'I am truly and profoundly sorry': Suspended sentence for mother and son at centre of West Cork island love row

A woman and her son from Cape Clear island have both received six month suspended jail sentences for the harassment of a fellow islander after revelations of a child born out of an affair.

'I am truly and profoundly sorry': Suspended sentence for mother and son at centre of West Cork island love row

A woman and her son from Cape Clear island have both received six month suspended jail sentences for the harassment of a fellow islander after revelations of a child born out of an affair.

Helen O'Driscoll, 61, and her son Shane, 34, had denied charges of harassing Ann O'Regan on the West Cork island on dates between 1 January 2017 and 1 September last year after it emerged Ms O'Driscoll's husband, Fachtna, had fathered a child with the woman following an affair a number of years before.

Ms O'Driscoll had also denied assaulting Ms O'Regan in a bar on the island on Halloween night 2017 but was convicted on both counts at Skibbereen District Court on Tuesday.

Ms O'Driscoll's son, who is a skipper on board the ferry connecting the island to the mainland, was also convicted of what Judge James McNulty had called a long campaign of "sustained, deliberate, vulgar and demeaning abuse".

The victim had told the judge regarding the assault: "It was a full rugby tackle into the counter."

Ms O'Driscoll had said she had been collecting drinks for a round, had stumbled in her heels as children ran past, and collided with someone.

Both Ms O'Driscoll and her son had been remanded in custody overnight in Bandon Garda station ahead of penalty being handed down this evening and when they arrived in court they told the judge that they accepted Ms O'Regan had been telling the truth and apologised for what had happened.

Ms O'Driscoll, who has since left the island and now lives at 1 Clerke St in Skibbereen, said: "I am truly and profoundly sorry for all the terrible words I said to [the woman]. They were totally, totally out of order."

She said she had been very upset at the revelation that her husband had fathered another child but had "directed my anger at the wrong person".

"Myself and my son are both victims of my husband," she said.

My husband is the reason we are both here.

Shane O'Driscoll, with a previous address at Lissamona on Cape Clear but who now lives in Skibbereen, said that on reflection he was "extremely remorseful" for everything that had happened and apologised to the victim, the court and the gardaí.

He said he had a wife and three-year-old child and another was on the way and he just wanted to go home and get on with his life.

He added that he might now have to look for employment elsewhere.

The court on Tuesday had heard that within hours of the New Year's Day 2017 revelation Ms O'Driscoll was at Ms O'Regan's house.

The woman claimed that Fachtna had asked her to keep the child a secret but that he had then told his wife on 1 January 2017.

Ms O'Regan told the court that the harassment involved numerous incidents of namecalling, including being called a c**t, a slapper, a whore and a prostitute.

She said cars had been driven close to her house late at night, that gutted dead fish had been thrown into her back yard, and that on one occasion Shane had visited her house with his brother and father and "completely lost it".

She alleged harassment boarding ferries in Baltimore and on the island.

Ms O'Regan also claimed that Helen O'Driscoll had threatened her and on one occasion lunged onto the boot of her car as she drove past.

The woman also told the court that under a photograph of her son on her Facebook page Ms O'Driscoll had written "just letting you all know this is Fachtna's son".

In evidence Ms O'Driscoll denied using those words, but admitted that she wrote "Daddy" underneath the picture, something she said she deeply regretted.

The court had also heard that while Fachtna had admitted paternity, the family then insisted the woman take a DNA test in Easter 2017, which simply proved that he was the child's father.

The court also heard that Fachtna O'Driscoll had cut off all relations with his youngest son but had begun paying maintenance on foot of a court order.

On Tuesday, Fachtna O'Driscoll told the court that "there was no relationship [with the woman], none whatsoever".

He said the alleged abuse of Ms O'Regan never happened and that Helen had asked that he break off all ties with the woman.

He said his wife's account of the alleged assault was true and that "as she turned around there was a little thump" but it was not a rugby tackle, as alleged.

He claimed the woman had "a fascination with me because I was going up and down doing little jobs [for her]".

But Judge McNulty convicted both Ms O'Driscoll and her son and said he did not believe that Fachtna O'Driscoll's relationship with Ms O'Regan was limited to a one night stand.

Cape Clear
Cape Clear

In Bantry, Judge James McNulty handed down six month sentences on both charges to Ms O'Driscoll and a six month sentence to Shane O'Driscoll, but said he would suspend them on a bond of €20,000 for each defendant for a period of two years and on condition that they keep the peace, particularly with regard to the victim.

He said the pair had been detained overnight for their mendacity in court, to give them a taste of the loss of liberty and to allow them to reflect on what had occurred.

The judge said that on an island their paths would cross and that things had occurred and words had been spoken that should never have happened and should never have been spoken.

He acknowledged the hurt felt by Ms O'Driscoll following her husband's betrayal.

In mitigation, solicitor for both defendants, Liam O'Donovan, said the revelation had severely impacted Ms O'Driscoll, had harmed her health and led to her moving away from the island on which she had lived since 1980 and where she married her husband in 1982.

Mr O'Donovan said Shane had become involved when he saw this impact on his mother.

But the judge said there was another victim who had barely been mentioned - the young boy.

He said the boy's father had been in his life for the first six years of his life and now was not.

He said neither the DNA test nor the maintenance order was necessary.

"Fachtna O'Driscoll is a central character in this sad drama," the judge said, adding that he had a "social, moral and legal obligation to his fourth and youngest son", now and into the future.

He said the willful, or intentional or reckless or emotional or psychological harm on another person was a civil wrong that could be actionable by law and could result in substantial compensation.

The judge also referred to the potential impact and trauma of the withdrawal of a relationship and of contact with the child, something "toxic and terrible".

Judge McNulty said the family had a choice between the path of acceptance and reconciliation or the road to perdition.

"This boy needs to be accepted for all he is," the judge said.

"He needs to be embraced - socially, emotionally and probably physically - and he should be embraced in all these senses.

"He is not an alien from another planet. He is their brother from another mother."

Mr O'Donovan said Ms O'Driscoll was now living alone and added: "Where her relationship with her husband will go time will only tell."

This story was amended on July 25 and further amended later that day

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