‘It was aggression from the word go’: Sergeant Haughney on life-changing injury he sustained on duty

The support Sergeant David Haughney received has pulled him through a life-changing injury he sustained while dealing with a violent gang in East Cork.

It was December 14, 2014, when he was on patrol with Garda John Tarrant, both stationed in Midleton, when they responded to a call in the Youghal area, which had been plagued with burglaries.

When they got there at around midnight they spotted two men on foot on a country lane and a nearby car being driven in a suspicious manner.

The vehicle drove at the patrol car in a bid to escape and Sgt Haughney hemmed it in. They knew the individuals by name, all of whom from the one family.

“It was aggression from the word ‘go’ with them,” he said.

He was recalling the events at the annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), which was examining the daily trauma and stress experienced by members.

Sgt Haughney and his colleague had to use their ASP batons to keep them back and used the OC pepper spray on the occupants of the car to stop them driving off. He said two of them got out but then came back armed with large stones and started throwing them.

“Without warning I remember getting this thud in the head,” he said.

“I didn’t, for a while, know what it was, I just knew it wasn’t good. The only thing I could think of it wasn’t anything poetic or grand, it was just ‘John, I’m gone’. I didn’t know was I dying, passing out, or what. It was a horrible moment.”

When Sgt Haughney came to, he felt “excruciating pain” around his entire head and his eye.

“I couldn’t see properly,” he said. “It was terrifying.”

He said Gda Tarrant was standing over him, with his ASP drawn and “literally keeping some of them back”. He said it was a “great feeling, being so well protected”.

The gang escaped and Sgt Haughney had a wait for the ambulance and the long trip to hospital.

“I remember saying: ‘I don’t want to be blind, I don’t want to be blind.’ I had my eyes closed because of blood, pain, and swelling. John was holding my hand, it was one of the most reassuring things.”

Sgt Haughney said ambulance and hospital staff were excellent. His skull was fractured and his eye socket too. His eye was completely swollen and it took seven days before staff could lift it open. He had suffered 75% loss of vision.

He said simple tasks can be quite awkward and tiring. He is dependant on this right eye, but that puts a strain on it and as a result, along with the injury, he suffers a “lot of headaches”.

He said the fact he was visited by colleagues in uniform was important; that support continued when he was recuperating and when he returned to work.

“Out of negative things, good things come,” he said, adding that he now has a lot to offer as a result of the support and help he received.

“If people are treated well, looked after, and continue to be looked after in a practical sense it does make a difference. I want to contribute more positively.”

He said his colleague, Gda Tarrant was doing fine.

“He never sought any acknowledgement for what he did,” he said. “What he did was heroic and I do think it should be acknowledged more so than just me saying it.”

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