By Declan Brennan
A car valet business owner was in the throes of cocaine and alcohol abuse when he brandished an imitation pistol in a crowded pub, a court has heard.
Judge Melanie Greally said that CCTV played in court showed customers in the pub “cowering in fear” as Damien Byrne (44) indiscriminately pointed what they believed to be a “deadly weapon”.
Byrne had pulled out the firearm after an outburst of violence involving an associate of his. Byrne initially directed the firearm at security staff before waving it around the pub, causing customers to duck for cover.
Byrne brandished the realistic looking firearm in Finches pub, in Clondalkin, west Dublin at around midnight on September 18, 2016.
He then left the pub with another man, but was later arrested. He subsequently pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to unlawful possession of a fireman.
His defence counsel Keith Spencer BL told the court that his client had a severe dependency on cocaine and alcohol at the time.
He said he has been drug and alcohol free since 2020 after getting a chip implanted into his body which causes him to feel violently sick if he drinks alcohol.
Counsel said that Byrne has gone on to set up two companies, a car valet business and a tanning salon, and that both are prospering.
He said Byrne was exposed to violence as a child and saw his uncle shot dead in 2000.
He turns to drugs to deal with this and other experiences of death in his life, counsel said.
Judge Greally said she was taking into consideration Byrne’s unequivocal approach to tackling his substance abuse issues, as well as his pro-social contribution since his rehabilitation.
She said that a custodial sentence would be a significant setback to his progress and suspended a four-year prison term on condition he keep the peace for that period.
She noted also he has no previous convictions for similar offending.