Gardai fear escalation of Traveller feud in County Limerick after 'machete attack'

Donal O'Regan

Reporter:

Donal O'Regan

Kilmallock Court heard a man was assaulted with a two and half foot long machete

Kilmallock Court heard a man was assaulted with a two and half foot long machete

A LONG-RUNNING Traveller feud erupted in Rathkeale on Saturday morning when a man was assaulted with a two and half foot long machete, Kilmallock Court heard.

John O’Donoghue, aged 48, of Main Street, Rathkeale was charged with violent disorder, assault causing harm and possession of an article at Boherbuoi, Rathkeale on Saturday, December 16, 2017.

On behalf of the State, Detective Garda Joe O’Sullivan objected to bail due to the “ongoing tension” between two Traveller families, more serious incidents of disorder being committed, intimidation and “flight risk”.

After Judge Marian O’Leary granted bail the required €12,500 was handed into the court in cash within minutes. The court heard that Mr O’Donoghue is married to the niece of the injured party, and he presented himself to gardai after his son was married on Monday afternoon.

Det Garda O’Sullivan alleged that William O’Driscoll got up at 9.20am on Saturday, left a temporary caravan site to use toilet facilities.

“Two black cars pulled up. Mr O’Donoghue got out of one of the cars and started shouting obscenities at Mr O’Driscoll. It is alleged Mr O’Donoghue hit Mr O’Driscoll with a two and half foot machete. He fell to the ground. It is further alleged Mr O’Donoghue said, ‘I’m going to kill you’.

“Mr O’Driscoll received 14 stitches to his nose, lacerations to his head and a hand, and a puncture wound near his groin. He is in University Hospital Limerick,” said Det Garda O’Sullivan.

The detective alleged that associates of Mr O’Donoghue armed with samurai swords, pick axe handles and hurleys prevented members of Mr O’Driscoll’s family from helping him. It is understood Mr O’Driscoll is aged in his late sixties or early seventies.

Michael O’Donnell, solicitor for Mr O’Donoghue, said there are “two sides to every story”.

“Mr O’Donoghue will say he was the one who was attacked. Between seven and 14 O’Driscolls travelled down from Newry. They are strangers in Rathkeale. Mr O’Donoghue’s uncle lives in Boherbuoi. Mr O’Donoghue’s son was getting married on Monday morning. They were discussing arrangements for the wedding. Mr O’Donoghue is married to this gentlemen’s [Mr O’Driscoll’s] niece. There were lots of O’Driscolls invited to the wedding,” said Mr O’Donnell.

The solicitor said it was “suspicious” that the “faction” of O’Driscolls that travelled from Newry were all men. Det Garda O’Sullivan said they were entitled to come to Rathkeale like anybody else.

Mr O’Donnell said Mr O’Donoghue was not a “flight risk” as he has a house in Rathkeale. “He spends the majority of the year abroad,” said Det Garda O’Sullivan.

Mr O’Donnell said his client presented himself to the guards thus “missing out on the latter part of his son’s wedding on Monday”. “We were looking for him on Sunday. We spoke to his brother. We were outside the church. He did present himself,” said the detective garda.

Mr O’Donnell said Mr O’Donoghue was attacked.

“He did not report he was attacked until he was interviewed on Monday. He had Saturday and Sunday [to make a complaint]. We can only investigate one case at a time,” said Det Garda O’Sullivan.

Mr O’Donnell said if Mr O’Donoghue was granted bail he would obey all conditions, surrender his passport and pay “any sum of money”.

Det Garda O’Sullivan said the alleged incident was very serious.

“There are serious injuries to his face and groin area. Associates prevented the O’Driscolls from helping him [William O’Driscoll].

“There has been complaints of intimidation to withdraw the charges,” said Det Garda O’Sullivan.

Sergeant Michelle Leahy said there is the potential for further crimes following this alleged event if bail is granted.

“The two families are engaged in a long-running feud. The State fears if Mr O’Donoghue gets bail it will escalate. The son of the injured party has made a complaint about intimidation,” said Sgt Leahy.

Judge O’Leary granted bail to Mr O’Donoghue subject to a number of conditions - sign on daily, obey a curfew, surrender his passport, have no contact with the injured party or any witnesses in the case and be of good behaviour. Bail was set on Mr O’Donoghue’s own bond of €10,000 with €5,000 to be lodged and an independent surety of €15,000 with half to be lodged. A sum of €12,500 in cash was handed into court.

Mr O’Donoghue, who was wearing a grey check suit, open necked pink shirt and black shoes, was released on bail to appear in Newcastle West Court on January 28.