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Huge protests marching through Dublin today. Sasko Lazarov
Assault case

Natasha O'Brien: 'I bared my soul, and was told I should be happy my attacker took a guilty plea'

Thousands attended protests across the country.


THOUSANDS ATTENDED PROTESTS around the country today in solidarity with Natasha O’Brien, the woman who was viciously and randomly attacked by an Irish soldier who received a suspended sentence for the assault. 

Demonstrations were held in Cork, Dublin, Limerick, and Galway.

Addressing the protest in Limerick, O’Brien said that her experience was “horrific”.

WhatsApp Image 2024-06-22 at 07.48.33 Natasha O'Brien. Instagram. Instagram.

O’Brien said: “I am absolutely overwhelmed with your solidarity and your support, without your rage, your fear, your horror, this would not be – this would not be getting looked at, and what has happened to me has happened to so many, look at the absolute injustice of the Department of Justice.”

“What happened to me was horrific, I experienced an extremely violent assault from a soldier, a member of the Defence Forces, they are supposed to protect us. 

“I did not take that stand and face my attacker and put myself through that and bare my soul to Judge Tom O’Donnell to be told that I should be happy he took the guilty plea, I should be happy he said sorry because he was caught,” she added. 

In Cork, at another protest on Grand Parade, Women of Honour representative Rosalyn O’Callaghan, recounted her experience of sexual assault while posted overseas.

“On my first trip overseas in 1998 as a young 21 year old female soldier, I was raped,” she said.

“The next morning when I woke up, I stood up. I held my hand high, and said, ‘I was raped’, and I reported it.”

She said that the man in question was never charged with rape by military authorities, but instead with sexual conduct with a subordinate officer.

Hundreds gathered at the Spire for another protest in Dublin, before marching to the Department of Justice.

Natasha, 24, was punched repeatedly until she was unconscious by 22-year-old Cathal Crotty in Limerick city, a member of the defence forces, who bragged about the attack on social media afterwards, telling friends in a Snapchat story: “Two to put her down, two to put her out”. 

Crotty was handed a three year suspended sentence at Limerick Circuit Court after he pleaded guilty to the attack. 

He admitted to gardaí that he punched Natasha “four times” on 29 May 2022, including in the face after she had fallen to the ground. 

Natasha sustained a broken nose, bruising, nightmares and panic attacks afterwards, said she thought Crotty was going to kill her during the attack when she spoke in court.

The Judge, Tom O’Donnell, noted the serious implications of Crotty’s plea when delivering the sentence, and wished O’Brien all the best. 

Crotty has been formally told that he likely faces dismissal from the defence forces. 

download (2) Thousands marched in Dublin today Sasko Lazarov / Rolling News Sasko Lazarov / Rolling News / Rolling News

The Rosa International Socialist Feminists has been involved in organising the protests.

Rosa’s Ruth Coppinger said:“When victims take the brave decision to stand up against violent perpetrators they should, at a bare minimum, receive justice.”

“The outpour of rage against this injustice & solidarity with Natasha across the country show that the system is at odds with most ordinary people,” she added. 

Coppinger noted that there have been other allegations of abuse made within the defence forces, including from the Women of Honour group, who she said are still fighting for justice and “systematic change”. 

Yesterday, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said she has “consistently” seen sentencing for assaults that “have not seemed strong enough”. 

Tánaiste and Defence Minister Micheál Martin also clarified that the evidence given at Cathal Crotty’s trial by his superior commander was not a character reference, after his submissions were criticised.

- With updates from Steven Fox. 

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