'There are very few plots left': Court hears burial plot row is 'the stuff of John B Keane'

An 81-year old farmer told a court today that but for the fact that he was on consecrated ground, he would have been killed instantly when assaulted by a man armed with a slash hook in a graveyard.
'There are very few plots left': Court hears burial plot row is 'the stuff of John B Keane'
Martin O'Shaughnessy at Gort Court
Martin O'Shaughnessy at Gort Court

An 81-year old farmer told a court today that but for the fact that he was on consecrated ground, he would have been killed instantly when assaulted by a man armed with a slash hook in a graveyard.

At Gort District Court today, John Connolly told the court of what he called the “ferocity” of the attack on him by graveyard owner and farmer, Martin O’Shaughnessy (68) of Killina, Gort on October 1st last During the assault, Mr O’Shaughnessy told Mr Connolly “I’m going to cut the f**king head off you” in the row over burial plots.

In the case, Mr O’Shaughnessy has pleaded guilty to the assault on Mr Connolly at the graveyard at Killinny, East Kinvara on October 1 last.

'The blade (of the slash hook) never came near the head of that man. It was the handle.'

In a victim impact statement read out by Judge Patrick Durcan, Mr Connolly stated: “The incident has been a great distraction in my life and has caused me great mental anguish...It took a few days for the ferocity of this attack to sink in."

He added: “Ever since I have been haunted by the vision of the blade in his hand less than 12 inches from my bare head.

But for the grace of God and the fact that we were on consecrated ground, I’m convinced that I would have been killed instantly.

After reading out those lines, Judge Durcan commented: “This is the stuff of John B Keane.”

Solicitor for Mr O’Shaughnessy, Colman Sherry stated that he “would challenge much of what is in the statement but I’m leaving it to the court to make its own judgment”.

Mr Sherry stated: “The blade (of the slash hook) never came near the head of that man. It was the handle.”

John Connolly at Gort Court.
John Connolly at Gort Court.

He added: “We both got to our feet and Mr Shaughnessy went to his jeep, came with a strimmer and proceeded to strim the grassy grave.

He stated that: “Three days later I was working on my farm with two other men and Mr Shaughnessy came and he apologised for what he did and said and that he was 100% wrong.”

Providing background to the assault previously, Sgt Daithí 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”.

Sgt Cronin stated that what occurred was a technical assault and it was all over within a matter of seconds.

Mr 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.”

Mr Sherry stated that three generations of Mr O'Shaughnessy's family have been buried in the graveyard and that his client has looked after the graveyard all his life.

Mr Sherry stated: “He pleaded guilty on the very first day. He has no previous convictions. He is extremely contrite and has apologised to all of the parties.”

He commented: “The only person who got injured was the defendant himself when he fell back. Mr O’Shaughnessy has lived in Killina for 20 years and has had no issue with any of those neighbours.”

Mr Sherry stated that Mr O’Shaughnessy travelled to South Africa on two separate occasions with the Niall Mellon organisation to build houses.

Judge Durcan told Mr Connolly that he was going to strike out the case against Mr O’Shaughnessy.

Judge Durcan told the man: “What happened was something that shouldn’t have happened. You had a very bad experience.”

He stated: “You have heard the phrase ‘Seed, breed and generation’ when rows go on and they get deeper and deeper and there is a winner and a loser.”

Judge Durcan stated that justice has been done in this case and that it was to Mr O’Shaughnessy’s credit that he had apologised within three days.

Mr Connolly stated that he accepted Mr O’Shaughnessy’s apology.

Judge Durcan told the two: “One or other of you will have to follow the other into the graveyard and hopefully one of you will be able to walk after the other.

“And not too long after that, the other will be brought in and there you will rot together - that’s life."

Judge Durcan added: “I am not going to have the good name of the community there to be damaged by criminality. This case is over. Justice is done. This battle is over now. I'm striking the case out."

He added: “I want to wish you both well and commend the good work ye have done for the community and live a peaceful life.”

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