The holiday celebrations turned violent in Loughrea as two families engaged in a St. Stephen’s Day bar brawl.
Seven members of the Ward family appeared before Galway Circuit Court to face sentencing for their part in a brawl that took place in a Loughrea pub on St. Stephen’s Day, 2016.
Nine members of the Myers family were convicted by the Circuit Court last year for their part in the affray.
The Wards are from the Loughrea area, and the seven up before the court either live locally or in Tullamore, while the Myers family were over from Mullingar.
On this occasion the David, Dermot, John, Laurence, Patrick, Paul, and Richard Ward all pleaded guilty to affray.
Dermot, Richard, and Patrick Ward all have address at Kilcrutan Halting Site in Tullamore.
The court heard that during the evening in Aggie Madden’s pub on Main Street, Loughrea, an argument broke out between members of the two families near a pool table just before 9pm.
Gardaí played cctv footage from multiple angles inside the pub and out on the street which showed how the incident quickly escalated into shocking violence which spilled out onto the road.
After fighting with the other family in the pub for some time, the Wards went outside where they “laid siege” to the door with thrown glasses, pool cues, and stools, before leaving the area.
The two families continued throwing glasses and other missiles at each other on the road, blocking traffic all the while, before breaking up.
The violence began when Patrick Ward (31) approached the argument and “aggressively and violently smashes his glass of alcohol over a person’s head,” Garda Hall told the court.
During the rest of the fight inside the Patrick could be seen indiscriminately throwing glasses and and a bar stool, as well as attempting to spray other with some sort of aerosol.
Before the fight broke out, David Ward (22), of Gort Bride, Loughrea, was involved in the initial dispute around the pool table, but did not take part in the violence himself, the Circuit Court heard.
At one point David rushed a person, but did not hit anyone or arm himself while inside the pub.
Outside he encircled the door with other members of his family, at one point armed with a bar stool and a pool cue, which was taken off him by another person and thrown at the door.
According to the evidence shown to the Circuit Court, Laurence Ward (41), of Fahy Gardens, Loughrea, played a “peripheral” role in the events of the night, observing the initial violence before leaving with his son John.
Outside he was armed with a pool cue, which he said was for his own protection, but did not attack anyone.
At one point cctv showed him on his phone while the brawl was ongoing at the door of the pub, and Garda Hall said that he was on the phone with local gardaí.
He later voluntarily went to Loughrea garda station where he identified himself in cctv footage and gave a statement.
The court heard that John Ward (22), who lives with his father, initially tried to separate that people in the dispute.
However when something was thrown at him he then grabbed a pool cue and lunged with it, showing “blatant disregard” for who he hit.
Cctv from elsewhere in the pub showed that he carried on fighting, and when outside he grabbed a pool cue off his father and helped surround the door.
He then fled after being attacked on the street. John Ward’s barrister said that he was defending himself, which Garda Hall said was “open to interpretation”.
Afterwards he went to the Supermacs on Main Street of Loughrea and broke open a glass case containing a signed hurl valued at €1,200.
Security footage from within Supermacs showed him smashing the hurl off the wall and leaving the fast food restaurant with it. Garda Hall said that hurl was retrieved but not in any usable condition.
Dermot Ward (27) was shown throwing glasses and other missiles on security footage, as well as fist fighting with another person near the entrance to the pub.
Outside he was shown to have a pool cue which he “viciously swiped” in the direction of the door at people trying to come out.
His barrister said that he didn’t instigate the fight, and attended Loughrea garda station when asked.
Gardaí said that he fulfilled his obligation to attend the station, but didn’t answer any questions when interviewed.
Richard Ward (21) was part of the brawl from the beginning of the argument at the pool table, where he was seen “violently throwing punches”.
During the fight he was also seen on camera “smashing glasses at close range” and hurling bar stools at people, before going back to fighting with his fists.
His defence said that this was “entirely out of character” for Richard, who has no previous convictions.
Paul Ward (29), of St. Brendan’s Court, Loughrea had been playing pool when the argument began heating up, and didn’t engage in any violence himself.
Outside the pub he held position at the door shouting at the other people inside, before leaving the area.
Crime against the community
Gardaí were called to the scene of the brawl, but at first only knew that there was some sort of dispute.
The full extent of what had transpired would not become clear until after cctv footage of the night was reviewed.
Garda Hall said that he observed a large crowd outside the pub, and met one man with blood on his face which he refused to explain.
None of the injured parties have been cooperative with this investigation, gardaí said, and none gave impact statements about the bar brawl.
The court heard that in the time since this incident the Wards and Myers have engaged in mediation through the Traveller Movement.
Judge Rory McCabe said that this was “an offence against the community” and that he would sentence along those lines.
Laurence Ward received a one year suspended sentence, and was ordered to pay €500 compensation, with the defence repeating that he had not acted violently himself during this brawl.
Garda Hall noted that Laurence was the first to present himself voluntarily at Loughrea garda station, and the most forthcoming when interviewed.
John Ward, who was 19 at the time of the incident, had gone “off the rails” the year before when he was refused admittance to the army due to failing the medical exam.
He was ordered to perform 240 hours of community service in lieu of an 18 month prison sentence, and to pay €1,000 in compensation.
Judge McCabe said of Patrick Ward that “the level of violence I saw from him was on entirely different level” and that it was hard to see how jail was not appropriate.
However the judge took into consideration a recommendation from the probation services that Patrick be allowed to keep his liberty.
With that in mind the judge imposed a two year sentence, but ordered Ward to perform 240 hours of community service in lieu and pay €500 in compensation.
David Ward was “swept up” in the events of the night, and Judge McCabe agreed he had a lower level of culpability.
He was given a one years suspended sentence for his minimal role in the brawl and ordered to pay €500 in compensation.
Dermot Ward’s barrister said that he had tried to approach the argument as a peacemaker at first, then acted in self defence before his violent actions “escalated”.
Judge McCabe said that Dermot had employed multiple varieties of violence during this incident and handed him an 18 month sentence, suspended for 5 years, and ordered €500 in compensation.
Paul Ward received a sentence of one years, which was suspended for five years on the condition that he continue training courses at Canal House and perform 200 hours of community serve.
And lastly Richard Ward received an 18 month sentence, which was suspended on the condition that he perform 200 hours of community service and pay €500 in compensation.
Judge McCabe directed that the compensation money should be directed to a cause that serves the community in Loughrea by gardaí.