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Man jailed for ‘animal attack’ on elderly grandmother

A young man punched and kicked his half-sister and then assaulted her 81-year-old grandmother who tried to stop him, after a family funeral in Conamara.

The attack by Gearóid Wallace of An Tuairín, Béal an Daingin, Co na Gaillimhe was described by Judge Mary Fahy as “absolutely shocking and horrific”.

It was among a plethora of charges and summonses the 21-year-old pleaded guilty to at the latest sitting of Derrynea District Court.

Judge Fahy said Wallace “acted like an absolute animal” when he assaulted his half-sister, Selina Whelan, and her grandmother Mary Whelan, on July 12, 2022 at Aill Buí, Rosmuc.

Ms Whelan, who shares a father with the defendant, said Wallace was intoxicated and verbally abusive after her grand-uncle’s funeral.

She said he left when she gave him money. But at 11pm he texted and phoned to apologise and said he had nowhere to stay that night.

When he returned, he started cursing and calling her names. Then he shut the front door of his car on her hand and punched her in the face.

Ms Whelan said she was grabbed and pulled by Wallace, who had her in the strangle position. She was knocked to the ground where he kicked her on her left and right side.

When her maternal grandmother, Mary Whelan, intervened Wallace punched her in the chest.

The court heard the 81-year-old woman was outside Derrynea Courthouse but was “too terrified” to go in to give a victim impact statement.

Selina Whelan suffered bruising to her arms and legs and submitted a victim impact statement outlining emotional trauma.

Judge Fahy said it was telling that a bully always targets victims not of equal strength; Wallace had “assaulted and terrorised” two women, the day they buried a loved one, in one of the worst cases she had ever heard.

Defending solicitor Michael Cunningham said his client had instructed him to apologise. He said he was very remorseful, embarrassed and ashamed.

Judge Fahy convicted Wallace of Section 3 assault causing harm to Selina Whelan and imposed a six-month prison sentence.

Wallace was also convicted of a Section 2 minor assault of Mary Whelan, and was sentenced to four months in prison, to run consecutively.

The court also heard Wallace, who had 48 previous convictions, including 42 for road traffic offences, continued to drive after he was disqualified for five years in 2020.

Judge Fahy said Gardaí and the public in Conamara were not safe because Wallace had no regard for the rules of the road or rulings of the court.

He was serving that disqualification on February 27, 2022, when he was twice observed driving dangerously by Garda Brendan Folan after 1am at Glencoh, Rosmuc and Screeb, Camus.

Garda Folan, who was alone, pursued him in his patrol car and observed Wallace driving 120kph on a bumpy road towards Maam Cross, including on the wrong side of the road.

He stopped at Screeb and Garda Folan formed the opinion Wallace was intoxicated. “Come on, I dare you”, Wallace said to Garda Folan when he said the car would be towed away. Wallace slapped the windscreen of the car and said: “Nobody is taking that car away from me”.

Garda Folan said Wallace jumped on the car’s roof and smashed the front windscreen. Speaking in Irish, Wallace told Garda Folan: “I’ll break your jaw, you dirty c*nt”.

He took the spare tyre from the boot and threw it towards Garda Folan. Wallace ran from the scene, and Garda Folan said he did not pursue him because it was a “volatile situation”.

Judge Fahy said Wallace had a “violent temper” and was “a danger to the public and Gardaí”.

She said “he has no regard for anybody – that’s the scary thing”.

Judge Fahy imposed two four-month prison sentences for both dangerous driving offences, and disqualified Wallace from driving for 15 years.

Two one-month prison sentences were imposed for being threatening and abusive and obstruction of Garda Folan, and a further two months for driving without insurance.

Wallace also pleaded guilty to criminal damage on February 12, 2022 when he used a knife to slit the back left tyre of a van owned by his mother’s partner, Oliver Conroy, which was parked outside their home in An Cheathrú Rua.

The court heard Wallace threatened to break his sister’s jaw if she told his mother he burst the tyre. It cost €105 to replace and he did not pay. A one-month prison sentence (concurrent) was imposed.

Wallace also pleaded guilty to several road traffic offences investigated by Garda Joseph Kilmartin, including careless driving and driving without insurance at 2.10pm on April 23, 2021 at An Tuairín, Béal an Daingin; and driving a white BMW without a licence and insurance, and overtaking three vehicles on a continuous white line on June 24, 2021 at Cornaron, Inverin.

Wallace also pleaded guilty to being drunk in a public place and engaging in threatening and abusive behaviour on October 8, 2022.

Gardaí found him asleep in Eyre Square at 11.10pm. When they woke him, he was intoxicated, and told them to “fuck off”, and called them “stupid pigs”.

The cases were due to be heard on May 11, but Wallace was too intoxicated, and they were adjourned to May 16, when he was also was fined €100 for being intoxicated outside Derrynea Courthouse.

Mr Cunningham said Wallace had a very difficult upbringing and was a different person when not intoxicated. He submitted a favourable reference from his employer and a letter from a GP detailing his addiction issues.

Mr Cunningham said all offences had occurred after 2019, when his grandfather died. He said Wallace was only 21 and, if he continued down this path, “it will end only one way”.

In total, Wallace was sentenced to 15 months in prison, some of which will run concurrently, and put off the road for 15 years.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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