A man who gave his friend a handgun that was used to shoot a mother-of-one in her home while her eight-year-old daughter hid under the kitchen table has been jailed for nine-and-a-half years by the Central Criminal Court.
Following the sentencing of Joseph Byrne, the family of Sinead Connolly called for greater support as she remains in need of treatment for the lifelong injuries she suffered during the attack. They said the people responsible for her shooting had no morals and were able to get a gun “like you’d get a packet of cigarettes”.
Delivering sentence on Thursday, Mr Justice Paul McDermott said there had been tension between Ms Connolly and her neighbour Dean McCarthy for many years. On March 6th, 2021, McCarthy believed he was under threat from men who were in Ms Connolly’s apartment. He called Joseph Byrne (33) for help and Byrne arrived a short time later with a loaded handgun and handed it to McCarthy.
McCarthy then broke down Ms Connolly’s door, went inside and shot Ms Connolly three times. She survived the attack but was left paralysed, needing a wheelchair for mobility and with injuries that have reduced her life expectancy.
Mr Justice McDermott described Byrne’s actions on the day as “reckless, irresponsible and dangerous”. He said the treatment of Ms Connolly was “callous”, that he had failed to give her any assistance despite the fact she nearly died and that the level of harm he had caused was severe.
The victim, he said, had come very close to death and her daughter, who “cowered” under a table as the shots were fired, was subjected to a terrifying ordeal and was placed in serious danger. The consequences to Ms Connolly and her daughter have been “devastating”, he said.
The judge said the ease and speed with which Byrne (33), of La Touche Road, Bluebell, Dublin 12, was able to get a handgun and ammunition was “shocking in itself”. What happened to Ms Connolly could not have happened but for Byrne’s actions. He brought a handgun into an already volatile situation and could be seen carrying the gun through the apartment complex “with no regard to other people of any age living there”. Mr Justice McDermott added: “He had no hesitation in doing this; his friend called and he was happy and willing to provide.”
Byrne “bears enormous culpability for his actions leading up to this shooting and its terrible consequences,” the judge said.
Mr Justice McDermott set the headline sentence for the charge of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life at 14 years, but having taken into account mitigating factors, including his early guilty plea, engagement with probation services and genuine remorse, he reduced that to 11 years. He further suspended 18 months of the sentence on various conditions.
In relation to an offence of possession of ammunition he imposed a five-year sentence to run concurrently.
Lack of victim supports
Outside court, Ms Connolly’s aunt Margaret Walsh said the family is not happy with the sentence but added: “The only thing is there’s another scumbag off the street.” She said it has been “very hard for Sinead” who has spent two years in hospital. “She has good days and bad days, they knocked lumps out of her,” she said.
The family also complained about the lack of supports available to Sinead and her daughter, in particular psychiatric support, and said more needs to be done to protect women and children from the “epidemic” of violence.
Ms Walsh also questioned how a gun was “so readily available within a small community like Bluebell. They had that gun for a long time and had the intention to use it, maybe not on Sinead but somebody else. What’s wrong with their minds?”
She said getting a gun was “nothing to them. They go out and get a gun like you’d get a packet of cigarettes. There’s no morals, no regard for life.”
Last May at the Central Criminal Court, Byrne pleaded guilty to possession of a G9A Grand Power semi-automatic handgun, with intent to endanger life on March 6, 2021 at Bluebell in Dublin 12. He also pleaded guilty to possession of ammunition on the same date.
Last April, Dean McCarthy (33), of Bluebell, was jailed for 15 years after he pleaded guilty to Ms Connolly’s attempted murder on March 6, 2021.
Byrne’s sentence will be backdated to when he first went into custody.