Seamus O’Connell of Ivory Tower, Princes Street, Cork, pleaded not guilty to the charge of causing criminal damage to the door of Jacinta Cronin’s home at Ard Na Greinne, Greenmount, Cork, on December 2 2012.
The chef, who was raised in Arizona, has been a pioneering force in Irish cooking and established one of the most distinctive establishments in Cork City, the Ivory Tower.
He once fronted his own television series on RTÉ and has been the inspiration for a plethora of other acclaimed restaurants in Cork and Dublin.
He told the court when he approached Ms Cronin’s home in December 2012 there was a sign over the doorbell saying, “Knock hard, doorbell broken”.
“I was knocking hard and the door glass broke. I had been knocking for about 20 minutes. The door glass broke. I went inside.
“I closed the door behind me (on the way out) and the remaining panes fell out,” O’Connell, 46, said.
He said he worked with his hands and there was no way he would have deliberately broken the glass.
He said he that he paid more than four times the value of the damage to have it repaired and said he was sorry.
O’Connell’s comments were made in the course of questions that he put to Ms Cronin and in a statement to gardaí. He did not give direct evidence and he did not want a solicitor to represent him.
Ms Cronin told Inspector Michael McGuire that at 10am that morning she was in bed and she heard Seamus O’Connell shouting outside.
“I heard him trying to kick in the front door. He put his elbow through the window of the door and let himself in,” Ms Cronin said, adding the defendant did not have her permission to enter the house.
There was a domestic background to the incident. Garda Brian Barron who responded to a call to investigate the matter said at Cork District Court, “Everyone in the house was distraught and scared.”
Judge Olann Kelleher said: “I believe he took the law into his own hands.”
The judge convictedhim of causing criminal damage and imposed a four-month jail sentence suspended on condition that he keeps the peace for two years and stays away from Ms Cronin’s house.
O’Connell’s flagship venture, the Ivory Tower restaurant, was briefly closed in 2011 after the High Court was called on to enforce a Food Safety Authority of Ireland closure order which O’Connell originally defied. The business opened again a short time later when the issues identified by the FSAI were addressed.