Local judge rejects resignation calls

Judge Seamus Hughes has hit back at calls on him to resign this week, saying he made the exact same comments about Travellers last year and was actually praised by Pavee Point on that occasion. At the court sitting in Athlone yesterday (Wednesday), the judge briefly addressed the controversy in which the Traveller lobby group had called for his resignation over remarks he made during a case the previous week involving Martin Stokes (21) of 5 Corkhill, Kinnegad, who admitted threatening to set fire to the home of a former neighbour of his. During that case last week, the judge said he suspected the defendant came from a certain ethnic background that would give him even more form given the type of behaviour in which some of them engage. "As I've described it before, they are like Neanderthal men living in the long grass, abiding by the laws of the jungle," he remarked. Yesterday, speaking during a case of man accused of burglary of a neighbouring house to fund a drug habit, Judge Hughes wondered if there was an organisation the man could call on to represent him. He went on to say the statement from Pavee Point was quite ironic, given that he made the exact same comments in a bare knuckle fighting case last year about "Neanderthal men living in the long grass, abiding by the laws of the jungle." On that occasion, his judgement was praised in a statement from Pavee Point, the judge pointedly stated, before telling the man before him on the burglary charge that it was a mean thing to do. He accused him of "lying in the long grass" watching the owner, and that he would "steal the eyes of your head to buy drugs". On Tuesday, Pavee Point described the judge's 'Neanderthal' comments as "prehistoric" and said Judge Hughes was "bringing the judicial system into disrepute." In condemning the comments, Pavee Point said: "They reflect a prehistoric mindset that has no place in modern Irish society." The group added: "It's difficult to see how Travellers would have confidence that they could get a fair trial in Judge Hughes' court based on these comments. He should resign with immediate effect as he is bringing the judicial system into disrepute."

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