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Monday 18 February 2019

'I will never understand why gentle giant Alan was shot', says mum as killer sentenced

The victim’s mother Doris O’Neill
The victim’s mother Doris O’Neill

The mother of a man shot dead in the front garden of his home by a teenager has said she will never understand why her "gentle giant" of a son was murdered.

Doris O'Neill made a statement during the sentencing hearing for Warren Nolan (22), who was aged 18 when he shot Alan O'Neill (35) at Kiltalown Road in Tallaght on May 27, 2015, in an attack that was planned over several days.

Nolan was found guilty of Mr O'Neill's murder by a majority jury verdict in December. He was also found guilty by a unanimous verdict of setting fire to the car he used in the "hit".

Horrific

Mr Justice Paul McDermott sentenced Nolan to the mandatory term of life imprisonment for murder and six years for setting the car on fire. Both sentences were backdated to September 2017.

Before sentencing, Ms O'Neill told the court that losing her son the way she did was "too horrific, so traumatising, so devastating, so unbearable and so unforgettable".

"Gentle giant" Alan O'Neill

Her family, she said, fell apart and were made shells of themselves by their sadness, pain, depression, anxiety and grief.

Alan, she said, was her firstborn and helped her to bring up his siblings.

"He was always there for family, a shoulder to cry on, a hug, advice, chat, even for hours if needed. We were all close-knit, happy, lucky and blessed to have each other," she added.

He was artistic and creative, she said, and loved doing charity events and helping to feed the homeless.

He loved music and dance and was known to his friends and family as a gentle giant.

"I will never understand why anyone would want to hurt him, and maybe I will never know," she said.

"Heaven has gained an Earth angel that gained his wings. We will forever be heartbroken."

Mr O'Neill's stepdaughter, Chantelle Usher, said the shooting happened 10 days before she began her Leaving Certificate exams.

"The hardest thing I had to do was to leave the funeral home and sit my exams, when all I wanted was to spend every moment available saying my goodbyes," she said.

"But I felt I owed it to Alan as he spent the last year of his life dropping and collecting me from grinds, helping me study and ensuring I got all the rest and good food I needed in the lead-up to my orals and exams."

Her stepdad's priority had always been to "love and protect us", she said. "He knew when we needed a hug before we knew ourselves."

Michael Bowman SC, counsel for Nolan, said his client had a difficult background, having seen his mother die from an asthma attack as a young child.

He was brought up by his grandmother, who Mr Bowman said was the only positive influence in his life. He had become a drug user, taking cannabis and tablets, and was in the low range of intellectual ability.

Firearm

Detective Garda Conor Harrison told the court that Nolan had 24 previous convictions, including one for possession of a firearm in suspicious circumstances for which he was sentenced to five years' imprisonment, in June 2015, two weeks after Mr O'Neill's murder.

Det Gda Harrison said the firearms offence related to an incident in which a gun was pointed at a garda. The gun was subsequently found to contain no ammunition, he added.

In sentencing Nolan for setting the car on fire, Mr Justice McDermott said an appropriate sentence would be between seven and 10 years but taking into account his young age and other mitigating factors, he sentenced him to six years.

A source said last night: "It is fair to say that Mr Nolan's behaviour during these weeks was completely out of control and the streets are much safer with him locked up."

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