Man freed under Good Friday Agreement is jailed

A Belfast man who was released from a life sentence for murder under the Good Friday agreement has been sent back to prison for life for attempting to murder another man in Dundalk.

A Belfast man who was released from a life sentence for murder under the Good Friday agreement has been sent back to prison for life for attempting to murder another man in Dundalk.

Robert Duffy, aged 36, of Old Bridge, Toberona, Dundalk pleaded guilty in January to attempting to murder Colin O’Neill by shooting him in the face at the Emerald Bar, Dundalk, on March 10 last year.

In sentencing Duffy to life in prison, Mr Justice Paul Carney said the court had a duty to the people of Ireland to protect them from individuals who acted as if they were untouchable.

Duffy was sentenced to life in prison in 1996 for murdering company director John Gibson who he shot down in the driveway of his home in Belfast.

The court heard Mr Gibson had worked on a job for the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the IRA claimed the killing.

Duffy was convicted on the basis of DNA evidence, the first case of its kind in the North.

Mr Paul Burns SC for Duffy said Duffy’s younger brother had been murdered by loyalist paramilitaries and that was why he got involved in such activities.

The 36-year-old was released under the Good Friday Agreement in 2000.

He then committed this offence, Mr Justice Carney said.

The Central Criminal Court in Dublin heard Duffy, a father of two, was intoxicated and got into a row with Mr O’Neill whose mother owned the Emerald Bar on Church Street, Dundalk.

Duffy was thrown out but came back a short time later with a shotgun, walked along the bar to where Mr O’Neill was standing, pointed the gun in his face and fired at point blank range.

“Mr O’Neill put his hand up which apparently saved his life,” Mr Justice Carney said.

Mr O’Neill fled but as he vaulted the bar, Duffy shot him in the back.

“He is terrified of the accused and understandably wouldn’t come to court,” Mr Justice Carney said.

Paul Burns SC for Duffy had said Duffy made no effort to conceal his identity, but Mr Justice Carney said the courts had considerable experience in dealing with cases where disgruntled individuals carry out assassinations in public bars in front of up to hundreds of people.

“The court came to the conclusion that these people were acting on the basis that they were untouchable,” Mr Justice Carney said.

While Mr Burns had said Duffy had acted in a “hot-blooded” manner, Mr Carney said even if he were to accept that, he could not be certain Duffy would not act in a “hot-blooded” manner again.

“Having regard to the facts of this case and having regard to his previous convictions, I have a duty to protect the people of Ireland against him by imposing a life sentence,” Mr Justice Carney said.

He also sentenced Duffy to 10 years for possessing the firearm to run concurrently.

The sentence was back-dated to March 12, 2007.

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