A judge yesterday overturned a driving ban on a speeding and foul-mouthed cleric but told him “even God would tell you slow down on that particular road”.
At Ennis Circuit Court yesterday, Church of Ireland rector Canon Bob Hanna, aged 68, appealed the six-month driving ban imposed on him at the district court last month.
In the district court, Judge Patrick Durcan banned Canon Hanna from driving after describing his conduct as “despicable” when stopped by Garda Lisa McDonagh on April 17 after going 135km in a 100km zone at Bunratty on the main dual-carriageway linking Ennis to Limerick.
In court yesterday, tate solicitor Martin Linnane said Canon Hanna “was extremely abusive and aggressive in his behaviour towards Garda McDonagh when stopped”.
Mr Linnane said: “He shouted at Garda McDonagh ‘I’m late for a communion service at one o’clock. What are you doing? What are you stopping me for?’
“He then stated: ‘Chase me if you want, I’m leaving.’ Canon Hanna was then informed of his speed and he said: ‘I don’t give a fuck. I’m late. It is religious week. I hope that you are victimising everyone else.’ ”
Mr Linnane said
Canon Hanna had four previous motoring convictions and last April was not the first time he was caught speeding — he was fined €100 last July for speeding in a built-up area in January 2014.
In evidence, Canon Hanna — who arrived and left court by bicycle yesterday — told Judge Tom O’Donnell: “I feel a little hard done by this.”
Garda McDonagh stopped Canon Hanna at 12.47pm on Holy Thursday; he was due to give a service at his St Columba’s Church 22.5km away at 1pm.
Canon Hanna admitted that his language “wasn’t temperate. It wasn’t sharp. It was impolite and ungracious to a lady.”
He added: “I just plead — I was under huge stress in Holy Week, I didn’t give the lady garda much time, but I gave her all the information that she needed. I just felt at the time that she wasn’t understanding of my position.”
He confirmed to the court that he had already submitted a letter of apology to Garda McDonagh for the language he used.
Lorcan Connolly, defending, said his client had been “under severe time constraints on the date”.
“He accepts the intemperate language he used on the day was unacceptable and he instructs me to apologise to Garda McDonagh without reservation,” said Mr Connolly.
Canon Hanna did not turn up at the district court last month for the case and Mr Connolly said:“He has something of a chaotic lifestyle and he doesn’t have assistance in the rectory as such and the fixed charge penalty notice was overlooked and the summons date was not recorded in his diary.
“Canon Hanna is well known in the county for his voluntary work.”
Judge O’Donnell said he was satisfied to remove the disqualification “given the abject apology and letter given to Garda McDonagh”.
The judge reduced the fine from €500 to €250 and told Canon Hanna: “Even God would tell you slow down on that particular road.”
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