The members of the Cawley family – including her brother Chris, sister Susanna, father Jim and brother-in-law Andrew Coonan – emerged with arms linked through the doors of the Criminal Courts of Justice 35 minutes after Eamonn Lillis had been led away to begin his sentence for the killing of Ms Cawley in December 2008.
In court, the Judge, Mr Justice Barry White, had already referred to the Cawley family’s dignified behaviour throughout the ordeal of the trial. That stoic demeanour continued yesterday before the flashing cameras and whirring dictaphones.
Chris Cawley said: “On behalf of all our family I would like to say a very big thank you to our wonderful friends and neighbours for being so kind and supportive in giving us both emotional and practical help in what has been a very difficult and distressing time for our family.”
Andrew Coonan said: “As you can imagine the last 13, 14 months have been very difficult for all the family, but it would be wrong not to also acknowledge the very considerable work of the DPP’s office and the Courts Services and we are very grateful for that, and in particular to the gardaí and the huge effort on their part.
“Without singling out unnecessarily anyone, it would be wrong not to mention the work of the Supt [Dave] Dowling, Det [Insp] Angela Willis, [Det Sgt] Fionnuala Olohan and Det Sgt Gary Kelly.”
With the microphones edging ever closer, Chris Cawley said: “Maybe finally if I can just follow up on what was said yesterday: Celine was a dynamic, kind, successful, fun-loving, caring person.
“She had a beautiful energy which lit up so many lives – the lives of family, friends, neighbours and colleagues.
“Celine, we love you,” he said, his voice breaking with emotion. With that the family group continued their steady progress away from the court.
Meanwhile, there was anadverse reaction over the length of the sentence from support groups yesterday.
Advic, which had already stated its opposition to the Judge’s decision to allow Mr Cawley stay out on bail even after his conviction for manslaughter on Friday, said the sentence was too short.
Noeleen Slattery-Lee of Advic said: “It’s disgraceful.
“I would have thought the least he would have got would have been 10 years.
“I think the judge made the decision. Who knows [if it is the right one]. I would not think so and I am quite sure that Celine’s family do not think so.
“It’s just dreadful.”
The brother-in-law of Stephen Larkin from Howth, the man Lillis initially tried to blame for Ms Cawley’s death, said Lillis’s actions had ruined Mr Larkin’s life.
The man, who gave his name as Sean, said “it’s made his life very hard”, and that he was still being refused service in pubs.
“My brother-in-law has done nothing wrong and he is being hounded every day,” he told RTÉ Liveline.