Re-offender gets six years for series of robberies

A chronic drug addict who fell back into re-offending after being released from a five-year sentence for fatally stabbing his brother has been sentenced to six years' imprisonment for a series of robberies.

Michael Rooney Dignam (aged 27), whose dysfunctional childhood was described as having the "quality of nightmares", was jailed for five years in 2001 for the tragic manslaughter of his teenage brother in a domestic row which escalated out of control.

Rooney Dignam, of Blessington Street, Dublin 7, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to eight robberies of shops and one burglary of a Clondalkin home between August 15 and September 24, 2007.

Rooney Dignam's modus operandi was to threaten staff with a syringe and take cash or electrical goods. He did not hurt anyone with the syringe but once swung it at a staff member when confronted and told staff he had "the AIDS virus".

He was identified on CCTV footage in all the cases and after being arrested in relation to one offence he made admissions to them all during a Garda interview.

Judge Katherine Delahunt suspended the last two years after she took into account his early plea of guilty, co-operation with the gardaí and his expression of remorse.

She said there was no question that the robberies were very serious and that they had been a very terrifying experience for his victims. She described Rooney Dignam's offences as being at "the more serious end of the scale".

Detective Garda John Cleary told Mr Sean Guerin BL, prosecuting, that after being arrested for a syringe robbery on a Clondalkin off-licence, Rooney Dignam told gardaí he was threatened by a person he owed money to that, if he did not commit the offences, his pregnant girlfriend and young child would be harmed.

Rooney Dignam told gardaí he carried out some of the other robberies to get money to buy drugs

Defence counsel Mr Sean Gillane BL said Dignam's early childhood had "the quality of nightmares" and his early life and that of his seven siblings was marred by violence and abuse by their alcoholic father.

He said Rooney Dignam had became a chronic heroin addict at the age of 14 after spending time in an institution when he failed to attend school. He said the case of his brother's death was "one of a handful of cases of fratricide in the state".

Mr Gillane said that, after serving the five-year sentence for his brother's manslaughter, Rooney Dignam was released in 2006 "with his bags and baggage on to the streets of Dublin" without any supports and within a short time was re-offending.

He asked that any sentence be structured so that he will have support in the community on his release.

Rooney Dignam was given a five-year suspended sentence by Judge Patrick McCartan at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in July 2001 after he pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of his then 16-year-old brother, Daniel, at Rowlagh Crescent, Clondalkin on September 18, 1999.

The suspended sentence was reactivated by Judge McCartan in November 2001 after Rooney Dignam broke the conditions of the suspension by absconding from a drug treatment centre.

Detective Garda Sean Boland told Mr Brendan Grehan BL, prosecuting, at the original hearing that Rooney Dignam instinctively picked up a kitchen knife and stuck it in his brother's chest after they fought over a pair of jeans.

He pulled the blade out of his brother's chest and, with the help of their mother, attempted to resuscitate him before phoning for an ambulance from a neighbour's house. Daniel Rooney was pronounced dead at Tallaght Hospital at 2.55pm that same day.

His mother Mrs Imelda Rooney told defence counsel Mr Patrick MacEntee SC at that hearing that she forgave Michael for what he did. She added that her four eldest children, including Michael and Daniel, were sexually and physically abused by their father throughout their childhood.

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