An arrest warrant has been ordered for a former Sinn Fein staffer who had been due to appear before Londonderry Magistrates’ Court to face child sex offence charges.
Micheal Gerard McMonagle, 41, of Limewood Street in Londonderry is facing three charges.
They are that between May 1, 2020 and August 18, 2021 he attempted to communicate with a person under the age of 16 for the purpose of sexual gratification, attempted to cause a person under the age of 16 to look at an image of sexual activity and attempted to incite a person under the age of 16 to engage in sexual activity.
The case was briefly mentioned in court on Wednesday morning when a police officer said he believed he could connect the accused to the charges.
Several hours later the court was told Mr McMonagle had indicated he had a flat tyre and “would be there soon”.
His defence solicitor said he had been phoning and texting Mr McMonagle but had had no response recently.
District Judge Barney McElholm questioned whether Limewood Street was walking distance to the court, and was told it was around half a mile away.
“His car was seen by the press on Letterkenny Road with a flat tyre,” Mr McMonagle’s defence solicitor said.
“There was a flat tyre definitely.”
The judge said: “The car has a flat tyre, not in dispute, but this gentleman could have walked here, and I have said on a couple of occasions recently that the guidelines were there we should go back to normal and that first appearances had to attend.
“The Covid thing is hopefully not a problem so there is no excuse for not turning up, and I had indicated over the past few weeks that people who didn’t turn up would be subject to an arrest warrant.
“This is extremely strange because a flat tyre, OK, but that’s not stopping the man from walking here. He should simply come in and get the charges read to him and adjourn it.
“We cannot read the charges to him if he is not present.”
A lawyer for the Public Prosecution Service said they will be applying for an arrest warrant to be issued for Mr McMonagle.
Upon hearing there was no answer to attempts to contact Mr McMonagle, Mr McElholm responded: “That sounds to me like someone who has got his head firmly in the sand.”
A final call was made in the court complex for Mr McMonagle which yielded no response, and an arrest warrant was ordered.
Mr McMonagle previously worked as a press officer for Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland and also for a time as an adviser at Stormont.
A Sinn Fein spokesperson said in a statement: “As soon as the party became aware of the arrest, the individual was immediately suspended from employment and party membership.
“The PSNI has not made contact with Sinn Fein about this investigation. Anyone with information that can assist the investigation should bring it to the police.”