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File image of Diarmuid Phelan

Trial of senior barrister accused of 2022 murder on Tallaght farm delayed until October

Diarmuid Phelan (55) is charged with the murder of Keith Conlon (36) at Hazelgrove Farm, Tallaght, on 22 February, 2022.

THE CENTRAL CRIMINAL Court trial of a senior barrister accused of murdering a father-of-four in a fatal shooting at a farm in Dublin, which was set 18 months ago and was due to begin today, has been delayed until October.

Diarmuid Phelan (55), of Kiltalown Lane, Tallaght, Dublin 24 is charged with the murder of Keith Conlon (36) at Hazelgrove Farm, Kiltalown Lane, Tallaght, on 22 February, 2022.

Mr Conlon, from Kiltalown Park in Tallaght, was seriously injured in the shooting incident and died at Tallaght University Hospital two days later.

Mr Phelan, who is a senior counsel and associate professor of law at Trinity College in Dublin, was due to go on trial today before Ms Justice Siobhan Lankford at the Central Criminal Court in a case expected to last around four weeks. 

However, Mr Sean Guerin SC, defending Mr Phelan, informed Ms Justice Lankford this afternoon that the case wasn’t in a position to proceed “from the defence point of view” and it was with “some regret” that he was asking the court to adjourn his client’s trial. 

Counsel said there had been an exchange of communication between the defence and the prosecution and that matters had been dealt with at length. 

Mr Guerin said an issue arose at the end of last week. He said the State was “not happy” but that they would not be opposing the application.

Ms Justice Lankford said she understood Mr Phelan faces a very serious charge and that he must be facilitated in terms of his defence.

However, she stressed it was “extraordinary” that the case had been in the list for so long without this matter having been brought to the court’s attention at any stage. 

Ms Justice Lankford said time had been carved out for the trial and at no stage had anyone flagged to her that there might be difficulty on today’s date. 

Mr Guerin said it was not anticipated that there would be.

In reply, Mr Sean Gillane SC, for the Director of Public Prosecutions, said the prosecution was “very disappointed” that the defence application had been made so late in the day.

He said the deceased’s family were present in court and he had explained the situation to them. 

Mr Gillane said they had received correspondence and spoken to the defence and had adopted the position that they would not be opposing today’s application. 

He said the prosecution was very anxious that the case be accommodated in the first or second week of October should the case go back.  

Ms Justice Lankford said Mr Phelan’s case was returned to the Central Criminal Court in November 2022, which would be “virtually two years” on the first day of the Michaelmas term on 7 October next.

Mr Guerin told the judge that everyone understood the urgency of the matter. 

The judge said with “considerable reluctance” she would adjourn the matter until the first day of the Michaelmas term on 7 October next.

Ms Justice Lankford said she wanted the case to be mentioned for “a progress report” on 22 July and also wanted to be assured that a real effort was being made to get the trial on. 

Setting a new trial date of 7 October, Ms Justice Lankford said she was regretful this had to be done but thought it was necessary in the circumstances.

Mr Phelan, who was present in court for today’s brief hearing, was remanded on continuing bail until October. 

An application for Mr Phelan’s bail was initially refused by the High Court in March 2022, but the Court of Appeal overturned that decision and bailed him after two separate bonds of €50,000 – one from Mr Phelan and one from his sister – were lodged with the court.

Alison O'Riordan