A Galway jury may have set a new record by returning a unanimous verdict just nine minutes after it had retired to deliberate on evidence given during a two-day assault trial.
The four women and eight men were sent out to deliberate at 3.38pm and pressed the buzzer in the jury room nine minutes later, indicating they had reached a unanimous verdict, finding Eamon McDonagh (26), of 19 Sliabh Rua, Ballybane, not guilty of a single charge of intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to Dominic Downes at Glenbaun, Ballybane on June 1, 2014, contrary to Section 4 of the Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997.
Downes lost the sight in his left eye after he was stabbed repeatedly with a broken bottle during an altercation between two gangs of youths but the jury did not accept his evidence that he recognised his attacker.
McDonagh denied the charge and his trial commenced last week at Galway Circuit Criminal Court.
Mr Garnet Orange, SC, defending, told the jury McDonagh had celebrated his birthday the previous night and he had been at home on the night the attack took place.
Prosecuting barrister, Conor Fahy told the jury it was the State’s case McDonagh had stuck a broken bottle into Downes’ eye a number of times during a fight.
McDonagh did so intentionally and he had acted recklessly, he added.
The trial heard Downes and others had been drinking heavily in town on May 31, 2014, before returning to Daniel Barry’s house at 15 Glenbaun, Ballybane that night.
They continued drinking there but Downes left the house at one point and assaulted a youth nearby before returning to the house.
Barry went missing from the house a short time later and his mother sent Downes and two other youths out to look for him.
There was a lot of “activity” going on outside in the general Ballybane area that night with people jostling and fighting each other, the court was told.
Downes said they met a gang coming towards them. He said he recognised Eamon McDonagh in the gang.
He turned with the others and tried to run back to Barry’s house but the gang caught up with them.
Downes said Eamon McDonagh wanted to know who had assaulted the youth earlier and one of the other youths pointed him out.
Downes said he told McDonagh he wanted a “fair fight” and they started to swing at each other.
Downes told the jury he was a good boxer and he was getting the better of McDonagh in the fight.
Someone then jumped him from behind and he was held down. McDonagh, he said, came at him with the broken bottle.
“I seen him coming at me and stabbing me in the face,” he told the jury.
During cross-examination, Downes told Mr Orange he never carried a knife but later admitted he carried a knife for protection.
He said he didn’t know McDonagh that well but said he recognised him. He admitted being involved in other violent incidents himself involving other people.
Sgt. Shaun Durkan told the trial Downes was reluctant to make a statement of complaint initially but finally did so last January. He said no witnesses came forward to offer any independent evidence even though other youths were present at the time of the attack.
He agreed during cross examination by Mr Orange that there were no witnesses, no phone records and no CCTV – which would link his client to the attack.
In his closing speech to the jury, Judge Rory McCabe asked jurors if they could rely on Downes’ evidence.
He said it was the State’s case McDonagh intentionally stabbed Downes in the eye and that he had lost his sight in that eye as a result of the assault.
However, he said, there were no witnesses, no phone records or no CCTV linking the defendant to the assault.
The victim, he said, had a history of violence and he admitted carrying a knife.
“And what opportunity did he have to recognise the accused? We’ve heard there was a lot going on that night and a lot of drink taken.
“The difficulty you have is can you rely on the evidence of the victim? There’s no doubt the injuries that were sustained amount to serious harm.
“The real issue is does the evidence prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this harm was caused by the accused man?,” Judge McCabe cautioned.
McDonagh, who had been held on remand at Castlerea Prison prior to the trial, walked free from court with members of his family seconds after the jury acquitted him.
Galway Lotto prize winner off to see the King!
A National Lottery player from Conamara is still in disbelief after claiming their EuroMillions ‘Ireland Only Raffle’ ticket worth a staggering €1,005,000 this week – and is already planning a trip to Graceland!
The player, who wishes to remain anonymous, said they didn’t realise they had the winning ticket.
“I was looking at my ticket and it didn’t have any of the EuroMillions numbers, I didn’t think I’d won anything, so I threw it somewhere in the car. I completely forgot to check the raffle code on the bottom of the ticket!
“A few weeks later I decided to do a clear out of the car and I found the ticket wedged down the side of the seat. I scanned the ticket on the app and called the National Lottery Claims Team and that’s when they told me I was a millionaire! I couldn’t speak, I was in such complete and utter shock!
“I had a plan to surprise my wife for her birthday by putting the cheque in the card, but my great plan lasted all of one hour, I just had to tell her, I couldn’t keep it a secret any longer!”, they added.
The player purchased the winning EuroMillions ticket worth €1,005,000 on the day of the draw, Friday 19th August, in Costcutter in Beal an Dangan.
They revealed some plans they hope to achieve with the new life-changing prize.
“We’ve always wanted to go to Graceland in Memphis to visit the home of Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll himself. That’s all we have in mind for the moment, we’re still letting it all sink in”, they said.
Exhumations to begin next year at Tuam Mother and Baby Home site
A full exhumation of the bodies of children buried in the grounds of Tuam Mother and Baby Home will begin in 2023.
A ‘Director of Authorised Intervention’ is to be appointed by Government to oversee the excavation of the site where it is believed almost 800 children were interred in an unmarked grave.
Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman, in bringing matter before the Dáil, said it was incumbent on the State to address what was “a stain on our national conscience”.
Deputy Catherine Connolly, TD for Galway West, said while the news on the exhumation was welcome, she had “lost faith” in the Government which she said had “learnt absolutely nothing” and had to be “dragged” every step of the way.
It had failed to bring forward a redress scheme for survivors of the home, she said, and Minister O’Gorman had rowed back on a previous commitment to have an independent human rights review of the testimony provided by survivors to the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.
“I don’t think he should ever have promised that because he was never in a position to do it. He was never going to question the establishment narrative given to us by the three wise commissioners, the narrative that told us that the evidence of those who came forward was contaminated and should therefore be treated with caution,” said Deputy Connolly.
“We continue to begrudge and to do everything belatedly. If we are seriously interested in redress, let us do it right.”
Paying tribute to those who shone a light on the wrongdoings in the Tuam Home and elsewhere, Deputy Connolly said it was they who had forced the Government’s hand.
“On the ground, we have seen Catherine Corless and, well before her, Mary Raftery. I also want to mention Patricia Burke Brogan [activist and playwright] who died last week – may she rest in peace – with regard to the work she did in respect of the Magdalen laundries, in particular with the play Eclipsed.
“The groups on the ground have certainly forced us and dragged us every step of the way,” she said.
Agreeing, Minister O’Gorman said it was absolutely right to recognise critical the role of Tuam historian, Catherine Corless.
“We would not be here today but for her dogged persistence in highlighting what happened in Tuam.
“Deputy Connolly mentioned the redress legislation. This legislation has been worked on by my Department over the summer and I will bring it to Cabinet in October to seek approval for the final Bill and to bring it rapidly through the Houses [of the Oireachtas] and the committee, so that we can provide redress to family members,” he said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Seán Canney, TD for Galway East, said what had happened had impacted the people of Tuam deeply and said the Director, when he or she is appointed, should be based in Galway and seek to engage with locals during the excavation process.
“It has created a sense of a stain on, or a shadow over Tuam as a town. Tuam is a very good town and has the finest people living there.
“The Minister has set out in his speech how a Director would be appointed . . . and that an office will be set up to manage the excavation and all that goes with it. However, it is important that there is local engagement with the people of the town,” said Deputy Canney.
“The office should be set in the town and there should be a liaison aspect to the brief that this director will have so people from the locality who want to know what is going on can find out,” he continued, adding that locals should be able to meet the Director in Tuam and not Dublin or anywhere else.
Minister O’Gorman outlined that the Director would oversee a phased forensic-standard excavation, recovery, analysis and re-interment of the remains.
“The order also provides that the Director will carry out an identification programme as an additional function for the intervention,” he said.
Customs ‘dip’ for green diesel on Aran island
Revenue officers made an unannounced visit to Inis Mór last week – with around 10 customs officials performing spot checks for marked diesel.
The Connacht Tribune understands that three motorists were nabbed by the officers for driving with ‘green diesel’ – a fuel only permissible for off-road use, mainly in agriculture.
According to a source in Revenue, this surprise visit is a return to normal service, with spot checks having stalled during Covid.
As part of the operation, customs officers were drafted in from various locations and travelled to the island without prior notice to Gardaí.
Having arrived by ferry from both Galway Docks and Ros a’ Mhíl, officers performed a number of checks at the Pier in Kilronan and also visited Dún Aonghasa.
Vehicles were dipped for green diesel for which tax is paid at a much cheaper rate than road diesel. Those convicted of using marked diesel on the roads face a maximum fine of up to €5,000.
A garda spokesperson confirmed that a group of Revenue officers visited Inis Mór on Friday, September 16, and were facilitated by gardaí on the island.