Larry O’Connor (33), with an address at The Lodge, Great National Hotel, Ballykisteen, Co Tipperary, fired two shots using a pump-action shotgun at his cousin Danny Harty’s home, before breaking into the house and firing two more shots from inside.
Mr Harty, his partner Noreen Dooley, and their 10-month-old twins were asleep in an upstairs bedroom when the premeditated gun attack occurred at their home, at Deelside, The Quay, Askeaton, Co Limerick, at around 3.30am, on July 13, 2019.
O’Connor was driven to and from the scene by his older brother Daniel O’Connor (42) of Hassetts Villas, Thomondgate.
Larry O’Connor initially fired shots from outside the two-storey house, hitting guttering just above a balcony outside the victims’ bedroom.
He broke into the house, firing a shot into the kitchen, hitting a fridge and a window. He also fired a shot up through a ceiling onto the first floor, where the victims had been asleep. No-one was injured.
Gardaí said they believed the shooting was linked to “animosity” between the cousins.
Mr Harty had previously lived with the two accused men, who are his first cousins, and he had been in a previous relationship with a sister of the two defendants and had fathered two of her children, the court heard.
O’Connor pleaded not guilty to six charges, including recklessly discharging a pump-action shotgun, possession of a gun, possession of ammunition and aggravated burglary. However, he was convicted by a jury following a two-week trial before Limerick Circuit Criminal Court, last March.
His brother Daniel O’Connor was today jailed for seven years, with the final year suspended. He pleaded guilty to one count of burglary with intent to commit reckless discharge of a firearm during the early stages of the trial, however the State accepted he did not fire a shot nor enter the house on the night.
Larry O’Connor, who is currently serving a two-year sentence for a separate burglary in Co Kerry, had 79 previous convictions, while Daniel O’Connor had 38 convictions, mostly for road traffic offences.
The court heard while Larry O’Connor does not accept the jury’s verdict against him, Daniel O’Connor wrote a letter of apology to the victims and was remorseful.
Judge Pat Meghan said he could not reduce any part of Larry O’Connor’s sentence due to him showing “no remorse” nor accepting he was the gunman.
“This was clearly a premeditated attack, a gun and ammunition were sought, the car did not have registration plates, the gun was not found, the defendant’s face was covered, and as he occupied the house, Noreen Dooley, Daniel Harty and their 10-month-old babies were in a very vulnerable place asleep”, the judge said.
Both defendants were given credit by the court for having already served 15 months while awaiting the outcome of their case.
Noting the victims were not in court, nor had they provided victim impact statements, the judge said: “One can only imagine the terror outlined by Noreen Dooley in the 999 call, and the lasting effect it has had on the parties.”
In an interview a few days after the gun attack, Noreen Dooley outlined how they leaped from their bed and hit the floor to try to escape the gunfire.
“My children were on the floor and they were actually screaming their eyes out, the bangs alone would have frightened them, they’re only babies,” she said.
Ms Dooley said Mr Harty tried to protect their twin son and daughter as bullets were fired into their house.
“He grabbed the twins and sat on the floor just in case (the attackers) did come into the room, he had his hands wrapped around them on the floor, and his back was up against the (bedroom) door to try to stop them coming in,” she said.
The couple’s two-year-old son was at a relative’s house at the time.
Showing the bullet holes in her home, Ms Dooley said: “Until the day I go to my grave I will never forget what I went through inside in the bedroom with my kids. It’s hard to describe, I genuinely thought they were combing through to kill us.”