Man who fired at gardaí during Sligo siege ‘went daft’

Michael O’Connor reloaded a shotgun on 23 times during Sligo siege

A 31-year-old man who fired shots at gardaí during a 13-hour siege at his parents Sligo home, has been sentenced to seven and a half years in prison.

Imposing sentence at Sligo circuit court today, Judge Keenan Johnson pointed out that the accused, Michael O’Connor of Nolmar, Strandhill Road, Sligo, had reloaded a shotgun on 23 separate occasions and had fired indiscriminately in the direction of gardaí.

The court had heard that 110 gardaí­ were involved in a siege situation, which began in the early hours of December 28th last year. Fifteen houses were evacuated during the incident.

The accused had pleaded guilty to three charges – possession of a firearm with intent to cause death or serious injury , reckless discharge of a firearm and damage to a Garda car at Nolmar.

Judge Johnson, who pointed out that that it was fortunate that there was no loss of life , suspended the final 18 months of the sentence which has been backdated to December 29th, when the accused was taken into custody.

The accused told gardaí that he had not planned the incident but had “went daft” shooting around the house.

He fired a total of 23 shots – 19 inside the house and four outside including at gardaí and at an unmarked patrol car.

The judge was told gardaí had to dive for cover when O’Connor came out of the house and fired at them.

Sets standard The judge complimented the gardaí for the professional way they handled the situation, saying the outcome they achieved in what was clearly an extremely dangerous situation "was the best that could be hoped for, and sets the standard as to how siege situations should be approached and dealt with".

He mentioned in particular Garda Kevin Donegan and Garda PJ Gallagher who were first to arrive on the scene and Det Inspector Gerry Connolly and Det Sgt Con Lee who led the operation.

"With all of the negative publicity surrounding An Garda Síochána, there is a danger that we as a society might lose sight of the very important and vital role which so many members of the gardaí undertake on an everyday basis in an impartial and even-handed manner and without fear for heir own safety," he added.

The judge had been told the accused, who was alone in his parents’ home at the time, had consumed nine half-litre bottles of Speckled Hen ale.

He said it appeared that O’Connor, having consumed the ale, was bored and for some reason “best known to himself” had taken his father’s legally held shotgun and discharges shots around the house.

The court heard he fired 19 shots inside the house and the remainder outside.

'Completely alien' "This type of incident is completely alien to Ireland," said the judge, who added that firing a shotgun in such an indiscriminate manner in the direction of gardaí was "about as serious as it gets".

He said that while the defendant had a history of psychotic episodes in 2008, 2011 and 2013 these were linked to cannabis abuse, and there were no medical or psychological reasons to explain his actions.

In mitigation he pointed to the early guilty plea, the previous unblemished record of the accused and the support he received from his family who were also victims in this case.

He was also mindful that the accused had been diagnosed with ADHD as a child.