Court report: A Mayo farmer has been sentenced to six years for the manslaughter of a Traveller father of 11 in October 2004.
Before passing sentence yesterday at the Central Criminal Court, Mr Justice Paul Carney said it was the "most difficult sentencing matter I've had to deal with in 14 years in this court".
Pádraig Nally (61), Funshinagh, Cross, Mayo, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of John Ward (42).
Last July a jury found Nally not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Castlebar, Co Mayo.
Judge Carney said this was "undoubtedly the most socially divisive case I've had to try and the most difficult case I've had to sentence".
A brother-in-law of the deceased, Martin Reilly, said after the case that he believed a "man's life is worth more than six years". He said he believed "100 per cent" that the community was against the Travellers and that the trial held in July should not have been in Mayo.
Before sentencing, Sgt James Carroll of Ballinrobe Garda station, told senior counsel Paul O'Higgins, prosecuting, that Mr Ward and his son Thomas had gone to Nally's farmhouse near the village of Cross just after lunchtime on October 14th.
Thomas Ward asked Nally if his Nissan car was for sale. John Ward was seen by Nally entering his home by the back door. The farmer got his loaded shotgun from a hay shed and shot him in the hip and hand as he emerged from the house.
In a violent struggle which followed Mr Ward was hit 20 times with a thick piece of ash. As he made his way from the farmyard, Nally returned to the hay shed, reloaded and followed him down the road. John Ward was shot a second time and died at the scene. Nally pulled his body across the road and put it into a field.
Sgt Carroll told Mr O'Higgins that Nally is a bachelor who lives alone and has never come to the attention of the Garda before this incident. Nally used to record the registration numbers of cars coming to his farmhouse and would throw a bucket of water on soil at his gate in order to record footprints or tyre prints of anyone who would call while he was not at home.
Nally's neighbour Michael Varley told barrister Michael Bowman, defending, that he has known Nally "all his life". He noticed a change in Nally from 2003 after he had been broken into and again in February 2004.
Psychologist John P Bogue said that after he assessed Nally he concluded that he had been suffering from stress in the weeks before the fatal shooting. Dr Bogue said he was "remorseful" about the shooting and wished it had not happened. However, Nally told him that he "felt compelled to act in the way he did".
Before sentencing, senior counsel Brendan Grehan, defend- ing, told Mr Justice Carney that Nally had "up to this lived a blameless life" for nearly 62 years. He said he wished to express his client's "sorrow" to the family of Mr Ward.
The judge said Nally was "initially" protecting the inviolability of his home but this changed after he got the upper hand in the altercation. He said that as the deceased was retreating, Nally took out three further cartridges and loaded the shotgun. He said Mr Ward was "stooped" over at the time Nally fatally shot him.
He said he did not take into account when sentencing any of the "disturbing letters" sent by other people to Mrs Ward, which said her son Thomas should be killed as well. After imposing sentence on Nally, Judge Carney told Mr Grehan that he would hear an application for leave to appeal on December 5th.