|Central Criminal Court|
£1,300 FRAUD CHARGE
BILLETING OF TROOPS IN 1922.
HOTEL PROPRIETOR ON TRIAL.
(Before Mr. Justice Hanna.)
|The trial was opened yesterday of Thomas D. Ahearne, proprietor Imperial Hotel, Mitchelstown, Co. Cork, on the charge of fraudulently obtaining from the Minister for Defence, approximately, £1,300, claimed for the maintenance of troops in 1922. The prosecution alleged that the accounts sent to the Ministry for Defence were fictitious, and that they were certified by officers who had no authority to pass them. Mr. James Reardon (instructed by Mr. Anthony Carroll, Fermoy) defended the prisoner.|
| Mr. Carrigan, K.C., Senior State Counsel, told the jury that the accused man obtained, roughly
£1,300 of public money during the disturbed period of 1922-23. His claims for the billeting of troops
were not only exaggerated, they were false and fraudulent, with one exception. The single exception
represented a sum of £149 10s. 6d.
In November, 1925, Ahearne had the impudence to claim a sum of £243 13s. 6d., which he said was a balance due to him, and it was then that his accounts were gone into. If he had not been so emboldened by his previous successes to claim this balance in all probability the alleged fraud would never have been discovered.
Counsel went on to say that in 1922 the garrison in Mitchelstown numbered about 150 men. Some of these were billeted for a while in Ahearne's hotel, the rates being 9s. a day for officers and 6s. 6d. a day for other ranks. Vice-Commandant O'Connor, who arrived in the town in October, 1922, re-organised the post, and from that time onwards no troops stayed in Ahearne's hotel, except, perhaps, officers belonging to a column who would be passing through the town and would remain for the night.
|HELPED BY OFFICERS|
| With the help of officers in the Army, Ahearn sent in fictitious accounts, and
got paid for the billeting of troops who never stayed in his hotel, there being in the country at that time men
who were determined to get as much as possible from Army sources by every means, fair or foul.
Counsel alleged that the accused man had received altogether £1,480 7s., his total honest claim being less than £150. The case, he said, revealed the gross corruption and ineptitude existing in 1922, but the day of reckoning had come, and it was for the jury to say now whether they were going to stand over wilful dishonesty of this sort.
| Sean O'Connor, who is now an officer in the Free State Army in Galway,
and was a vice-commandant in Mitchelstown towards the end of 1922, gave evidence that no troops
belonging to the garrison stayed at Ahearne's hotel while he was in the town. Soldiers in columns passing
through the town sometimes remained only one night as a rule. Some of them might have stopped at
Cross-examined by Mr. Rearden, the witness said that, although he had no written record, he was positive that only six columns passed through Mitchelstown between November 1922, and February 1923. He could not, however, state where certain officers stayed in Mitchelstown on different dates while he was there. He was positive that none of General Hannigan's staff was billeted in the Imperial Hotel.
The witness denied that Captain Byrne certified accounts to his knowledge. Captain Byrne, as far as he knew, was in Government employment and available as a witness.
General Hannigan stated that none of his staff stayed at the prisoner's hotel while he was stationed in Mitchelstown.
Francis Browne, who acted as adjutant in Mitchelstown in the later part of 1922, said that no officers of the National Army stayed in Ahearne's hotel while he was there. Further evidence having been given, the hearing was adjourned till 10.30 o'clock this morning.
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