SUN, 17 JUL, 2022 – 07:37
A businesswoman who was harassed by a woman who also harassed former Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien has had a GoFundMe page set up by friends to help her pay the crippling legal bill she has been left with.
Laura O’Connell faces a €26,000 legal bill after trying to protect herself from Sonya Egan. A lone parent who was battling a life-threatening illness before Egan began her cruel campaign of harassment, the stress of the ordeal has left Ms O’Connell unable to work.
Egan, of The Lawn, Lios Cara in Killeens, Co. Cork, was jailed for two years for the two separate campaigns of harassment, which both took place in person and on online, where she spread horrifying and untrue rumours about her victims, contrary to Section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997. Although Egan was ordered to pay the legal costs, she has not done so.
Laura O’Connell, Garda Sergeant John Sheehy and former Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien.
Ms O’Connell is being pursued by her former solicitor for the €26,000 it cost her to take out an injunction in 2019 and for repeated court appearances every time Egan broke the injunction and kept harassing her.
Ms O’Connell had fought hard to build a new life after a successful corporate career was cut short by a life-threatening illness that left her in a coma.
A lone parent, in hospital for months and unable to work, Ms O’Connell spent all her savings while trying to recover. Things became so tight financially she had to turn to Saint Vincent de Paul for help. But determined to work her way out of her difficult situation, she set up a business so she could work around her illness which was going well until Egan began her campaign of harassment and intimidation.
Egan initially posed as a barrister and investigative journalist when they met at a community meeting about a local planning objection.
Egan would then turn up at her house multiple times a day, would hang around Ms O’Connell’s lectures in University College Cork when she was studying, and even had someone pose to be a social worker, enter her home and capture private information, she said.
Wearing a white hat and black mask, Sonya Egan, Killeens, Co. Cork, leaving court on Anglesea Street. The 42-year-old pleaded guilty to two counts of harassment.
She spread heinous rumours both in person and online including outright lies that she was dealing drugs and involved in paedophile rings.
She’d turn up at her business meetings and at her son’s sporting events.
“Sonya Egan has made every attempt to destroy my good reputation, my hard work efforts, my health including my mental health,” Ms O’Connell said.
“It was four harrowing years until bail conditions were imposed on her. It’s been very hard. I was extremely frightened. My house was under surveillance. I had to get a garda escort to and from court. I had no control over my life anymore.
“It was very hard but it was made harder by a lack of laws to protect people in my situation. The laws around bullying, harassment, stalking are generally so archaic. I’m proud of myself that I stood up to her but no one should be put in my situation. People need to be better protected.
Sonya gets legal aid. She gets support from the State, but what do the victims get? The system is not fair.
“An innocent citizen should never be forced to seek civil injunction action because a system does not have the laws or resources to prevent and stop abhorrent behaviours such as the ones displayed by Sonya Egan.”
The injunction has crippled her financially, she said. The solicitor she worked with executed a judgement against her for payment and she is now engaged with insolvency services.
This meant than when recently seeking a loan for her son to go to college, she was refused.
“My son was already affected by this, she accused him of things too. Now it’s shutting down his future.”
A group of friends insisted on setting up the GoFundMe page for Ms O’Connell and she said that she is hugely grateful for all the support she’s received since her case went public.
She said that although technically she could pursue Egan for the legal costs she owes or seek support through the criminal compensation scheme, these routes could take years, are not guaranteed, and she will be pursued for the money in the meantime.
To donate to Ms O’Connell’s cause, go to Laura O’Connell : Laura was Bullied, Harassed & Stalked (goStalked (gofundme.com)