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Farmer (74) sentenced after shooting another farmer and his dog over land feud

Ted O’Donoghue shot and injured John Hayes (66) on 16 June 2017, at lands at Ballycasey, Kildimo, Co Limerick.

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A FARMER HAS received a 12-month jail sentence after shooting another farmer and his dog, in a “feud” over a passageway linking their lands, last year.

Ted O’Donoghue (74) shot and injured John Hayes (66) on 16 June 2017, at lands at Ballycasey, Kildimo, Co Limerick.

The pensioner who is in poor health, and who appeared in court with two walking aids, will spend Christmas with his family as his sentence was deferred to 7 January 2019, to allow him to get his affairs in order.

He must present himself at Henry Street Garda Station on this date to begin his sentence at Limerick Prison.

Limerick Circuit Court heard that a spray of pellets from a shot that was fired from O’Donoghue’s legally-held shotgun had travelled through Mr Hayes’s tractor, injuring him in the shoulder, and killing his sheepdog Lassie.

O’Donoghue, of Kilmoreen, Kildimo, admitted firing at John Hayes from the licensed gun.

He pleaded guilty to all three charges against him, including, one count of a reckless discharge of a firearm; one count of assault causing harm to Hayes; and one count of animal cruelty.

‘I shot at him’

Around 10.30am, on the morning of the shooting, Hayes was about to open an access gate at the right of way, when he was met by O’Donoghue who was holding the shotgun.

O’Donoghue said he told Hayes, “you are never coming in here again” and then fired at him.

Following his arrest, O’Donoghue told gardaí he believed the passageway was being destroyed by tractors travelling up and down it.

“They have it tore asunder with tractors…but I’ll stop them,” he said.

He told gardaí he went and shot Hayes after he had observed him driving his tractor towards the right of way on the morning in question.

He said that, having travelled ahead of Hayes in his own van, he got out of the vehicle and shot him.

“He wanted to open the gate. I blazed at him. I fired a shot at him, and that’s that,” he told gardaí.

“I shot at him.. He was outside the gate, but, it’s my land,” he also said.

“He shouldn’t have been there. He was trespassing,” O’Donghue added.

When asked by gardaí if he had deliberately shot Hayes, he replied: “Not exactly…I don’t know…I don’t think so.”

Victim impact statement

Hayes wrote in a victim impact statement afterwards, that he became “withdrawn socially, fearful, and stressed” following the shooting.

“I was sure he was going to kill me. He had an angry look about him.”

“He fired the gun. I was shocked.”

“I heard ‘Lass’ scream. I was terrified,” he added.

Garda Jason Mitchell, of Newcastle West Garda Station, told an earlier hearing, at Limerick District Court,  the shooting was part of “a long-running feud over a right of way”.

O’Donoghue’s barrister, Anthony Salmon SC, had later stressed in a sentencing hearing in the Circuit Circuit last October, the DPP’s view was, there had been “no intent” to endanger Hayes.

The court heard the right of way is located on O’Donghue’s land, and that it is the access route to a number of other farmers lands.

O’Donoghue became “obsessed” about the passageway, Salmon said.

A neighbour told gardaí there had been tensions between O’Donghue and other farmers, about the right of way, for “forty years”.

O’Donoghue “tried to deal with it through solicitors, but he wasn’t getting anywhere with it,” Salmon said.

“It was festering away. It was like an obsession boiling over.”

O’Donoghue is “a decent hardworking man”, he added.

“These disputes have a way of turning right minded people into obsessive fools. Incidents of a minor nature can become obsessive and overshadow their lives,” Salmon added.

O’Donoghue “deeply deeply regrets his actions”, he said.

Sentencing

Nine months prior to the shooting O’Donghue produced a knife, during a row with the son of another local farmer, it was also heard.

Arising out of this, O’Donoghue appeared in Newcastle West District Court, but he escaped without a conviction after the court applied the Probation Act.

Handing out today’s sentence, Judge Tom O’Donnell noted the victim, John Hayes, had suffered a “substantial psychological fallout” following the shooting incident.

The judge said he took into account O’Donoghue was “deeply attached to the land”, but he said, he had to impose a custodial sentence, despite the defendant’s age and poor health.

He sentenced O’Donoghue to two and a half years in prison, suspending the final 18 months.

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About the author:

David Raleigh

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