‘Hopefully you are executed’: Man accused of sending threatening messages to three TDs found not guilty

Court rules warrant issued in November 2019 to search home of Joseph Ballantine in Co Tipperary was invalid

Sinn Féin TD Martin Kenny had been among the witnesses due to give evidence in the Circuit Court trial in Nenagh, Co Tipperary. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

A man accused of sending threatening messages to three TDs has been found not guilty by direction of a court after a warrant to search his home as part of the Garda investigation was found to have been invalid.

Sinn Féin TD Martin Kenny had been among the witnesses due to give evidence in the Circuit Court trial in Nenagh of Joseph Ballantine (48), of Grangelough, Borrisoleigh, Co Tipperary. It had been expected to go on for two weeks but instead ended on Friday of last week with Mr Ballantine found not guilty of all charges by direction of the court.

He had been charged with five offences relating to Section 13 (1) and section 13 (2) of the Post Office (Amendment) Act, 1951 as amended by Section 4 of the Communications Regulations (Amendment) Act, 2007, which were alleged to have taken place on October 18th, 22nd and 23rd 2019, two charges under Section 10 (1) and (6) of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997, both alleged to have been committed on October 18th, 2019, and two under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 alleged to have been committed on November 4th, 2019. The drugs charges related to the alleged cultivation and possession of cannabis.

The majority of the charges related to allegations that Mr Ballantine had sent threatening messages or made menacing telephone calls to Mr Kenny, David Stanton and then Independent TD Seamus Healy.


Mr Kenny, who is the Sinn Féin TD for Sligo/Leitrim, had received the anonymous messages after he had expressed support for the provision of accommodation to asylum seekers.

One of the messages read: “Martin, yourself and your colleagues in Sinn Féin are traitors to the Irish people ... Hopefully you are executed like the dogs you are.”

In another, Mr Kenny was told, “you are a traitor and you deserve to die”, while in another again, Mr Kenny was asked, “do you think you are endangering your four children by being a traitor? Please provide a reply.”

A jury had been sworn in but in its absence, issues regarding the validity of the search warrant were raised by Mr Ballantine’s senior counsel, John Byrne.

No judge was sitting in Nenagh on November 3rd, 2019 and as a result Garda Inspector Pat Harney had sought to have the search warrant issued by Judge Marian O’Leary in Limerick.

It was granted and was executed at Mr Ballantine’s home the following day when members of the Garda Armed Support Unit entered his house followed by Inspector Harney, who arrested him. His phoned was seized.

Mr Byrne sought to challenge the validity of the warrant which had been issued to the Garda at Limerick District Court on November 3rd on a number of grounds including whether incorrect information had been provided to the judge and whether the correct procedure had been followed when seeking it.

Mr Byrne also argued that Judge O’Leary did not have jurisdiction to issue a warrant for a search to be carried out in the district in which Mr Ballantine lives and, after clarification was sought, Judge Catherine Staines ruled on this point that the warrant had been invalid.

Mr Ballantine was subsequently found not guilty of all charges by direction of the court and the jury dismissed.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Kenny said he did not want to comment other than to say he was “disappointed the case didn’t get a hearing in court”.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times