herald

Friday 6 December 2019

Dad in threat to cut off priest's fingers spared jail

Mark Halligan walked free. Photo: Collins Courts
Mark Halligan walked free. Photo: Collins Courts

A man with a religious persecution disorder who followed a parish priest into a sacristy with a knife and threatened to cut off his fingers has received a suspended sentence.

Mark Halligan (45), of Mountain View Park, Rathfarnham, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to making a threat to kill or cause serious harm in Balally, Dundrum, on September 11, 2016.

Gda Ronan Kennedy told Eoghan Cole, prosecuting, that the accused followed parish priest Fr Peter Byrne into the sacristy and began to talk about "various things".

Gda Kennedy said Halligan had a large knife with him and told the priest he would "cut your fingers off".

A parishioner saw what was happening and contacted gardai, who arrested the accused at the scene.

Halligan has 17 previous convictions for offences including theft, misuse of drugs, crim- inal damage and public order. He has two children with an ex-partner.

Gda Kennedy agreed with Fiona Murphy, defending, that there were no injuries to the priest.

Schizophrenia

He also agreed that her client had engaged with St John of God Hospital and there had been no problems since.

Ms Murphy said her client has been diagnosed with a religious persecution disorder, which is a strain of schizophrenia.

She said he had always worked until the last two or three years, when his mental health difficulties took over.

Judge Martin Nolan said he could accept Halligan was delusional at the time. He noted he had since obtained suitable treatment.

The judge jailed Halligan for three years, but suspended the sentence on condition he keep the peace and be of good behaviour for three years.

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