Feuding families bury the hatchet five in court after violent incidents

A VIOLENT three year feud involving a number of families from the Tralee and Castleisland areas has been resolved and peace has been restored among the feuding factions the courts have heard.

At Tralee Circuit Criminal Court on Thursday, five Tralee men, all members of one side of the dispute, appeared in court on a variety of charges arising from two violent incidents that occurred at the height of the feud.

Bernard O'Neill (25) of 19 Ballinorig Estate, Martin Quilligan (29) of 102 Mitchels Road, Jimmy Quilligan (30) of 128 Cois Abhainn and Jimmy (22) and Francie O'Brien (23) both of 10 Mitchels Road appeared before Judge Carroll Moran charged with engaging in violent disorder and the criminal damage of two cars at 29 Deerpark Estate in Manor on June 17, 2011.

Jimmy Quilligan and Jimmy O'Brien were also charged with engaging in violent disorder at St Brendan's Church on Brewery Road, Tralee on May 16, 2012.

The five men, each represented by a different barrister, had initially pleaded not guilty to the charges and were due to face trial before a jury from 2pm on Thursday afternoon. The trial was called off when the five dependents changed their pleas to guilty just before 1pm.

During the subsequent sentencing hearing, the court heard details of the two incidents.

Judge Carroll Moran was told that on June 17 members of the opposing faction in the feud had been driving a car in Tralee when they had a "chance encounter" with a transit van being driven by Francie O'Brien.

The group in the car made for the home of Mary "Doll" McCarthy at 29 Deerpark Estate in Manor and during the journey they noticed a second Transit van, driven by Francie O'Brien's brother Jimmy, had joined the first and both were following them to the estate.

On arriving in the estate, four men, Bernard O'Neill, Martin Quilligan, Jimmy Quilligan and fourth named man, Myles O'Neill, who was not before the court, got out of the vans armed with a variety of weapons including iron and metal bars, slash hooks, a hatchet and a golf club.

The four men attacked two cars that were parked outside 29 Deerpark and shouted threats at the opposing faction members who were in the house and in one of the cars at the time.

In the course of the incident one member of the opposing faction was attacked and injured with a hatchet that was wielded by Myles O'Neill. The court was told that Myles O'Neill, described as the most violent member of the group involved in the attack, has since left the jurisdiction.

The second incident before the court involved "an extremely violent" attack that took place at St Brendan's Church on Brewery Road during the removal service for father and daughter Anthony and Nadine O'Brien who had died tragically in a house fire in their home at Killeen in Tralee four days earlier.

The court heard that Tony Quilligan, a member of the opposing faction, was outside the church when two vans pulled up nearby. Around seven men armed with slash hooks, golfclubs and wheelbraces left the vans and attacked Tony Quilligan who in the course of the violence was struck in the neck with a slash hook.

Tony Quilligan, described in court as a man who is "well able to handle himself" managed to wrestle the slash hook from his attacker and use it to attack one of the vans as it left the scene.

Judge Moran was told that Jimmy Quilligan and Jimmy O'Brien had driven the vans from St Martin's Park to the church and had not actually taken part in the violence, remaining in the vans outside the church carpark on Brewery Road throughout the incident.

Prosecuting Barrister Tom Rice said CCTV footage recorded in St Martin's Park showed the two vans being "loaded rapidly with weapons" before the vans "moved very quickly to the location of the attack."

Mr Rice said that "a courageous member of the public" had also contacted gardaí after they witnessed the vans being loaded with weapons and speeding off.

Outlining the background to the incidents, Garda Emma Mullane told the court that both attacks were part of a then ongoing feud between two Kerry factions that involved several families who were in many cases interrelated, linked through marriage or "in some way connected."

Garda Mullane said the feud had its origins in an incident in a scrapyard in London during which a member of one faction "was seriously damaged with an implement." She said that after the London incident it had "fallen to cousins in Ireland to sort it out."

She told the court that the feud "waxed and waned" but that the factions have resolved their differences and relations between the sides have been peaceful since May 2012.

Speaking on behalf of the five barristers, Brian McInerny BL said the victims in the Deerpark incident did not want to see the five men jailed as they were "anxious to make the peace work."

Mr McInerny said that of the five dependents before the courts three were planning to move to the UK with their families once the case had been settled.

Judge Carroll Moran described the five men's actions as "disgraceful conduct that can't be tolerated." He imposed two year suspended sentences on each of the five defendants.


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