Pauline Tully: 'I can still see McAuley's face as he stuck knife in'
She married an IRA killer who was in jail for the manslaughter of a garda. But Pauline Tully yesterday distanced the brutal assault she suffered at the hands of her ex-husband from his violent republican past.
In candid interview with Marian Finucane on RTE Radio yesterday, Ms Tully described how she thought she was going to die when Pearse McAuley stabbed her 13 times last Christmas Eve in an ordeal that lasted two-and-a-half hours.
Although he had served time for manslaughter, she said she had "no idea" that he would be abusive towards her. "Because I have known people involved in the conflict all my life, just because they are involved in a war situation doesn't mean that they are on a personal level violent," she said.
Ms Tully, a former Sinn Fein councillor, met McAuley while visiting republican prisoners. He was serving a 14-year sentence for the manslaughter of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe during a botched IRA robbery in 1996.
"When I first met Pearse he was in prison but he was in there for republican activities," she said. "I suppose I could say I fell in love with him and that was it. We planned a life together, we got engaged, we got married."
McAuley was released from prison for their wedding. They tried to "keep it as quiet as possible". She said she was "conscious" of the feelings of Jerry McCabe's widow, Ann. "But at the same time, it is a civil right, to get married."
He was released in 2009, and within months, he was binge drinking. He verbally abused her, then physically abused her, and eventually he agreed to a legal separation.
She and the children stayed in the family home in Kilnaleck. He moved to an apartment in Ballyconnell.
Last Christmas, Ms Tully invited the children's father to spend the day with them. He was due to at 1pm on Christmas Eve to take the boys.
He arrived at 11am. "As soon as he came in he just lifted his fist in the air and hit me in my left eye," said Ms Tully.
He accused her of seeing someone else. The elder of the two boys said, 'no she's not,' both of them frightened and crying.
He pulled her into the kitchen. "I can remember his words were 'well if I can't have you, no one else will'. He stabbed me here in the chest, the upper chest area, and I remember him sticking the knife into me, a steak knife, like a dinner steak knife. It was such a shock. I can actually still see his face as he was doing it, and the anger on it, and the blood was everywhere."
She heard "air" coming from her wound and worried about how long she had left. Over the next two-and-a-half hours, he continued to stab her, in the stomach, in the back and her hands when she raised them to protect herself. He drank from a bottle of cream liqueur, she said, scraping the knife along the counter top and laughing.
"He brought the boys down at one stage to say goodbye to me. He wouldn't let them hug me though." She eventually made up the name he kept demanding, and he "relaxed". "He said that he intended to kill himself after I died and that he would get someone to get the boys before he did it." Then he got down on the floor and fell asleep beside her. She escaped, raising the alarm with a passing motorist. McAuley came after her but her brother intervened to rescue her. McAuley tried to escape, but gardai later found him hiding in a field.
Separately yesterday, a Sinn Fein general election candidate was criticised for refusing to condemn the murder of Jerry McCabe. Alan Farrell, a Fine Gael TD in North Dublin said Louise O'Reilly's flat refusal to answer the question on RTE radio was "abhorrent": "Murder is murder. If you cannot or will not condemn it, you support it. This is a chilling but timely reminder of why Sinn Fein is not fit to govern our country."