A Galway man who stabbed a musician to death with a kitchen knife has received a seven year sentence for manslaughter at the Central Criminal court today.
Michael Reilly of Corrach Bui, Rahoon, Galway, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Patrick Shaughnessy, aged 28, of Coogan Park, Galway, when his trial began on April 19 last but dramatically later changed his plea not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter.
A courtroom packed with relatives of Mr Shaughnessy erupted in loud applause when Mr Justice Barry White handed down the sentence and someone shouted out "Happy Birthday" to Mr Reilly, who turns 53 today.
Addressing Mr Reilly, Mr Justice White said that but for the fact that the DPP had accepted provocation as a defence he would have handed down a 14 year sentence to him.
He said that the “heartache and anger” seen in the court today “mirrors the other families of other victims”.
“The number of violent deaths in our society seems to be increasing. Among a certain element of that society there has developed a knife culture where a person resorts to using a knife on an unarmed person,” said the judge.
Speaking outside afterwards, Mr Shaughnessy’s mother Mrs Peggy Derek spoke of her distress: “It wasn’t enough. I’ve such pain, loneliness and heartbreak”.
During today’s hearing the court heard from Garda Superintendent Michael Curley that Mr Shaughnessy had gone with some friends to Mr Reilly’s house between 3am and 4am on May 25, 2002.
The men broke a back window in Mr Reilly’s kitchen and he got up out of bed and let them in the front door as they wanted to drink in his house.
Supt. Curley said that the men sat in the front room of Mr Reilly’s house drinking until “at some stage the conversation came around to the fact that Mr Reilly had been accused by his wife of being a paedophile. He said nothing ever came of these allegations but this response led some of the men to believe there was an element of truth to them”, he said.
“The questioning became more intense and the accused’s response disgusted the men and they began to go into the kitchen in ones and twos,” said Supt. Curley.
It appeared that one of the last men to leave the front room was the deceased: “10-15 seconds later the accused walked past Mr Shaughnessy, took a knife and went towards him, took him by the arm and stabbed him.”
Mr Shaughnessy was stabbed four times, three times in the chest and once in the groin. Former State Pathologist Dr John Harbison concluded he died from “shock and haemorrhage” due to two stab wounds to his chest.
One stab wound was between 6-8 inches deep.
Mr Reilly allegedly told gardaí “They called me a paedophile and I didn’t like it”.