A man who was an "easily led" teenager when he impeded the apprehension of the killers of Aidan “The Beast” O’Driscoll has walked from court after he was “perhaps unusually” given a suspended sentence.
Mr O’Driscoll, a senior figure in the Real IRA in Munster, died after he was shot four times on the Old Commons Road, in Blackpool, Cork City on December 7, 2016, as part of an internal dispute between the Real IRA and the New IRA.
Eoin Morrissey (aged 20), of Firmount, Donoughmore, Co Cork, had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of impeding the apprehension or prosecution of Mr O’Driscoll’s killers.
Today in the Special Criminal Court, Mr Justice Hunt, sitting with Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge Ann Ryan said that due to Morrissey’s age, his positive probation report, his progress since 2016 and his subsequent plea of guilty, they were handing down two two-year suspended sentences on each count.
Judge Hunt warned Morrissey that the court was giving him a chance.
The judge told him: “Take it because you’re not going to get another one. I can’t make myself clearer than that.”
Mr O’Driscoll was leaving work when he was confronted by a gunman who fired a shot into him. He tried to run from his assailant and the first attacker’s gun appeared to jam but a second gunman followed and shot him, the Special Criminal Court previously heard.
In April last, Colin Casey (aged 32) was sentenced to four years and six months in prison while his co-accused Daniel Hegarty (aged 24) was jailed for four years.
Mr Casey and Mr Hegarty, whose addresses were not before the court, had both pleaded guilty to four counts of impeding the apprehension or prosecution of the killers of Mr O’Driscoll in Cork.
Casey collected the alleged gunmen from the Redemption Road area of Blackpool after they had arrived in a silver Nissan Almera. He drove them from that location in a white Vauxhall Astra van which he subsequently burned out, along with the Nissan Almera.
Hegarty collected a bag used by the alleged killers in the vicinity of Farranferris, Blackpool in Cork city, which he buried at an isolated location. He also set fire to a Honda CBR motorbike used to transport the bag, and was involved in the burning of a red Opel Astra car.
Morrissey provided Hegarty, his first cousin, with a firelighter which was used to burn the red Opel Astra car.
Morrissey also admitted following Hegarty to Inchamay, Naad, Banteer, where the red Opel Astra car was burnt out, so as to provide transport for Hegarty after the burning of the car.
Morrissey said he only realised afterwards that the car had been used in the shooting, the court previously heard.
Ronan Kennedy SC, for the State, previously told the court that the State was unable to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the three men - Morrissey, Casey and Hegarty - knew a murder was to be committed.
In April, Mr Justice Hunt said while Casey’s and Hegarty’s assistance had been “substantial and proximate”, Morrissey’s situation was “significantly different” as he had become involved after the event due to a family relationship with Hegarty.
At the same hearing, Mr Justice Hunt said Morrissey’s assistance had been “less proximate” than his two co-accused, he said, adding that the headline sentence in Morrissey's case was two years.
This morning, Mr Justice Hunt told Morrissey, who was aged 17 at the time of the offences, that he was a young man with “plenty” going for him and that he made “very bad choices” when he was younger.
“He was a teenager who was easily led,” the judge said.
He said an important mitigating factor in Morrissey’s case was his age at the time of the offence in 2016 and that it appears he was “under influence” at the time.
Mr Justice Hunt also said Morrissey wasn’t “on the radar, so to speak, in relation to surveillance of matters of that kind” in 2016 and that he hasn’t come to the attention of gardaí since 2016.
The judge also said Morrissey’s “comprehensive” probation report showed he fully cooperated with the probation services during his assessment and that he was “forthcoming” and “compliant”.
He noted that Morrissey indicated that he was willing to carry out community service.
Mr Justice Hunt explained that the Special Criminal Court doesn’t have the power to make a community service order but that it was still in Morrissey’s favour that he was willing to do such service.
The judge noted that perhaps the most important mitigating factor of all was that Morrissey had completed a restorative justice programme which has had positive results, giving Morrissey an insight into his behaviour and resonating with him
Mr Justice Hunt said the probation services report concluded that Morrissey does not require any further services.
The judge then went on to say that “perhaps unusually for the Special Criminal Court” it was suspending the sentence of two years for a period of two years on each count facing Morrissey and ordered that he enter a bond of €100.
Mr Justice Hunt said: “He [Morrissey] should realise that he carries the record of this sentence and in the hopefully unlikely event he would engage in further offending, he’s unlikely to get a second change another time.”