Offaly musician left with lasting injuries after 'savage and unprovoked attack'

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Man ordered to pay victim after 'savage' Offaly assault

Man ordered to pay victim after 'savage' Offaly assault

A man guilty of an unprovoked assault in a Tullamore public house must pay €15,000 to his victim, Judge Keenan Johnson ordered last week.

Tony McDonagh, 21, had been drinking all day in the Lantern, Kilbride Street and was recorded on CCTV punching Damien Keating twice to the head.

The victim, a singer and musician who had gone into the pub early to check about a booking for an upcoming gig there, was left with lasting injuries.

“No money will ever compensate Mr Keating for what he has been through,” said Judge Johnson as he imposed a three-year suspended sentence on Mr McDonagh, a married father of two from 14 St Joseph's Park, Dunsink Lane, Dublin 11.

Mr McDonagh had pleaded guilty to assaulting Mr Keating, causing him harm, on November 27 last and the accused was back in court last week for a sentencing hearing.

Garda Alan Burke outlined that Mr Keating said in a statement he was in the Lantern on Thursday, February 20, 2020, to check a booking for the following Saturday night at a venue where he had been playing for the previous year-and-a-half.

He had gone into the pub at about 9pm or 9.30pm and when the owner wasn't there he stayed for a drink and spoke to another customer and the barman.

Four men who Mr Keating did not know were playing pool and drinking and were getting louder and fighting among themselves as the night went on.

At one point Mr Keating went out to the front door for a cigarette and said something like “calm down” and subsequently, when the victim had sat back down, one of the four squared up to him and he could not remember anything after that, apart from being violently sick afterwards.

A statement was also given to the gardai by Bernadine Tyrrell, a customer in the pub, and she said the four men were drunk and arguing at the pool table when Mr Keating “nicely told them” to calm down.

Ms Tyrrell said she saw one of the men striking Mr Keating on the back of the head and punching him in the face.
He fell down and was bleeding and the other men then left the bar.

The barman, Peter Stones, said in his statement that the men were already drinking there when he started work at 6pm and at 11pm when he told them it was “last orders” they said they were waiting for a lift.

The men were arguing and Mr Stones saw one of the men hitting Mr Keating who dropped down and seemed to be out cold.

One of the four men, John McDonagh, also gave a statement in which he said they were in there for the day and he confirmed there had been an argument between themselves and while he could not remember it, he thinks Tony McDonagh, who was drunk, hit him.

He also remembers Mr Keating coming over and saying something and Tony McDonagh hit him.

The CCTV footage from the bar was played in court and Mr Keating could be seen being struck twice by the accused as he walked away from the other men.

Having viewed the footage, Judge Johnson remarked: “It seems to be a fairly savage and unprovoked attack.”

The accused was arrested in Finglas the following July and when questioned, he said he had gone to Tullamore with his father, his uncle and another man from Rochfortbridge.

They were in the Lantern for a “good few hours” and drank a lot of pints and because he normally did not drink much he was “very drunk”.

He pointed himself out when shown the CCTV footage and said he had been struck by his uncle which resulted in a fight starting.

He identified himself as the person who assaulted Damien Keating and said he didn't have a clue why he had done it but was “more than sorry”.

A medical report from Tullamore Hospital's emergency department indicated Mr Keating had lost consciousness at the scene, had a large bruise around an eye, swelling to a cheek, a deviated nose and a two-centimetre laceration to the scalp near the neck.

Mr Keating was kept in hospital overnight and released following scans the next day.

Mr Keating read a victim impact statement into the court record himself and said he was a 61-year-old man who had been the victim of an unimaginable and unprovoked assault.

He said when he was lying on a trolley in hospital he went into complete shock and his face was unrecognisable.

When he was told he would require an X-ray and a CT scan to determine whether he had a brain injury, “Fear took over instantly. My first thought was for my family and my four teenage sons.”

He wondered who would take care of his family. “I was petrified and cried when I was left on my own awaiting the tests and anticipating the results.”

He said the night was horrific and he was relieved when the tests came back normal but he had a depressed fracture on the nose and a deep gash on the back of his head.

He had some nerve damage to the face and some paralysis below one of his eyes. He said his family had suffered greatly since and he had “gone through every emotion known to man” including pain, anger, fear, shame humiliation and depression.

The pain did not subside for months and he felt shame appearing in public because of his physical appearance. He did not want to go out and developed a fear of public places.

His family had suffered and financially he was at a loss of €5,880 as a result of not being able to work for eight months up to October last year.

“I am doing ok but I still have not recovered from my injuries. My face still bears a slight swelling beneath my right eye, some nerve damage, pins and needles, and slight paralysis.

“The sight in my right eye has deteriorated and I have developed a lazy eye which waters when I get tired.”

He said he still had a fear of public places and suffered bouts of deep depression from time to time.

He thanked all who had helped him, including the ambulance crew, hospital staff and the gardai.

In conclusion, he said he did not know Mr McDonagh at the time of the incident, had no contact with him since and did not wish to contact him in the future.

“However, I do not wish Mr McDonagh any ill will but hope he will realise through his actions what effect this incident had on my life and my family.”

Judge Johnson told Mr Keating he had his sympathy because he had been through a horrible experience and he commended him for his magnanimity towards the offender.

“You were the peacemaker and you became the victim which shouldn't have happened.”

The court heard Mr McDonagh had a previous conviction for acting as a collector without authorisation and another for criminal damage.

Suzanne Dooner, BL, defending, said the accused had written a letter of apology and said on the day of the assault he “had a lot of cocaine” in him, along with alcohol.

He had a difficult early life, losing one brother to suicide and he then turned to drugs and drink but he was no longer using cocaine.

A member of the Travelling community, he had brought €3,000 to court in compensation and Judge Johnson told him to get training and work instead of sitting at home “twiddling your thumbs”.

In addition to the €3,000, he must pay €4,000 in three instalments once a year from next February until the full €15,000 is discharged.