A getaway driver involved in a gangland-style hit on a loving father who had no involvement in crime will be sentenced today at the Central Criminal Court.
Eric Shorthall (23), with an address at Muskerry Road, Ballyfermot, Dublin 10, pleaded guilty to impeding the apprehension or prosecution of Warren Nolan, the man convicted of murdering Alan O'Neill.
Mr O'Neill was shot dead on May 27, 2015, in the driveway of his home on Kiltalown Road in Tallaght.
At a sentence hearing yesterday Detective Garda Conor Harrison said that he and a colleague stopped Shorthall in a Nissan Almera at an area known as the Belfry in Tallaght because they thought he looked very young.
While he was being questioned a 999 call came in to say that an Almera was driving suspiciously in the area and shortly after that, another call was received saying that a man had been shot in nearby Kiltalown.
"It was a rolling incident," the detective told Pauline Walley SC for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
"While we were talking to Mr Shorthall, the call came in that someone had been shot and I could hear a car being driven very hard towards us through the Belfry and then I was aware that a car was on fire."
Two men then ran towards the waiting detective.
One of them was Warren Nolan and the detective, believing all these incidents were linked, arrested him.
Nolan, of Rowlagh Park in Clondalkin, would be convicted in December 2018 of Mr O'Neill's murder and of burning out the car used in the shooting.
Det Gda Harrison said: "The Almera was the second getaway car, strategically placed with Mr Shorthall as the driver awaiting the two people in the hit car."
The witness said that gardaí compiled CCTV footage showing Shorthall's car in convoy with Nolan's "hit car" in the lead-up to the shooting and showing the drivers of the cars talking to one another.
Shorthall was 18 years old at the time. The detective described the deceased as a "devoted family man".
He was a step-father to his partner Michelle Usher's first two children and the couple had a child of their own.
He said that neither the deceased nor any member of his family was known to gardaí.
Shorthall has 61 convictions for public order, theft, road traffic and drugs offences.
While Shorthall and Nolan are the only people to have gone before the courts in relation to the murder, the detective said the investigation is ongoing.
Michael Bowman SC for Shorthall said his client had a "difficult if not tragic background" and was left in the care of his grandparents from an early age.
A member of his own family was murdered in 1995 and this had a profound effect on him, counsel said.
He asked the judge to take into account his client's early guilty plea.
Mr O'Neill's eldest step-daughter Chantelle Usher told the court that her family is "forever broken".
She said her step-dad knew his children better than they knew themselves. "He knew when we needed a hug before we knew ourselves."
She described him as "happy, funny and kind. The kind of embarrassing parent who liked to embarrass us in front of our friends".
Alan's mother Doris said her son brought "love, laughter, wisdom and joy to us all".
She said the family's lives were shattered. "We adored our Alan and he loved us, we will keep trying to do our best, to do Alan proud, as he always wanted people to do well."