An elderly farmer told a court yesterday that but for the fact that he was on consecrated ground, he would have been killed instantly when confronted by a man armed with a slash hook in a Galway graveyard.
John Connolly (81) told Gort District Court of the "ferocity" of the attack on him by graveyard owner and farmer Martin O'Shaughnessy (68), of Killina, Gort, on October 1 last.
During the assault, Mr O'Shaughnessy told Mr Connolly "I'm going to cut the f***ing head off you" in the row over burial plots.
In the case, Mr O'Shaughnessy has pleaded guilty to the assault on Mr Connolly at the graveyard at Killinny, East Kinvara.
In a victim-impact statement read out by Judge Patrick Durcan, Mr Connolly stated: "The incident has been a great distraction in my life and has caused me great mental anguish. It took a few days for the ferocity of this attack to sink in."
He added: "Ever since, I have been haunted by the vision of the blade in his hand less than 12 inches from my bare head.
"But for the grace of God and the fact that we were on consecrated ground, I'm convinced that I would have been killed instantly."
After reading out those lines, Judge Durcan commented: "This is the stuff of John B Keane."
Colman Sherry, the solicitor for Mr O'Shaughnessy, said he "would challenge much of what is in the statement but I'm leaving it to the court to make its own judgment".
Mr Sherry added: "The blade (of the slash hook) never came near the head of that man. It was the handle."
In recalling the assault in his victim-impact statement, Mr Connolly stated: "Three days later, I was working on my farm with two other men and Mr O'Shaughnessy came. He apologised for what he did and said and that he was 100pc wrong."
Providing background to the assault previously, Sgt Daithí Cronin said: "There had been an ongoing dispute with Mr O'Shaughnessy and Mr Connolly and other people in relation to burial plots at the graveyard."
Sgt Cronin said that what occurred was a technical assault. He added that it was all over within a matter of seconds.
Mr Sherry told the court: "In cases like this, the less said the better. There is history and suffice to say there are very few burial plots left."
Mr Sherry stated that three generations of Mr O'Shaughnessy's family had been buried in the graveyard and that his client had looked after the graveyard all his life.
He added: "He pleaded guilty on the very first day. He has no previous convictions. He is extremely contrite and has apologised to all of the parties.
"The only person who got injured was the defendant himself when he fell back. Mr O'Shaughnessy has lived in Killina for 20 years and has had no issue with any of those neighbours."
Judge Durcan told Mr Connolly that he was going to strike out the case against Mr O'Shaughnessy.
The judge told the two men: "One or other of you will have to follow the other into the graveyard and hopefully one of you will be able to walk after the other.
"And not too long after that, the other will be brought in and there you will rot together - that's life."
Judge Durcan added: "I am not going to have the good name of the community there to be damaged by criminality. This case is over. Justice is done. This battle is over now. I'm striking the case out."