No Shocks here; down the years, a number of Politicians gave References to Bank Robbers and even Sexual Offenders….. This one is Mild in Comparison?

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TD provides character reference to court for young man who hit off-duty garda so hard he was unconscious for 12 minutes

  4 hrs ago


TD provides character reference to court for young man who hit off-duty garda so hard he was unconscious for 12 minutes

An Independent TD provided a written character reference to court for a man who carried out a “most cowardly and unprovoked assault” on an off-duty Garda sergeant in the seaside resort of Lahinch.

Speaking to Independent.ie, Richard Donoghue TD said he had “no regrets” about providing the character reference for Phelim O’Reilly (22), and said the incident was “completely out of character”.

“What he done 100pc was wrong. Is it out of character for him? 100pc. So that tells me, why did it happen?” he said, adding “it was totally out of character for the Phelim I know to do any such things”.

At Ennis Circuit Court on Friday, Judge Brian O’Callaghan imposed a two-year suspended prison term on O’Reilly (22) of Steals, Kilmallock and ordered him to pay €15,000 compensation for the assault causing harm of David Hannigan on October 26, 2019 at Main Street, Lahinch.

O’Reilly handed over €4,000 into court on Friday and the remainder is to be paid over in instalments to Mr Hannigan over the next three years.

Judge O’Callaghan described the street assault in the early hours of the Saturday morning after a local nightclub had closed as “most cowardly and unprovoked”.

In his victim impact statement, Mr Hannigan – who is stationed at Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo as a Garda sergeant – told the court that “it was as if my head had been knocked clean off my shoulders when Phelim O’Reilly struck me”. He said it was “as if I was hit by a train at full force”.

CCTV footage shown in court showed O’Reilly run at and launch a shoulder charge that left Galway-native Mr Hannigan lying motionless on the ground outside the Claremont hotel in Lahinch.

In his victim impact statement, Mr Hannigan told the court that he was all too aware “of how close I came to receiving catastrophic injuries that night”.

He said: “I am aware that others have not been so lucky and I count my lucky stars to be able to address this court today.”

Mr Hannigan stated that his head hit the ground only inches from the rise on the footpath. He stated: “I was hit with such force from the side that I was sent flying along the street.”

The assault occurred after the two men not known to each other – had attended the Claremont nightclub and Mr Hannigan was only 20 metres from his accommodation for the night.

Mr Hannigan also stated: “I remember the panicked cries of my friends, ‘get an ambulance, somebody call an ambulance. David please wake up. David wake up’. It was terrifying.”

He said he came around in the ambulance and had been unconscious for 12 minutes.

Judge O’Callaghan said that Mr Hannigan was “minding his own business” and was totally and completely unprepared when blindsided by the shoulder charge from Mr O’Reilly.

On behalf of O’Reilly, Eimear Carey BL read out extracts from a number of people providing testimonials for O’Reilly, including one from Limerick TD Richard O’Donoghue.

Ms Carey stated that the testimonials “were written in full knowledge of the purpose of them and that they would be put before the court today”.

Ms Carey told Judge O’Callaghan that in his testimonial, Mr O’Donoghue wrote that he knows O’Reilly’s family for 30 years, that they are decent people, that what occurred from his knowledge of O’Reilly as “completely out of character and that he knows Mr O’Reilly deeply regrets the incident”.

Ms Carey stated that Kilmallock GAA also provided a testimonial stating that O’Reilly is a member of the senior hurling panel, has always been good at coaching underage players and is dedicated when it comes to training and playing games.

Judge O’Callaghan stated the aggravating factors in the case was the level of alcohol consumed by Mr O’Reilly, the unprovoked nature and force of the assault and the physical and psychological impact on Mr Hannigan.

Judge O’Callaghan stated: “Mr Hannigan was concussed, stretched out on the ground and Mr O’Reilly runs away. There is no evidence that Mr O’Reilly or any member of his family comes to Mr Hannigan’s aid.”

On the mitigating factors, Judge O’Callaghan stated that the assault was on the spur of the moment and wasn’t premeditated.

Judge O’Callaghan also stated that he accepted O’Reilly – who has no previous convictions“is a man of good character” apart from this one incident and had pleaded guilty to the single assault charge.

The judge said: “Society would not be served by sending this young man to prison at this time bearing in mind all that has been said about him, particularly by his probation officer.”

Speaking to Independent.ie today, Limerick TD Mr O’Donoghue, who is a contractor by trade, said O’Reilly worked with him on building sites in the past and that he had also been involved in many community and GAA projects.

“I’ve never seen this side of Phelim. He’s a young lad, he made a mistake, he done wrong, he put up his hands and the courts have dealt with him. But it still wouldn’t change my character reference for him.”

He said that he had known the man’s family for “many, many years” and that he would provide the same reference for anyone he knew personally if they had done wrong and admitted they did wrong.

“I’ve never seen Phelim in trouble so what I gave was a character witness of my experience of Phelim and his family. What was read out was that I know him, I’ve been involved in community work with him,” he said.

“He has actually worked on sites that I’ve had myself, and I know him through the sports within the area from where he is from. He has never come under my attention to be like that.”

He said that TDs were elected to takes care of people when they make a mistake and try and help them.

“For a person to go down there and admit that they’ve done something to me shows the their character, because we have people going through the courts for years and they denying that they do stuff,” he said.

He added: “I’ve no regrets about giving a character reference for somebody I know personally, and I know from a community, that’s out of character.”

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