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Man jailed after he ran over his father-in-law and killed him at family christening party

Man jailed after he ran over his father-in-law and killed him at family christening party
22/03/2024****FILE PHOTO ****1/3/22 John McDonagh (34), of Manorfield Dale, Blanchardstown, Dublin, leaving Dublin District Court after he was charged with dangerous driving causing death, of Dan OΓ•Reilly, in August 2020. PIC: Collins Courts

A man who drove over his father-in-law and killed him after shots were fired during a row at a family christening party has been jailed for three years.

There were shouts of protest in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Friday, as John McDonagh was sentenced, with family members – including his in-laws – screaming at him as he was led into custody.

McDonagh (36), of Manorfield Dale, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15, pleaded guilty to one count of endangerment about the death of his father-in-law, Daniel O'Reilly (58), at McDonagh's then home address on Tymon North Road, Tallaght on August 9th, 2020.

It is a charge that carries a maximum sentence of seven years.

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Sergeant James Ward told Emmet Nolan BL, prosecuting, that a family christening was held on the day in question, with celebrations afterward in a local pub and then in McDonagh's house.

Neighbours reported loud noises coming from the house late at night, with alcohol being consumed, the court heard.

Argument

An argument occurred between McDonagh, the victim, Mr O'Reilly, and another man who cannot be named for legal reasons. Several witnesses reported hearing both men telling McDonagh “You're dead” and that they were going to come back with a gun.

McDonagh then had a row with his wife and was sitting in his van outside the house when Mr O'Reilly and the other man returned.

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The other man had what appeared to be a gun, but it was actually a starter pistol, the court heard.

As he fired two shots, McDonagh started his van into reverse. He drove over Mr O'Reilly who was behind the van, dragging him for a distance of 10 metres. He then put the van into drive and drove over Mr O'Reilly as he lay prostrate on the ground.

Harrowing footage of the incident was played in court after Mr Nolan indicated that members of the victim's family wished for it to be played.

Daniel O'Reilly's family arriving at court. Photo: Collins

A total of 17 victim impact statements were handed in, with many family members in court for the hearing. There were emotional scenes in court as the footage was played.

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Emergency services were called to the scene, with Mr O'Reilly suffering a cardiac arrest in the ambulance. Medics performed CPR on him for 40 minutes before he was pronounced dead, the court heard. He died as a result of traumatic injuries from being knocked down, a medical report stated.

The court heard that McDonagh drove away from the scene and crashed his van into a wall nearby. When he was arrested shortly afterward, he was agitated, intoxicated, and talking nonsensically, the court heard. He has six previous convictions for minor offences.

Three of Mr O'Reilly's daughters read out victim impact statements in court, describing their father as a good and kind man, who loved and cared for his family and had never been in trouble in his life.

They outlined how they remain haunted by the fact that their father died alone in hospital, with no one to hold his hand. They said no one deserved to die in such a manner and that they had been robbed of a father, while their children were robbed of their granddad.

“The scars of the trauma I have endured will last the rest of my life,” one daughter said. She noted that McDonagh did not plead guilty until just before his trial, causing added pain to the family. “This alone demonstrates too well that he does not have empathy for our suffering and loss,” she said.

Another daughter said she had no idea that when she put on her baby's christening dress that morning, it would be the last day she would see her father alive.

Michael Bowman SC, defending, said McDonagh could only apologise for causing the death of his father-in-law. He said McDonagh is now estranged from his wife – Mr O'Reilly's daughter.

Fatal incident

Mr Bowman submitted that McDonagh drove the vehicle in the way he did in order to get out of what he believed to be a fatal incident unfolding. “He was in a state of absolute terror and fear,” he said.

Defence counsel noted that McDonagh was at home on his own property, a place where he was entitled to a degree of safety when Mr. O'Reilly and the other man returned with the starter pistol.

“The unfortunate truth is had this not been escalated by the return of both gentlemen, one with a weapon, then this wouldn't have happened,” he said.

Sentencing McDonagh, Judge Martin Nolan accepted that McDonagh was “terrified and frightened” at the time of the incident.

However, he noted McDonagh was still obliged to drive responsibly. He said that after the first impact, McDonagh should have known where his father-in-law was and not driven over him again.

The judge accepted McDonagh was unlikely to re-offend again. He set a headline sentence of six years and reduced it to three, taking mitigating factors into account.

The sentence elicited shouts of protest from some of Mr O'Reilly's family and supporters, with shouts of “this is not justice” in court.

Isabel Hayes

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