Friday, July 29, 2022

Alison O’Riordan

A mother-of-one who was left paralysed after being shot in her home by her neighbour has told the man who provided the gun that she will “never ever” accept his apology as he had no regard for her life or her eight-year-old daughter’s life that day.

Defendant Joseph Byrne tried to apologise to Sinead Connolly from the dock on Friday as she delivered her victim impact statement saying: “I am very sorry. I’m so remorseful.”

However, the 34-year-old looked the accused, who she has known all her life, directly in the eyes as her supporters clapped her on and said: “It’s down to you and your hands. You are not sorry as you were able to go on the run for a week and leave my body there. This is down to you, you may not have pulled the trigger, but you were there.”

Before reading her victim impact statement, Ms Connolly had shown Byrne a picture of herself and her daughter whilst in ICU.

Following Ms Connolly’s exchange with Byrne, the court rose for a few minutes. When Mr Justice Paul McDermott returned to the bench he said he understood that emotions were running high, but he had a job to do and was not assisted by “any demonstration” in court.

“We will proceed on the basis of proper decorum and I don’t want any more interruptions,” he insisted.

Home shooting

Ms Connolly was shot while her eight-year-old daughter hid under the kitchen table in their home at Bernard Curtis House apartments in Bluebell, Dublin 12, in March of last year. Ms Connolly suffered paralysis below the chest as a result of her injuries.

She previously told the court that the gunman – Dean McCarthy (33) – was “an evil, sadistic and cowardly bully” who led a campaign of abuse against her before leaving her permanently paralysed in the attempted gun murder, which had “obliterated” her and her family’s lives.

Last May at the Central Criminal Court, Joseph Byrne (33), with an address at La Touche Road, Bluebell, Dublin 12 pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm, to wit, a G9A Grand Power semi-automatic handgun, with intent to endanger life on March 6th, 2021 at Bluebell in Dublin 12.

Byrne also pleaded guilty to having in his possession Luger Barnaul ammunition, in such circumstances as to give rise to a reasonable inference that he had not got in his possession for a lawful purpose on the same occasion.

Last April, Dean McCarthy was jailed for 15 years after he pleaded guilty to Ms Connolly’s attempted murder on March 6th, 2021.

Threats

On Friday’s sentence hearing, Detective Garda Colm Reynolds detailed the background to the event. He told prosecution counsel, Anne Marie Lawlor SC, that Byrne had provided the gun to his proximate neighbour McCarthy, who had contacted him in advance of the attack.

McCarthy and Byrne both gained entry to Ms Connolly’s flat before fleeing the scene.

The detective said that Ms Connolly had provided a statement to gardai outlining that she knew McCarthy and Byrne since childhood.

Detailing the events that led up to the accident, Ms Lawlor said there had been a degree of discord between McCarthy and Ms Connolly in advance of the attack and that McCarthy had threatened her over a period of weeks and months, telling her that she would be removed from her home in a body bag.

The court heard that on the day of the attack Byrne, who lived around 200 yards from McCarthy’s home, arrived with the gun which was used to shoot Ms Connolly.

Det Reynolds said that in the course of the exchange of the firearm between the two men the gun was accidentally discharged and McCarthy was shot.

Immediately after this at 12.55pm McCarthy who was with Byrne “kicked in” the door of Ms Connolly’s flat and entered.

The court heard that Ms Connolly was standing in the sitting room and her four friends brought her daughter to safety into the kitchen.

The four men barricaded the kitchen with their combined body weight and kept the child under the kitchen table.

Blacked out

Ms Connolly told gardaí that she knew one of the assailants was “Joey” Byrne and that he had his hoodie up. She said she was not sure if Byrne had handed the gun to McCarthy or if McCarthy already had possession of it.

Ms Connolly was shot by McCarthy in the shoulder area, and she fell onto the sofa. The next gunshot, which rendered her paralysed, made contact with the victim in a downward trajectory.

Ms Connolly has no memory after the first gunshot as she ‘blacked out’, said the witness. The court heard that McCarthy then ‘hit’ the victim again with the gun.

Detective Reynolds said gardaí went to the accused’s home, but they were unsuccessful in gaining contact with him. However, Byrne made himself available to gardaí on March 14th following contact with his solicitor and went to Kevin Street Garda Station, where he was interviewed on five occasions.

Ms Lawlor informed the court that Ms Connolly was also brought to St James’s Hospital before later moving to the National Rehabilitation Centre. She has since returned to St James’s Hospital, where she has been in acute care.

The court heard that Byrne has three previous convictions, which include drug related offences.

Victim impact statement

Before reading her victim impact statement, Ms Connolly showed Byrne a picture of herself and her daughter whilst in ICU. She told the judge that she spent three-and-a-half months in ICU and underwent several surgeries because of life-threatening bleeding due to multiple gunshot wounds.

She said she has been confined to a wheelchair and has no use of her lower body.

The victim told the judge that she spent ten months in the National Rehabilitation Centre, but she got very ill there with pneumonia and UTI infections and has since returned to St James’s Hospital.

She is now a paraplegic, is at risk of future spinal cord injury and her life expectancy is reduced, she said.

Beginning her victim impact statement, Ms Connolly said Byrne and McCarthy “burst” into her home one year ago and that Byrne had given the gun to the shooter.

She said she was shot three times and was left paralysed forever. “We were making plans for my daughter’s eight birthday before this frenzied and evil attack which changed my life forever. Joseph Byrne and the other man stood in front of me as the other man fired shots. I have known Joseph Byrne all my life. No one can understand such cruelty and manifest evil,” she continued.

Referring to her now nine-year-old daughter, Ms Connolly said they have been separated from each other since this

Friction

Under cross-examination, Detective Reynolds agreed with defence counsel Michael O’Higgins SC, that there had been some friction between the Connolly and McCarthy households, but his client had no part in the dispute.

The barrister said that most people who are shot in the stomach “go to ground” but that McCarthy had got “a burst of adrenaline” after getting shot and “took off like a greyhound out of a trap”.

Mr O’Higgins called his client an “intermediary” who had collected a firearm and brought it to the shooter.

Mr O’Higgins said he was instructed to make a full apology to Ms Connolly which would not go anywhere close to any form of restorative justice but that it was very clear from the victim’s words that she did not want to hear an apology. Instead counsel handed up his client’s letter of apology to the judge.

Referring to the victim, Mr O’Higgins said that this event has had such devastating and horrible consequences for Ms Connolly, who was in the prime of her life.

“She is entitled to say if the gun wasn’t there this event wouldn’t have unfolded but it is an oversimplification to say the introduction of the gun inevitably produced the result it did,” he concluded.

Mr Justice McDermott remanded Byrne in custody until October 6th, when he will be sentenced.

Earlier this week, a second Dublin man pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to possession of a semi-automatic handgun in connection with the attempted murder of Ms Connolly.

Paul Mooney (34), with an address at Ring Street, Inchicore, Dublin 8 pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm and ammunition, to wit, a G9A Grand Power semi-automatic handgun and Luger Barnaul ammunition, in such circumstances as to give rise to a reasonable inference that he had not got it in his possession for a lawful purpose at Bernard Curtis House, Bluebell in Dublin 12 on March 6th, 2021.

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