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Judge tells of 'most socially divisive' case

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Sceala Irish Craic Forum Discussion:     Judge tells of 'most socially divisive' case

Pádraig Nally, farmer of the county Mayo was yesterday sentenced to six years in prison for the manslaughter of Traveller John Ward.

Speaking after Mr Justice Paul Carney said it was "the most socially divisive case I've had to try".

Before hand, packed courtroom, where Marie Ward, the exhausted-looking widow of John Ward, sat with a handful of friends and relatives surrounded by some 50 silent supporters of Nally.

In a hesitant, tearful voice, Marie Ward told the court she had been married for over 23 years and had 11 children, aged from 22 down to four. Had she a good relationship with her husband? "Yeah," she answered slowly. And how was she since his death? "I'm lost, I'm lost without my husband. Since my husband died, I'm not the same."

"It's getting worser day by day My youngest son is four - 'where's Daddy, when is he coming back?' What can I say to him or my other children?"

Character referees for Nally - a man who lived alone in a neglected old house down an isolated lane - took the stand. Michael Varley, a neighbouring farmer; Paddy Rock, who organises the Culchie Festivals and has travelled to ram sales all over the country with Nally; Michael Biggins, chairman of Mayo IFA, with land adjoining Nally's in Funshinagh.

Consultant psychologist Dr John P Bogue described Nally as "a sincere and forthright man who showed pronounced symptoms of anxiety and obsessionality". Nally "certainly" regarded himself as having done wrong in the law of the land and "as a religious man", knew he would be answerable to God.

Dr Bogue added that Nally was "also conscious and sensitive" that the Ward children had been left without a father - upon which Mr Justice Carney remarked the victim impact report "would indicate that some of [ Nally's] friends are not" - a reference to hate mail received by Marie Ward.

The six-year sentence was delivered to stunned silence. Nally's friends, who expected a custodial sentence of two years or so, listened for the word "suspended". Marie Ward looked confused and distressed. "She has nothing to say to anyone," a relative roared before the little group pushed through the crowd, one of them shouting to be "let out the fecking door".

In the Round Hall, Nally's sister, Maureen, who had been quiet and composed throughout, gave a polite "no comment", while their friends stood dumbfounded.

An angry Michael Biggins gathered himself sufficiently to say that he was "definitely hopeful for an appeal". He was the first to offer sympathy to the Ward family after the shooting, he said, and had no doubt there was discrimination. "But I think it's time that they and the Travellers' support groups stood up and condemned criminality within their own community because that's what's driving the wedge between themselves and the settled community."

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