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Homeless man who told parish priest that he would 'cut his throat' sentenced to 3 months

In a statement to gardaí on the assault, Fr Hogan said he was fearful for his safety.

Ennis Courthouse.
Ennis Courthouse.
Image: Google Maps

A 37-YEAR-OLD Co Clare man told a parish priest that he would cut his throat in the grounds of a Church last month.

At Ennis District Court today, Judge Patrick Durcan jailed Jamie O’Connor for three months for the assault on the popular parish priest of Ennis, Fr Tom Hogan at the St Peter and Paul Cathedral in Ennis on 22 March.

In a statement to gardaí on the assault, Fr Hogan said that “I was fearful for my own safety in a way that I have never been before during my 20 years in Ennis”.

The assault by O’Connor on Fr Hogan was only defused when another local priest, Fr Ger Fitzgerald came on to the scene and helped pull O’Connor away from a shaken Fr Hogan.

In sentencing the homeless chronic alcoholic, Judge Durcan said that the words spoken by Mr O’Connor to Fr Hogan were “particularly vile”.

Along with imposing the three-month prison term, Judge Durcan has also banned O’Connor from the St Peter and Paul Cathedral and its environs in Ennis for two years.

He said:

That means you are not authorised to attend any funerals of relatives, masses, weddings, baptisms or go to pray at this Church during this time.

Judge Durcan said that Mr O’Connor had displayed ‘appalling behaviour’ when assaulting and haranguing Fr Hogan.

Facts outlined

Giving an outline of the facts, Inspector Kennedy said that around 6.30pm on 22 March Fr Hogan came into the church grounds and saw three homeless people at the time including O’Connor.

Kennedy said that O’Connor was eating and drinking ‘Ruby’ wine he had stolen earlier from ALDI.

Kennedy said that Fr Hogan went about his business in the porch area of the Church when minutes later, O’Connor “bursts through the door of the church and tackles Fr Hogan hurling abuse at him and threatens to cut his throat”.

Kennedy said that O’Connor was living in a nearby tent in the church grounds for the previous three months.

The inspector said that Fr Hogan had asked O’Connor to remove the tent and seek alternative accommodation as there were works going on by a contractor.

Kennedy said that Fr Hogan and a caretaker had removed the tent and stored O’Connor’s belongings and discarded quite a deal of rubbish in the area from O’Connor’s occupation at the site.

Kennedy said that when O’Connor confronted Fr Hogan over the tent removal, O’Connor prevented Fr Hogan from putting the key in the door of the priests’ house 10 metres distance from the church.

“Very afraid” 

Kennedy said that “Fr Hogan was very afraid and fearful that Mr O’Connor was going to throw a punch at him.

“Mr O’Connor placed his hand very forcibly on the upper arm of Fr Hogan and he was very fearful he was going to be punched and harmed.

This went on for a number of minutes. Mr O’Connor was very threatening and physical towards Fr Hogan.

Kennedy said that luckily another priest came along, Fr Ger Fitzgerald placed his arms around him and physically removed him from the area and called the gardaí.

Kennedy said Fr Hogan was asked to come to court yesterday but Fr Hogan didn’t wish to add anything further.

Kennedy said that he knows O’Connor from his time in court and was surprised to hear of O’Connor’s actions.

He said:

It was a very nasty incident.

Solicitor for O’Connor, Stiofán Fitzpatrick said that O’Connor apologises unreservedly to Fr Hogan. He said:

Mr O’Connor has been coming to the Cathedral for a number of years and knows Fr Hogan and Fr Fitzgerald and they have always looked after him and they have extended their assistance to him in the various states he was in.

Fitzpatrick said that all of O’Connor’s belongings were in the tent and he got frustrated when he saw it removed.

He said:

Mr O’Connor is extremely embarrassed because at all times, he has had a good relationship with priests in the Cathedral and they have always assisted him.

Judge Durcan back-dated the prison sentence to 28 March. Durcan told O’Connor to get to grips with his alcoholism, take control of his life and refrain from further criminality.

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Gordon Deegan

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