herald

Saturday 19 October 2019

Gerry O'Carroll: What signal did these ignorant Neanderthals send?

The scenes at the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee, at the sentencing of Danny Foley, have caused shock, anger and outrage.

Foley, a bouncer, was jailed for seven years, with two years suspended, for a sexual assault on a young woman of 22. After sentence was passed, a group of between 50 and 60 middle-aged to elderly men hugged and sympathised with him.

Some of them broke into tears. They commiserated with him as if he was a victim of some blind injustice or terrible wrong.

What made this scene more surreal and appalling was that the victim was in court, surrounded only by a garda and a member of the Rape Crisis Centre.

She was subjected to this scene, which added another dimension of pain and suffering to her ordeal.

I want to say that these misguided, ignorant, Neanderthals who disgraced themselves in court are not representative of the kind, warm-hearted and noble spirited people of Listowel where I am proud to be a local. One of the other extraordinary aspects of this hearing was that, before sentencing, a priest, Fr Sean Sheehy, provided a character reference for this convicted fiend.

Fr Sheehy said there wasn't a bad bone in Foley's body and that he was respectful to women, a comment that Judge Donagh McDonagh totally dismissed.

The judge said the evidence given in court gave a lie to Fr Sheehy's assertions. Fr Sheehy's intervention was outrageous, despicable and totally inappropriate in the circumstances. He was one of the people who shook hands with the accused man.

In the name of God, what signal does that send out? He did not go up to the only victim in this case or shake her hand, the young woman who the judge described as behaving in a dignified way.

Judge McDonagh was moved by the simplicity of her victim impact statement.

I, like all decent people, would salute her courage and her dignity in coming forward and enduring the harrowing ordeal of the witness box.

Foley told lie after lie and told in his crude and coarse language that he had come across "your wan" when he was going for a "slash".

However, the judge pointed out to him the CCTV showed him carrying this almost semi-conscious woman across the car park to a skip.

Foley told lie after lie. In the witness box, he re-victimised her and tried to destroy her reputation and character before the jury. He pleaded not guilty and subjected his victim to the extraordinary ordeal of giving evidence.

This monster at no stage during the trial or afterwards showed any remorse and gave no apology.

It was a vile and sickening attack and only God knows the lifelong scarring -- physical, psychological, and emotional -- that this victim must now carry. I want to show my solidarity in this column with the victim.

I admire and appreciate the courage and dignity of this young woman who has come forward to testify at such enormous personal cost to herself.

Foley has brought shame on himself, his family and his friends by his predatory and uncontrollable sexual lust. I think in view of the dreadful publicity and the smearing of an entire town, the media would do well to remember it was a jury of 12 Kerry people in the North Kerry town of Tralee that convicted this monster.

As a mark of solidarity, I am suggesting that the people of Listowel send cards and letters of support to the garda station in Listowel.

This might bring the victim some comfort and support as well as showing that the real decent people of Listowel are behind her and support her all the way.

I wonder what my fellow townsman and one of our country's most famous playwrights and authors who wrote so perceptively of the frailties of our human condition would have made of all this.

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