Wednesday 20 November 2019

Image of dad dying with no one to help will haunt me, says son

Victim: Cathal Sweeney
Victim: Cathal Sweeney

Natasha Reid

The heartbroken son of a man beaten to death has said the thought of his father lying there "drowning in his own blood" with nobody to help him continues to haunt his mind.

David Sweeney was delivering his victim impact statement to the Central Criminal Court yesterday in the sentence hearing of 35-year-old Gary Walsh, who pleaded guilty to his father's manslaughter.

He noted his father had been an alcoholic, but said he was the only father he and his siblings had and the killing had affected every aspect of their lives.

Walsh, with an address at The Watercourse, Orwell Park in Templeogue, had been charged with murdering Cathal Sweeney at a mutual friend's flat in Ashdale Gardens, Terenure in Dublin.

He had pleaded not guilty to murder, but guilty to the former rugby captain's manslaughter on February 8, 2014. However, two separate juries were unable to reach a verdict and his manslaughter plea was eventually accepted.

The accused and the deceased had met for the first time that morning in the flat of a mutual friend. They consumed alcohol while watching Ireland play rugby.

A row broke out and Walsh punched the father of three repeatedly until Mr Sweeney admitted to an assault the accused believed he had committed on another man. Walsh stopped beating him because there was so much blood and told Mr Sweeney to clean himself up.

Yesterday, the victim's son, David Sweeney, entered the witness box to deliver a victim impact statement on behalf of himself, his brother Tim and sister Fiona.

"Our father was an alcoholic," he said. "We did not condone his way of life, nor the company he kept but he was our dad. We only ever get one, and he was ours."

He said his father had died one day before he was due to meet his third grandchild for the first time, adding that three more grandchildren had been born since then.

"They are now starting to ask about him and what happened to him. How do we ever explain that?" he asked.

He said his father had loved the grandchildren he had met and it was important for the family for their children to know him. "That has now been needlessly ripped away from us forever," he said. "We can never forget or forgive that."

He said his father had been a good, generous man, who had been sociable to the extreme.

"It is very hard for us to accept or understand the circumstances in which he was taken from us in such a violent manner," he said.

"It [the killing] has affected our marriages, our careers, our social lives.

"Nothing can prepare you for arriving home to find the gardaí at your house and them telling you that your father has been brutally beaten to death by a man half his age."

He said he thinks of what happened to his father every day.

"The episodes haunt my mind," he said. "I cannot stop thinking about the fear he must have experienced on that day - the fear of being helpless, the fear of dying, the fear of going alone. The thoughts of him being unable to breathe, coughing and drowning in his own blood."

Justice McCarthy adjourned sentencing until Monday next, and remanded Walsh in custody.

Irish Independent

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