Irish Republican News · January 10, 2015
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Delight for Donnelly as appeal is successful


An independent republican councillor in Derry this week won his appeal against a term of imprisonment that would have cost him his seat on the new super council of Derry/Strabane.

Mr Donnelly and two others had each been sentenced to six months in prison in November after being found guilty of painting a political graffiti message on Derry’s Walls on February 1 last year.

The sign related to the campaign against the internment by remand of political activists.

Yesterday’s appeal was attended by 26-County TDs Eamon O Cuiv, Tom Pringle, Clare Daly and Maureen O’Sullivan. The new council had also voted to send an observer to the appeal.

The original court hearing had been told that a sentence of six months would cost Donnelly the seat to which he had been elected during the local government election.

Donnelly’s defence barrister, Eoghan Devlin, said the sentence had originally been adjourned to allow for restitution to be paid.

He said it was made clear that restitution would have a “bearing on sentencing but no restitution was paid”.

Mr Devlin said: “But that position has now changed and restitution is now available.”

Ruling on the appeal, Judge Philip Babington described it as “a serious offence as one of the city’s most famous landmarks had been defaced”.

He said the walls belonged to all the people of the city and attracted visitors who benefited everyone living in Derry.

The judge said the district judge had hoped that the matter could be dealt with by payment of restitution and added: “This court is pleased that this has now happened.”

He said half of the fine would be paid to the North’s Environment Agency and the other half would go to a charity, Foyle Search and Rescue.

He said it was still incumbent on the court to pass sentence for the criminal damage and sentenced all three to a 12-month conditional discharge.

At this the crowded public gallery broke into applause. Outside the court Donnelly said he was “relieved” that the case had been settled.

He said: “I am glad that I am now able to represent the voters of the Moor ward who elected me.

“There had been a lot of donations made towards this case by people in the city and I am glad that it is going to Foyle Search and Rescue.”

Donnelly said that when first arrested he and the other defendants had been held for two days and the PSNI had tried to prevent them getting bail.

“Graffiti has long been a tool of the working class for years and there was even graffiti on the walls calling for Home Rule,” Donnelly said.

“More damage was caused to the walls by the installation of lights and the building of the Millennium Forum than by anything we did.

“I have no regrets for anything I have done.”

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