'I went into a state of shock' – teen (19) had panic attack when she saw uncle’s killer walk into her workplace
A nineteen-year-old said that she had a panic attack when she saw her uncle’s killer walk into her workplace last year.
In 2012, Martin Toland, a father-of-one, was found guilty of the manslaughter of Alan Nolan at his apartment in Cedar Brook Walk, Ballyfermot, Dublin, on September 8, 2007.
Toland (36) had previously been sentenced to life for the murder of Mr Nolan (28) – but the Court of Criminal Appeal overturned that conviction.
Leah Nolan, the niece of Alan, protested outside Leinster House today with Sentencing And Victim Equality (SAVE), a group of families who are fighting against parole and day release for convicted killers.
She recalled an incident last year when convicted killer Martin Toland came into the supermarket Ms Nolan works in shortly after his release.
"I had my first panic attack that I ever experienced in work and it was horrible because how are you supposed to say to someone 'oh that’s actually the killer of my uncle'," she told Independent.ie.
"He started walking towards the till that I was on and I just went into a state of shock and I just had to leave everybody on the till and just run," Ms Nolan said.
"We don’t actually feel that we’re seen as people and victims by the courts. We weren’t really given a voice."
As some families can file submissions when a criminal applies for parole or day release, Ms Nolan explained that this process can be traumatic for relatives, because they have to re-live the harrowing deaths of their family members.
"And then you see [the criminals] walking around with a girlfriend buying Easter eggs… how are you allowed do that after everything you’ve done?"
A demonstration of 40 family members took to Leinster House this morning to protest sentencing structures, day releases and parole schemes and the lack of support for families of victims.
The group’s chairperson and one of its founders, John Whelan, explained that the group "shouldn’t be out protesting, but feel we have to be."
"The catalyst for this has been the recent spate of day releases that have proposed and families getting notification that the perpetrators in their cases are getting day releases and it’s generated so much anger and so much fear," he said.
"Families have been through enough, and the state, by doing what they’re doing around day release, around the parole system and sentencing in general, is doing nothing but traumatising families.
"Our message is very simple- bring in the tariff system that is in Great Britain, which is 25, 30, 35 years for murder and an option of a whole life tariff," he added.
The group also aims to put in place supports for families of the victims.
"We’re asking for support and resources to be made available to families because it’s not there- anything that we need as regards counselling, we have to go source them ourselves and pay for them," he said.
"We’re asking for a state sponsored body to be set up to look after the families of the victims of homicide," Mr Whelan added.
Ciara Ní Chatmhaoil (22) was killed by Gordon Molloy in 2007, who was convicted two years later and now has applied for day release. If granted, this could be his second day release within the last year.
Under Irish law, he can apply for day release every six months as he has served 10 years of his life sentence.
Last year, he spent his day release on a visit to his family.
For Ms Ní Chatmhaoil’s family, family visits are to her grave.
"We get to go to Lismacullney cemetery," said Ciara’s mother, Paidi Cunningham.
"As soon as the trial was over, equality and justice for Ciara stopped."
The ruthless murders of 30-year-old Sharon Whelan and her two children Zarah (7) and Nadia (2) shook the nation in 2009. Their killer Brian Hennessy was denied parole last year.
Ms Whelan's mother Nancy Whelan said that she lives with the loss of her daughter and grandchildren to this day.
"I live in the graveyard. Every morning, that’s my first go in the morning, up to Sharon and the two kids.
"It’s the cross and I just have to carry it - I fall under it, I pick it up and I drag it after me every day, that’s all I can do," she said.