A grandmother has received a 16-week jail term for causing “a scene” at a hotel accommodating Ukrainian refugees, with a court hearing she was shouting that they were “rapists and criminals”.
Margaret Buttimer, 68 and of no fixed abode but with a previous address in Bandon in Co Cork, pleaded not guilty at Bandon District Court to two charges regarding an incident at the Munster Arms Hotel in the town on January 26 last.
Det Garda Nigel Whelton told Judge James McNulty that he and a colleague attended at the hotel at 3.05pm on January 26 following reports of a female causing a disturbance there.
He said they observed Ms Buttimer shouting in the reception area.
“She wanted to know how many Ukrainian nationals were staying in this hotel, what was the cost to the Irish people, and saying ‘these Ukrainians are rapists and criminals’.”
Det Garda Whelton said he asked Ms Buttimer to desist but she continued, asking to speak to the manager. He said the situation was “escalating” adding “she was making a scene”.
Ms Buttimer was was escorted outside and advised of the need to desist and comply with Garda direction. Following “numerous attempts” to get her to desist Det Garda arrested Ms Buttimer, telling the court he had “no option”.
Ms Buttimer was later charged at Bandon Garda Station.
Plunkett Taaffe, solicitor for Ms Buttimer, said his instructions were that his client had asked if those in the hotel had been vetted, as opposed to calling them rapists and criminals. Det Garda Whelton said “no, I heard clearly”.
In her evidence, Margaret Buttimer said she had sought answers from the manager of the hotel and admitted she had no other business at the hotel.
As to whether she would refrain from going back to the hotel, she said: “I just take each day as it comes.” Judge McNulty found both charges, of offensive conduct and of failing to comply with a direction from gardaí, proven.
The court heard she had 13 previous convictions, including for repeated failure to comply with Covid regulations and more recently, similar incidents at the Munster Arms Hotel.
She was already under Probation Service supervision and a psychiatric report requested at an earlier court date was not ready in time for this hearing.
The Judge said: “I suspect that she has been influenced by others, some of them are close to her and who have a warped and non-conformist agenda.
“I suspect she is under a malign influence.” Mr Taaffe said he agreed.
Judge McNulty sentenced her to 16 weeks in prison, backdated to when she entered custody and with half of the sentence suspended on condition that she keep the peace and stay away from the Munster Arms hotel and any other facility accommodating Ukrainian refugee or asylum seekers.
The court heard efforts will be made to secure accommodation for her on her release.
“She is a pity, but she is also obliged to behave,” the judge said.