The mother of a 20-year-old who died following an attack on a Tallaght footbridge has said she will never forgive those responsible for her son's death.
Six men and one woman were originally charged with murder in relation to the death of Dale Creighton on January 1st, 2014.
They are 23-year-old Aisling Burke and her 28-year-old partner David Burke, both of Beechpark, Collinstown, Co Westmeath; Graham Palmer (26), of Park Avenue, Portarlington, Co Laois; Ross Callery (23), of Gortlum Cottages, Brittas, Co Dublin; James Reid (26), of Glen Aoibhinn, Gorey, Co Wexford; Jason Beresford (23), of Coill Diarmuida, Ard a' Laoi, Castledermot, Co Kildare, and Gerard Stevens (27), of Grosvenor Square, Rathmines, Dublin.
The seven went on trial at the Central Criminal Court in October, after they all pleaded not guilty to murder.
However, those charges were dropped on the 15th day of the trial, after they pleaded guilty to lesser charges and had their new pleas accepted.
Dale Creighton was assaulted at the footbridge over the Tallaght bypass between St Dominic’s Road and Greenhills Road four hours after he rung in the new year.
The court heard that the Tallaght man had been accused of stealing Ms Burke’s mobile phone.
He died in hospital the following day. The cause of his death was blunt force injury to his head and face.
The seven accused had been in a local nightclub earlier on the night in question.
Each of the accused also initially pleaded not guilty to violent disorder at the footbridge.
However, Jason Beresford later changed his plea and pleaded guilty to the violent disorder charge.
Aisling Burke has now also pleaded guilty to violent disorder at the bridge.
Graham Palmer, Ross Callery, Gerard Stevens, Jason Beresford and David Burke have pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
James Reid has pleaded guilty to possession of a knife, which had a blade or was sharply pointed.
Victim impact statement
In the Central Criminal Court on Wednesday , counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Sean Gillane SC, called Helena Darcy, a friend of Dale Creighton's mother Rhoda Smith, to read a victim impact statement on her behalf.
The court heard that Dale was the first-born of Ms Smith’s two children and her only son.
“He grew up to be a lovely, polite, handsome young man with a stunning smile. He was quiet and shy.
"Dale did well in school and had just completed a springboard programme in Belfast. During this course, you could see his confidence growing and he began to put a life plan in place," Ms Smith said.
Dale was “looking forward to starting a carpentry course in January and was getting excited about his upcoming 21st, as he was planning to celebrate on holiday with his lifelong friends”.
Ms Smith said that Dale always celebrated New Year’s Eve with his family, so it “came as a surprise when he decided to go out.”
Ms Smith said that her son texted her that night and told her his plans to meet up with his cousin in Crumlin and that he would see her the next day.
The last words Ms Smith heard from her son were, “I love you”.
The court heard that in the early hours of the morning of January 1st, 2014, Ms Smith received a call telling her to go to Tallaght Hospital as Dale had been assaulted.
"A decision was made to transfer him to Beaumont Hospital. I was allowed to see Dale for a few minutes. The sight of my son lying there will never be erased from my memory.
“His head and face had swollen to twice its size, none of his teeth were visible and I thought they had been knocked out.
“All we could do in Beaumont Hospital was watch and pray as we weren’t allow to touch Dale or even kiss away his pain,” she said.
The court heard that, “in the midst of all this”, Dale’s family began to realise that he “was not going to pull through and no amount of written words can express the anguish we were going through at the time.
“The torture and the fear that my son was put through that night will haunt me for the rest of my life.
“It is my first thought in the morning when I wake and my last at night when I finally fall asleep.
“I have nightmares about Dale on the bridge that night,” she said.
Ms Smith always told her son to run “if trouble ever breaks out.
“I didn’t think he listened. After seeing the CCTV footage I now know he did. He couldn’t get away,” she said.
Ms Smith said that her son’s death has taken “the pleasure out of everything” she used to enjoy.
“I now live in fear and with a constant twisted paranoia. I have become overprotective of my daughter and I get into a panic if I cannot contact her,” she said.
The court heard that Dale shared a “special bond” with Ms Smith’s mother and that they “were more like best friends”.
Ms Smith said: “My parents and family do everything to support me. My youngest sister had died four weeks before Dale.
“My parents had been raising her children the last few years before her death and Dale was always there to help out babysitting. He was more of a big brother to them.
“We had to come home from hospital and explain to them that Dale was going to heaven to be with their mum, but we could not find the words.”
She said that, after “all the trauma”, Dale’s family then prepared for his funeral, but this was disrupted by the two independent autopsies that were requested.
“This evasion of these autopsies took away any chance of holding him or kissing him goodbye.
“My son came home to us so fragile that once again we could not touch him. I will never forgive them for this,” she said.
Ms Smith said that “these people” have not “only taken away” her son from her, his sister, his grandparents and his friends, but by “cutting his life short so cruelly” they have taken away Dale’s chance of getting “married, becoming a father and growing old.
“Leaving my mind constantly filled with ‘what ifs’and uncontrollable crying. So you see not only did Dale die on January 1st, 2014, a part of us all died too.
“We in time will come to some sort of understanding of Dale dying, but never the circumstances in which he died. A mother’s worst nightmare,” she said.