Judge David Waters expressed “no doubt” that a 46-year-old man assaulted an elderly fisherman in the Killorglin area in summer 2020.
Michael O’Shea (48), Upper Tullig, Killorglin, was before the district court contesting a charge that he assaulted then-74-year-old James O’Sullivan at Gortnascarry, Killorglin, on July 1, 2020, while fishing at the bank of the Laune river.
Judge Waters said he believed prosecution witness Tom Walsh’s account of the incident but is sure the defendant’s son, Tadhg O’Shea, lied while testifying at Cahersiveen Court House.
In his evidence, Mr O’Sullivan said he arrived at a deep pool at Gortnascarry before fishing his way downriver. He explained that fishermen fish in arcs at the site, keeping 30 to 40 metres behind the person in front while proceeding downstream quickly enough to not obstruct the next fisherman.
After he started, he said a white utility truck arrived, and three men – Michael O’Shea; his son, Tadhg; and Michael Spillane – exited the vehicle.
Mr O’Sullivan fished to the bottom of the pool before returning upstream to restart. He expressed surprise at seeing the O’Sheas again at the top, but he said he went to his vehicle to set up another rod to give them time to progress downstream.
When he came back 10 to 15 minutes later, he said the O’Sheas were still there.
He asked Tadhg O’Shea (then 17) if he intended to move down or if he could jump ahead of him. Mr O’Shea Junior said he was moving downriver, and Mr O’Sullivan told him to move along. Mr O’Shea Junior told the man to wait, but Mr O’Sullivan said “yes, but not all night”. Mr O’Shea Junior then responded with foul language, and the pair had a loud exchange.
Mr O’Sullivan thereafter entered the river, up from Mr O’Shea Junior, and he said he went as far upstream as the current allowed, keeping his distance from the young man, before the boy’s father approached and attacked him.
He said Mr O’Shea Senior pummelled him into the chest for half a minute during a three-to-four-minute altercation.
Matters settled, but Mr O’Sullivan claimed he later discovered some of his fishing equipment had been thrown into the river. On friends’ advice, he brought the earlier incident to Garda attention.
Defence solicitor Pat F O’Connor said the O’Sheas, in fact, arrived in a black vehicle, separately from Mr Spillane. He also put it to Mr O’Sullivan that he tried to “bustle” Mr O’Shea Junior.
“You were irate and annoyed,” he said, but Mr O’Sullivan said he was not: “No, I wondered, I’m someone who spent his life wondering. That’s why I have a Doctorate.”
Mr O’Connor claimed Mr O’Sullivan ran at Tadhg O’Shea to attack him, and that Mr O’Shea Senior responded by defending his son and pulling Mr O’Sullivan away. Mr O’Sullivan described this as “complete fiction, and shameful”.
Another fisherman, Tom Walsh, said he had fished downstream beyond a bend in the river before hearing foul and abusive language upstream. He could not see what was happening from where he stood and decided to go upriver to investigate.
When he arrived at the scene, Mr O’Shea Senior was calling Mr O’Sullivan names such as “German Jim” and tapping him into the chest, he said. From the bank, Mr Walsh tried to talk to the men and diffuse the situation.
Mr O’Connor put it to Mr Walsh that he didn’t witness the incident, and that his client merely caught Mr O’Sullivan and swung him away from his son.
Michael Spillane said he went fishing at a location upstream from the pool – ‘Breen’s Stream’ – when he heard raised voices downriver, but he arrived at the scene after the altercation had taken place. He strongly denied the O’Sheas travelled with him to the pond, but he did give them a spin afterwards to Breen’s, where the O’Sheas had also fished earlier.
Tadhg O’Shea said he had fished all his life and had not been purposely staying in one part of the pond. He claimed Mr O’Sullivan threatened to drown him “like a rat” and that the man had charged at him, only for his father to grab Mr O’Sullivan and pull him away.
Mr O’Shea Senior said he heard the exchange between his son and Mr O’Sullivan, and described how the elderly man charged at his son. He said that, in defending Tadhg, he kept a hold of Mr O’Sullivan for a while but denied hitting him.
Judge Waters said “clearly something happened”; that the O’Sheas held strong views in relation to angling and rights; and that he felt Mr Walsh had given the Court an accurate outline.
He also cast doubt on the relevance of questioning which vehicle the O’Sheas and Mr Spillane had arrived to the scene in.
He added that he was disappointed with Mr O’Shea Junior’s evidence and had “no doubt he didn’t tell the truth”.
He convicted Mr O’Shea Senior and put the matter back to January 13 for sentencing.