Farmer PJ Canny, aged 64, of Pollagh, Carron, Co Clare, at first denied assaulting Sarah McNieve, aged 56, causing her harm, in a bedroom at the Shearwater Plaza Hotel, Ballinasloe, Co Galway, on Jan 22-23, 2011, when he appeared for trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court yesterday.
However, moments before the trial was due to begin, Canny pleaded guilty to the charge.
Canny and Ms McNieve had a two-year relationship prior to the attack.
They booked into the hotel on Jan 22 last year to attend a dance there that evening.
Later that night, Ms McNieve noticed another woman “making eyes” at Canny across the dance floor. She accused him of making eye contact with this other woman and she walked off the dance floor and went to the lobby.
He followed her and so did the other woman. There was further eye contact with the other woman in the lobby.
Canny followed Ms McNieve to their room, where he called her a “a paranoid fucker” before hitting her in the face. Ms McNieve fell to the floor, hurting her hip and leg. She later told gardaí she thought she might have broken her hip in the fall.
Ms McNieve had to drag herself up off the floor and make herself a cup of coffee. Meanwhile, Canny went to bed and fell asleep.
The pair had breakfast together the next morning and on the way to Clarenbridge, Co Galway, in his car the argument over the other woman continued.
An X-ray revealed Ms McNieve sustained a fractured left cheekbone during the assault.
Defence barrister John O’Donnell said the couple had been dancing when another woman waved and smiled at Canny.
He said Canny was sorry for what happened.
“Unfortunately, some lady smiled and made eyes at him and she perceived it to be more than what it was, with unfortunate consequences,” said Mr O’Donnell.
It was unfortunate, Mr O’Donnell added, that coming up to his 65th birthday in February, Canny had found himself before a court for the first time in his life.
Judge Gerard Griffin said this had been a vicious and cowardly assault and the blow had been strong enough to fracture Ms McNieve’s cheekbone. He sentenced Canny to 12 months in prison, which he suspended for three years.
“He should keep well away from her if their paths should cross in future,” the judge said.