Hammer attacker blamed James McClean twitter comments for his savage sectarian assault

Paul McGarrigle
Paul McGarrigle

Londonderry Crown Court heard claims on Monday that comments made by Republic of Ireland international footballer James McClean about wearing a poppy led a defendant to carry out a sectarian attack with a hammer.

A defence barrister made the claim as 42-year-old Paul McGarrigle, of Foyle Crescent in Newbuildings, pleaded guilty to grevious bodily harm with intent and aggravated burglary with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. McGarrigle also admitted criminal damage and assault occasioning actual bodily harm on December 22, 2012.

Defence counsel Michael Boyd said there was a ‘simmering row’ between the injured party and McGarrigle and what ‘sparked’ the assault were comments by footballer James McClean about wearing a poppy. Mr Boyd said this had caused ‘consternation’ amongst the defendant and his friends.

Paul McGarrigle will be sentenced next week-January 17. He pleaded guilty to the four offences in December 2012 which took place at a house at Ebrington Street in the Waterside. The injured party had moved into the house just three weeks before the assault. The court heard that McGarrigle and a group of men arrived outside the house in the early hours as a house warming party was going on. They used a hammer to force entry to the dwelling causing damahe to the front door. The courst also heard sectarian comments were used and McGarrigle called the injured party a ‘fenian b******,’ adding ‘he’s a fenian b****** living in Bonds Street’. McGarrigle then punched the injured party in the face and as he got up from the floor the defendant struck him in the head with a hammer. As the injured party fell to the ground again he was subjected to kicks and punches and was also struck with bottles. As a result the injured man suffered a seven inch cut to the back of his head and another wound to his back as a result of the attack.

During police questioning McGarrigle denied having a hammer but admitted ‘kicking the lining’ out of someone. A prosecution lawyer said the injured man no longer lives in the Waterside and is fearful of reprisals, but added the injured party had recovered from his injuries.

Defence lawyer Michael Boyd handed references to the court about McGarrigle’s community work over the last decade and said his behaviour on the night was ‘completely at odds’ with his character. The lawyer further said that his client ‘lost control of himself’ and did not ‘shy away from that’. Mr Boyd told the court that the attack was ‘frenzied’ but had ended very quickly and that McGarrigle is both embarrassed by and ashamed of his ‘deplorable’ behaviour. Adjourning sentencing for McGarrigle, Judge Phillip Babington said: “This is someone who is a community worker and is supposed to ease tensions. He has acted contrary to everything he supposedly works for.”

The judge also said the case has ‘serious undertones’ and wanted time to consider sentence. McGarrigle was remanded in custody and will appear again on January 17.