Wednesday 20 September 2017

Tragic Jacqueline McDonagh's wedding day at the age of 18 turned her family into film stars

Michael Quinn McDonagh with his new bride Jacqueline on their wedding day in 1997
Pic: Knuckle
Michael Quinn McDonagh with his new bride Jacqueline on their wedding day in 1997 Pic: Knuckle
Jacqueline McDonagh
Michael McDonagh in Knuckle and (inset) his wife Jacqueline
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Beautiful and shy, teenager Jacqueline McDonagh bowed her head as family members and friends at her wedding threw rice at her for good luck.

Film footage from her wedding also shows her groom Michael, also 18, instructed to smile for the camera and give his new wife a kiss.

Michael McDonagh in Knuckle and (inset) his wife Jacqueline
Michael McDonagh in Knuckle and (inset) his wife Jacqueline

Some 15 years later, Michael battered his wife to death in an assault that lasted almost 90 minutes.

Yesterday, Michael McDonagh, of College Manor, Hoey's Lane, Dundalk, Co Louth, pleaded guilty to the murder of his wife Jacqueline. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

In 1997, this smiling image of the newly-weds' happiest day was caught on camera by the film director of the award-winning film 'Knuckle'.

Jacqueline married husband Michael in 1997 - the couple went on to have three children.

Michael Quinn McDonagh with his new bride Jacqueline on their wedding day in 1997
Pic: Knuckle
Michael Quinn McDonagh with his new bride Jacqueline on their wedding day in 1997 Pic: Knuckle

Director Ian Palmer describes in acclaimed documentary 'Knuckle' how he was introduced to the family through a friend and filmed Jacqueline and Michael's wedding day.

"It was 1997 when I met traveller family the Quinn McDonaghs," Ian says on the voiceover of the film.

Read more here: Bare-knuckle boxer beat wife to death in an 80-minute attack

Teenage Jacqueline is beaming in the footage as she walks alongside her new husband, and first cousin, Michael when they wed 15 years ago.

Jacqueline is wearing a brilliant white dress and a glittering tiara nestles above her long blonde curls.

Michael is wearing a slate grey suit and family and friends are gathered on the steps to wish the couple luck, throwing confetti and rice over them.

Later, at the couple's wedding reception, Palmer attempts to interview Jacqueline's new brother-in-law James and family members as they begin to gamble.

The brothers James and Michael Quinn McDonagh ultimately become the focus of the film as they fought for their family's honour.

Jacqueline McDonagh
Jacqueline McDonagh

It was after this footage that Palmer was welcomed into the family and given unrivalled access to bareknuckle fighting.

Movie critics were blown away by the behind-the-scenes footage spanning over 12 years in the film 'Knuckle'.

The documentary features three clans of Irish families setting up meetings on rural back roads to settle scores that go back generations.

'Knuckle' won acclaim at the Sundance and New York film feistivals.

Read more here: Bare-knuckle boxer beat his wife to death

The film also had a knock-on effect for James Quinn McDonagh, brother of Michael and brother-in-law of Jacqueline. The champion bare-knuckle fighter and King of the Travellers penned his autobiography after the film's release and resulting popularity.

In the 15 years after this wedding footage was taken, much had changed for their family in terms of their profile and appearance on an award winning film.

But behind the scenes, Jacqueline's relationship with her husband steadily deteriorated.

Michael Quinn McDonagh with his new bride Jacqueline on their wedding day in 1997
Pic: Knuckle
Michael Quinn McDonagh with his new bride Jacqueline on their wedding day in 1997 Pic: Knuckle

Yesterday, the Central Criminal Court heard that Michael was "physically and mentally cruel" to his wife throughout their marriage.

A victim impact statement on behalf of Jacqueline's grieving family and three children was read to the court yesterday.

McDonagh was described in the statement as a “domineering and controlling man” who was “excessively jealous of her close ties” to her brothers, sisters and parents.

Jacqueline always loved her name as she was named after Jacqueline Kennedy the wife of the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy. However Michael McDonagh refused to refer to her as anything but “Jack.”

Despite his “unpredictable violent behaviour”, the court heard how “sadly” the mother of three would always return to her husband as he threatened to hurt her immediate family.

Jacqueline never took her husband's threats lightly and “the only time she had peace”, was when Michael was training for his bare knuckle boxing fights, read Garda Detective Inspector Patrick Marry.

The statement read that her three children meant the world to her and brought her great amounts of joy and were according to her, her greatest achievement in life.

Jacqueline was also very much looking forward to begin planning her daughter Chloe’s wedding day, read Det Insp Marry.

“It breaks our hearts she won’t be a part of that day” and the “cruel and monstrous” way that Jacqueline was taken away, the court heard.

In a further blow following the murder, the statement read that Michael McDonagh refused to release Jacqueline’s remains for eleven days to the family which broke their children’s hearts and had a “devastating effect”.

“We died when Jacqueline died, we now have the guilt that our life will never move on. Jacqueline will never be forgotten, she lives on in her special children” concluded Det Insp Marry.

A sister of Jacqueline has since taken her three children into her care and the family acknowledged the Garda for their support as well as the Traveller Community.

Justice Paul Carney handed down a life sentence to Michael McDonagh backdated to September 1 2012.​

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