A 37-year-old Lisburn man accused of driving past a group of loyalists at a north Belfast interface, waving a Tricolour and shouting ‘up the ‘RA’ has been released on bail.
Appearing at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Friday via video link, Finatan Jude Geraghty from Ivy Hill was released from custody – but banned from being within a mile of the north Belfast flashpoint.
Prior to bail being granted, a constable from the PSNI told deputy district judge Austin Kennedy that police were objecting to Geraghty’s release.
Regarding the incident, the constable said that around 8.30pm on Tuesday evening, 14 July, police were present at the loyalist camp at Twaddell when a silver Alfa Romeo drove up the Crumlin Road.
As the car passed the camp the passenger – who Geraghty has admitted was him – hung a “large Irish Tricolour” out of the window.
As around 150 loyalist protestors stood at the camp, Geraghty is also accused of shouting ‘up the ‘RA’ in a “loud and clear manner” which the constable said was “clearly heard by police and protestors”.
The constable said this prompted the loyalists to “surge forward” onto the road, causing police at the scene to intervene.
The policewoman also said that the incident occurred in an area where at the time there was “significant tension”.
The court was told that police then tried to stop the car using lights and sirens, but the vehicle was driven up the Crumlin Road at speed. The Tricolour was discarded in Ligoneil and a police helicopter later observed the vehicle being driven in the area erratically.
When Geraghty was arrested on a charge of doing the provocative act, he said: “What do you mean provocative act? There are hundreds of flags on the other side.”
The constable revealed that while Geraghty has since admitted waving the flag out of the car window, he denied shouting ‘up the ‘RA’, claiming that it was someone else in the car.
Geraghty also made the case that he was not sectarian, and that he had been at the interface prior to the incident to try and keep the area calm.
The policewoman said bail was objected to due to the sectarian element of the offence, the “sensitive time of year” it was committed and also the on-going community tension in the area. She also said that a police presence in the area “didn’t deter” Geraghty from “going to that location and committing this offence”.
Defence solicitor Niall O’Neill said that “three days in custody have had a suitably chastening affect” on Geraghty, who wanted to get home to his son and partner.
Mr O’Neill said that his client had made admissions, was remorseful and would abide by any bail conditions put in place.
The solicitor also said that tensions at the notorious flashpoint had “dissipated”.
Deputy district judge Austin Kennedy said that while Geraghty’s actions were “nonsensical” and could have caused further tensions, he had “recognised the error of his ways”.
Geraghty was released on his own bail of £500, excluded from being within one mile of the interface and ordered to report to police twice a week. He was also told to observe a 9pm to 8am curfew.
Geraghty’s co-accused – Christopher Maxwell, 38, from Centenary House in Belfast – will be applying for bail next Monday.
The case will be heard again on 14 August.
Image – Geraghty admitted waving the Tricolour out the car window but denied shouting ‘up the ‘RA’. ©Presseye