Liam Heylin meets the mother of Ciara Sheehan and her partner, as the 21-year-old recovers after being shot in the neck
The hours before 21-year-old Ciara Sheehan stood up in the front room of her boyfriend’s home and was shot in the neck — the bullet missing her main artery by 1mm — could hardly have been in greater contrast to such terrible violence.
The young Cork woman, whom her mother still refers to as her “baby”, was going about her ordinary life, happy, and full of beans.
She works in BWG Foods cash and carry in Little Island, and drove home at lunchtime on Saturday on a half-day. Ciara was driving her Opel Corsa, a car she saved for and is paying a small fortune to insure.
Her mother Susan O’Mahony says Ciara started working there after her Leaving Certificate and has gotten lots of confidence from it and is very popular with customers and staff and is the “baby” in BWG as well as at home.
“She’s an innocent girl, she’s like a teacher’s pet. She’s 21 but we see her as a teenager. She has a boyfriend but she kind of hides it, she kind of acts like a teenager that way. And the phone is part of her. She is addicted to her phone,” Susan says.
So, on Saturday afternoon, she drove home to Harbour View Road to her mother and Susan’s partner Alan O’Leary, who has been in Ciara’s life since she was two years old. Alan was washing his car on Saturday afternoon and Ciara joined him and spent a couple of hours cleaning her own Corsa.
At 6.30pm, she said: “Mam, I’m staying in Dillon’s [her boyfriend’s house].”
They were only going to do what they often do and go to the chipper and watch a film at home. Susan imparted the kind of advice that thousands of parents probably gave to their young adult children on Saturday night: “Don’t be going drinking. Whatever you do, stay in Dillon’s and don’t be out around the streets.” Susan thought her only child would be grand.
But this contented life spun out of control in a split second in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Susan and Alan were at home in bed when they got a call at 2.30am from Susan’s sister, Fiona, to say Ciara had been shot and was in Cork University Hospital. Susan screamed at her sister.
“I thought she was gone off her game. I was screaming, ‘what are you saying, like’?” The news had gone around town and Fiona had heard it from her own daughter who was in the city centre on a night out.
Susan spoke to Ciara’s dad Joe by phone. He was in the hospital already. Someone else told her the bullet had only grazed her. Alan and Susan drove to the hospital in a state of hysteria.
As Alan says, it was not easy to make that journey, seconds after being told that someone you love has been shot.
“There were three or four guards outside her room — special branch and detectives. You grasp the seriousness of it. One minute we are in bed asleep, the next minute we are out in the hospital with guards,” Alan says.
“It did not seem real. You are walking onto the set of a movie. It was bizarre. Seeing her there on the bed. It didn’t seem real,” Susan says.
It brought back memories of when Ciara was 18 and very ill in St Vincent’s hospital in Dublin in an induced coma, waiting for a double transplant of liver and kidney. They were told she was top of the list for a transplant because of her age and condition and was one blood test away from it being essential to save her life. They look on it as a miracle the blood test was favourable, the transplants weren’t necessary and she recovered. Doctors said they were astonished.
Because of that close call and the closeness of the bullet on Sunday morning to the main artery of her neck, they have a particular way of looking at Ciara today.
“She is the luckiest and the unluckiest girl. It is like a miracle. The doctor said the bullet was 1mm away, the thinness of your paper [Susan lifted the corner of the page on which notes for this report were being written yesterday]. That close to the main artery in her neck. The bullet was lodged in her neck.
“There was hardly no blood. It was just trickling out of her neck,” Susan says.
Ciara was in shock and her first words to her mother as she lay on the hospital bed at around 3am on Sunday were: “I didn’t want to ring you, I didn’t want to upset you. I thought I was going to die.” Later she was able to tell Susan and Alan what happened.
house in the Hollywood estate on the north side of Cork City.
“She was upstairs in her boyfriend’s house chatting to her boyfriend’s sister and they went downstairs at around 1am to the front room. The blinds were closed on the front window. Ciara stood up. Everything was normal. Then there was a gunshot through the window and Ciara was shot in the neck.
“At the moment she stood up she got shot through the window. She walked into the kitchen and collapsed in the kitchen. She thought she was going to die. She coughed up blood. They were holding her neck on the way to the hospital to stop the blood.
“She said she didn’t want to ring me, she didn’t want to upset me. That is the child in Ciara,” Susan says.
Alan said Ciara was in an awful lot of pain. While she was recovering from Sunday’s surgery to remove the bullet, her neck began to swell up at 4.30am on Monday and she had to have further surgery. She was still in intensive care at the time of this interview at noon yesterday.
The reason Susan gave the interview to the Irish Examiner was two-fold. Firstly, people would know Ciara was entirely innocent and had nothing to do with any feud or anything else that was being reported. And, secondly, so that this interview would go out in the media and the family would not have to take calls from other journalists and could concentrate on getting Ciara better. They are finding the media attention difficult.
“It is overwhelming, it is frightening. We are ordinary people. One moment you are doing ordinary things like washing your car. A couple of hours later she is in a hospital with a bullet wound. A girl who was full of beans.
“We are just normal people. Ciara goes to work, she comes home from work, she goes to the chipper, goes to a movie, just normal things. Now she is seeing herself on the phone [on social media], it is everywhere,” Alan says.
They ask for journalists not to contact them so that they can concentrate on helping Ciara recover. “We don’t want people hounding us for interviews and stuff,” Susan says.
Susan is self-contained throughout the interview, but becomes physically animated at one point, making the point with her hands that all of the reports about feuds and mediation between sides, that is all one thing, and Susan motions to one side of the table. She then motions to another side of the table to show Ciara is someplace else, separate from all of that, nothing to do with it, an innocent girl in her boyfriend’s house now struggling to recover from a gunshot wound to her neck.
Susan says: “She is the innocent one caught up in all of it. We want people to remember that she is the innocent girl. And we just want her home and well, safe and sound.”
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