A 68-year old south Galway farmer produced a slash hook at a graveyard and told an 81-year-old man “I’m going to cut the f**king head off you” in a row over burial plots, a court has heard.
At Gort District Court on Thursday, graveyard owner, Martin O’Shaughnessy of Killina, Gort, pleaded guilty to the assault of John Connolly at the graveyard at Killinny, East Kinvara on October 1 last.
Mr O’Shaughnessy also pleaded guilty to engaging in threatening, abusive and insulting words with the intention to cause a breach of the peace at the graveyard.
Sgt Daithí Cronin told Judge Patrick Durcan that in light of the two guilty pleas, the State was applying to strike out the remaining charge of Mr O’Shaughnessy producing a slash-hook during the course of a dispute that was capable of inflicting serious injury under the Offensive Weapons and Firearms Act.
Outlining what occurred, Sgt Cronin stated that Mr Connolly and friends were in the graveyard on the back-road to Kinvara from Gort where they were carrying out remedial works when they were approached by Mr O’Shaughnessy who alleged they were trespassing.
In cases like this, the less said the better. There is history and suffice to say there are very few burial plots left.
Sgt Cronin stated that “there had been an ongoing dispute with Mr O’Shaughnessy and Mr Connolly and other people in relation to burial plots at the graveyard”.
Solicitor for Mr O’Shaughnessy, Colman Sherry told the court: “In cases like this, the less said the better. There is history and suffice to say there are very few burial plots left.”
Sgt Cronin stated: “During the course of the confrontation with Mr Connolly, Mr O’Shaughnessy pushed Mr Connolly causing both Mr Connolly and Mr O’Shaughnessy to fall to the ground.”
Sgt Cronin told the court that Mr O’Shaughnessy told Mr Connolly: “I'm going to cut the f**king head off you.”
Judge Durcan commented: “This is a very serious matter - and all of this occurred on consecrated ground.”
Judge Durcan stated that the evidence he heard was that Mr O'Shaughnessy had a slash hook in his hand during the confrontation.
Sgt Cronin stated that what occurred was a technical assault and it was all over within a matter of seconds.
Mr Sherry stated that it is important to state that the part of the slash-hook being used was the handle of it.
Mr Sherry stated: “Mr O’Shaughnessy was holding the blade and Mr Connolly caught the handle of it and the matter was over in seconds.”
Mr Connolly subsequently went to a local Garda station to state that he had been assaulted.
Mr Sherry stated that Mr O’Shaughnessy owns the graveyard and that it is not under the control of Galway County Council.
He told the court that Mr O’Shaughnessy “has looked after this graveyard all his life”.
Mr Sherry stated that Mr O’Shaughnessy subsequently went to all the parties and apologised for what occurred.
Mr Sherry stated: “He can’t explain his actions. He is extremely contrite about this. He has never been in a court room in his life until today. He is here with his wife.”
Mr Sherry stated that the chances of Mr O’Shaughnessy re-offending “are nil”.
In response, Judge Durcan stated: “I believe that this is a case that should be resolved. We don’t want divided communities. We don’t want victors and vanquished.”
Judge Durcan struck out the weapon charge and stated that he would adjourn the case concerning the two guilty pleas to June 25th to allow Mr Connolly - who wasn’t in court - to give victim impact evidence.