Lives destroyed | 

Sister of gun victim Sinead Connolly says ‘no sentence enough’ for men who left her paralysed

“These three have not only destroyed their own lives but they’ve destroyed the lives of their families.”

Dean McCarthy

Sinead is no longer a victim but a survivor, her sister Orla says

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

There is still a lot of anger in Orla Connolly’s voice when she speaks about the horrific Dublin shooting of her younger sister Sinead for which three men are now serving various jail sentences.

As far as Orla is concerned, the 15 years handed down to Dean McCarthy for the attempted murder of Sinead last March, the nine-and-a-half years for Joseph Byrne and the five-year sentence for Paul Mooney would never be enough to pay for what happened.

“I was never going to be happy with the sentences because there is no sentence that would be enough for what they did to Sinead,” Orla said.

“She was somebody who was full of life, vibrant and bubbly, but she has been left serving her own life sentence now.

“And that life expectancy has been shortened as a result. She’ll never be able to do all the things that a young woman in her prime, and a young mother as well, will be able to do.”

Sinead was a vibrant, bubbly person

At Mooney’s sentencing hearing earlier this month, the court heard how Sinead has been in full-time hospital care since the shooting. She was in intensive care due to multiple gunshot wounds and has been left paralysed and in need of a wheelchair for all mobility.

In her victim impact statement, Sinead said she has been left paralysed forever and dependent on pharmaceuticals and medical staff. She said that the bullets shattered her collarbone, broke her ribs, punctured her lung and shattered her spine.

She said that medical staff had told her these were “the most catastrophic injuries” they had ever seen.

She said that she was in a coma for 15 days, which caused tremendous grief and anxiety to her family.

Mooney (35) of Ring Street, Inchicore, Dublin 8, was jailed for six years, with the last 12 months suspended after he disposed of the firearm used in the attempted murder of Sinead.

Dean McCarthy

Co-accused, Joseph Byrne (33) of La Touche Road, Bluebell, Dublin 12, was jailed for nine-and-a-half years for possession of a G9A Grand Power semi-automatic handgun with intent to endanger life.

And last April, Dean McCarthy (33), of Bluebell, was jailed for 15 years after he pleaded guilty to her attempted murder.

But, to Orla and her family, they are all as guilty as each other.

“There’s Byrne, openly bringing down the gun, which is as easy to get now as a packet of cigarettes, with no regard for human life, whatsoever. I mean, what he got is not nearly enough. He’s as guilty as Dean, who actually pulled the trigger.

“If he not brought that gun down there that day, it would not have happened. If he had just decided to say no, Sinead would not have been shot.

“And Mooney, he didn’t care either. He disposed of it as if it was nothing.

Thug who shot brave mum Sinead Connolly in front of her daughter jailed for 15 years

“He had no concern for what had just happened, to Sinead or her daughter who was in the flat that day. They just went about causally carrying out their business.

“These are the people that facilitated Dean shooting Sinead. They’re just as bad as the one who pulled the trigger.”

Orla feels strongly that as well as Sinead being a victim, “Dean, Joey and Paul have made victims of their own families”.

“These three have not only destroyed their own lives but they’ve destroyed the lives of their families. Their rash decisions made that day have had this ripple effect on so many people.”

Sinead is no longer a victim but a survivor, her sister Orla says

Orla said that while was some closure with all three cases now over she still feels the system let her sister down.

“There was no mental health support made available to Sinead, considering what she went through. That should have been there for her and should be there for anybody who is a victim of crime.

“She was the victim of a very serious crime and yet there was no therapy for her.”

Meanwhile, Sinead remains in St James’s Hospital where she has been since April. She’s hoping to get out for three days over Christmas. But that’s all she will manage.

“The trials were an ordeal,” Orla added. “She had to go and face these three people on three separate occasions. But she’s strong, she faced them down in court and had her say.”

The sense of a rising level of increasing violence against women is also of concern to both Connolly sisters.

“There seem to be an epidemic at the moment ,” Orla added. “Sinead has often said she wanted to help people after her story was highlighted. And I’ve had people approach me about certain concerns in their own background after reading about Sinead in Sunday World.

“I would urge anyone out there who may be feeling the same concerns to not let it go any further and report it. Through talking about Sinead we’re raising awareness, to say, don’t be suffering, don’t be afraid. Come forward and don’t let it go to the level where I nearly lost my sister and my niece. Let somebody know, it doesn’t have to be a member of your family.

“If people want to come to me or Sinead they can just reach out because we want to help, even if it’s just to talk or be there for them.”

As they face into the New Year, Orla says they are hoping, in some way, to be able to put the last two years behind them.

And the first step on that road is Orla’s insistence that Sinead and her daughter Leah will no longer be victims, but are, “in my mind, survivors”.

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