Stephen McDonagh (26) jailed at Cavan Circuit Court.

Cousins who hijacked bus at airport jailed

CHASE Two-hour escapade clocked up over 100km across five counties

Cavan Circuit Court

Two cousins, who hijacked a bus near Dublin airport last year, have each been sentenced to serve terms of imprisonment for their respective roles in the escapade, which lasted nearly two hours and encompassed more than 100 kilometres across five different counties.

Stephen McDonagh (26) and John McDonagh (27), both with an address at The Steeples, Navan, Co Meath, appeared before Judge John Aylmer at Cavan Circuit Court via video-link.

Stephen appeared on screen from Dublin's Cloverhill; while John is currently behind bars at Mountjoy.

Reservations were expressed on the first day of the Circuit Court sessions over the prospect, if sentenced in Cavan, that Stephen might be detained at Castlerea.

It was explained, were that to happen, the defendant had reason to “worry” for his personal safety.

Both men appeared before Cavan Circuit Court for sentencing, after the case was adjourned from the Monaghan sittings in January.

They are each charged in connection with the taking of a Carlton Hotel courtesy bus, carrying three tourists - a Columbian national living in Germany, and two English teenagers returning from a scout trip in America.

The duo found the bus keys sitting in the vehicle ignition. The bus was driven away from Dublin Airport and north along the M1 towards Belfast and the pair subsequently charged with events that unfolded thereafter on January 8, 2020.

Stephen previously pleaded guilty to six charges - one of unlawfully taking the minibus from outside Terminal 2, three of falsely imprisoning passengers on the bus, one of reckless endangerment of members of An Garda Síochána at Junction 11 on the M1, and one of taking another vehicle at an address in Broomfield.

John, meanwhile, pleaded guilty to five charges - three of false imprisonment, and two of knowingly being a passenger in a stolen vehicle.

Evidence was heard how the pair continued northbound, over the border at Armagh, before crossing back into the Republic near Castleblayney, where they were then involved in stealing a second car.


After the ordeal concluded, the three bus passengers told gardaí that being on the stolen airport minibus was like being part of a dramatic police chase on TV.

They described the two defendants as having acted like “bandits”.

The court heard how the two children were so frightened that they contacted their parents and friends asking them to track their mobile data for fear something more untoward may happened.

The incident has had a lasting impact on the well-being of all the passengers.

Two Garda vehicles were also rammed during the high-speed chase.

After the passengers were let off near the CityNorth Hotel and Conference Centre at Julianstown, some 30 minutes from Dublin Airport, the minibus hurtled along the M1 to where garda patrols intercepted the McDonaghs at Ballbriggan.

Assisted by Garda Air Support, officers on the ground kept track of the bus's movements.

Their best efforts were thwarted however by the McDonaghs' determined efforts to effect a successful escape. They drove the bus at speed at the Garda patrol vehicles attempting to block their path, and exited the motorway at Junction 17 close to Dundalk.

Before crossing the border into Northern Ireland, the minibus was observed driving towards Castleblayney on the wrong side of the road.

At one stage, the bus collided with Garda patrol jeep on the N2 near Dundalk with such force it removed the vehicle's front wheel. After crossing over into Cullaville, the bus collided with and damaged a PSNI car and, when returning to the Republic, the McDonagh's brazenly avoided a stinger laid out by waiting gardaí seeking to puncture the bus tyres.

When they did eventually abandon the minibus after crashing the vehicle in a ditch at Broomfield, the pair fled on foot and stole a Seat Ibiza car, parked at a private dwelling, belonging to a farmer who was tending to livestock nearby.

The stolen Seat was used to ram a pursuing Garda vehicle, which resulted in all coming to a halt and the McDonaghs were finally arrested.

The pair were detained under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984, and held at Carrickmacross Garda Station before appearing before Cavan District Court.

Counsel for the McDonaghs highlighted how the unlawful taking of the bus had been “opportunistic” in nature.

There was no suggestion of violence or that any threat had been made to the passengers on board the vehicle.

Both men had histories of substance abuse, the court was told.

In considering sentencing, Judge Aylmer was informed that John was providing clean urinalysis while in prison.

A psychological report was also opened to the judge outlining how his mental health had suffered while incarcerated.

The judge noted that Stephen had displayed considerable victim insight and empathy.

John was sentenced to four years' imprisonment for each of the three charges of false imprisonment, four years for knowingly being a passenger in a stolen bus, and two and a half years for being carried in the stolen car.

In Stephen's case, Judge Aylmer sentenced the defendant to serve four years for unlawfully taking the minibus from outside Terminal 2, four years for the false imprisonment of passengers on the bus, five years for reckless endangerment at Junction 11, and two and a half years for the unlawful taking a vehicle at an address in Broomfield.

Stephen will be transferred to the Midlands Prison in Portlaoise.

All terms are to be served concurrently.

Both were given credit for time already served since they first went into custody January 8, 2020.

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