield. Imagine the frustration of the Gardaí involved who see another judge let a person whose identity they have not been able to establish walk out the door after possibly attempting to commit an offence that carries one of the highest penal tariffs in the land.
Then ask yourself, why all the self-serving NGO Pollyannas and their political allies in the Leinster House parties are regarded with contempt by growing numbers of people in this country.
And what of the people who apprehended the accused? They do not sound like vigilantes to me I have to say, and I have seen vigilantes in my day. “Vigos” as they were called by Dublin drug dealers in the 1980s and 1990s when the same sort of working class Dubs who captured this character were protecting their families against heroin. I also saw Catholic nationalist “vigilantes” in the Short Strand in South Belfast who were on those little streets twenty years ago watching out for possible loyalist attacks.
They were “vigilantes” in that they had been organised to be there. They would thus meet with most dictionary definitions of vigilantes as “self-appointed” groups who take law enforcement upon themselves and mete out punishment. This is not what happened in Ballymun, where locals allegedly saw a girl being sexually assaulted and intervened.
The accused may have gotten a few thumps, which is not the proper way to deal with such matters, but not unusual in such circumstances. The person was detained until the Gardaí, who were called, arrived and arrested him. Detective Garda Conor Garland told McGarry that he did not know that the persons involved were “vigiliantes.”
So, defence solicitor Paddy McGarry, whose tab will be picked up by the rest of us as the accused has been granted legal aid despite apparently having a job, and who introduced the term into the court was creating a certain narrative, even if that was not his intent. One which most media have been happy to run with.
Which is that some sinister group was patrolling the streets of Ballymun and then attacked some chap who…. And by the time you get to hear what the chap was attempting to do, your understanding of what had happened has already been framed. And, of course, it fits in with the overall narrative a menacing “far right” threatening poor migrants.
So much for the “vigos.”