BY OLIVIA KELLEHER
THE family of a 32-year-old man who died two years after he sustained serious injuries in a one punch assault in West Cork attended court to support the man who hit their son, embracing him when he received a three-year suspended sentence.
Aidan Coyle (48) of McGurk’s Villa, Gulafuff, Co Derry had pleaded guilty to assault causing harm to Micheál O’Neill on Pearse Street, Clonakilty, on March 11th,2017.
Dt Sgt Kevin Long said Micheál O’Neill was in De Barra’s in Clonakilty on the evening of March 10th 2017. At one stage he stood on a stool to see the musician who was playing and a security man told him to get off it.
The security man was talking to Mr O’Neill outside the pub when Aidan Coyle approached and had words with him.
Mr Coyle threw a single punch at O’Neill after what Judge Sean O’Donnabhain called a ‘misguided intervention in what he thought was a developing situation.’ Mr O’Neill hit his head off the footpath.
Coyle rushed to the assistance of the injured party and put him in the recovery position until the ambulance arrived. He co operated with gardaí and gave his details to Garda James Keane upon his arrival at the scene. Mr O’Neill was put in an induced coma in hospital for a fortnight and he remained in Cork University Hospital for a further month.
His family said he subsequently went on a long road to recovery with the help of his loved ones.
Tragically, two years after the assault, he passed away at home on March 15th 2019.
In an emotional address his family said they had forgiven Coyle for assaulting him.
‘We, Micheál’s family, intend to follow Micheál’s lead of kindness and understanding. We forgive this man’s actions and hope we can all find peace to move forward from this.’
Mr Coyle shed tears as a three-year suspended sentence was handed down in the case. Mr O’Neill’s parents hugged him and the trio left the court room together.
In the victim impact statement, the family said they wanted the kind voice of Micheál to be heard.
‘While Micheál didn’t talk much about what happened that night, he did talk about how he didn’t want anything to happen to the man who hit him. Micheál felt no anger or malice towards him. He felt enough had happened and just wanted both (himself and Mr Coyle) to be able to move forward and put this in the past – that was the type of man Micheál was, he was a good man.’
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said he had to consider assault causing serious harm as a separate matter from the fact that Mr O’Neill later died. The judge said that while the family had expressed their view it was up to the court to determine on the issue. He stressed that it was important to note that there was no animosity between the two men.
‘He (O’Neill) did make some recovery and had expressed his own view about what happened on the night and he said enough had happened to the defendant and he did not want to make much more of it. His parents have spoken to the defendant and they take a like view. They accept the genuineness of Coyle’s remorse and accept the turmoil he is going through.’
Judge Ó Donnabháin used his last day of sentencing criminal cases in Cork prior to his retirement to again reiterate the dangers of one-punch assaults.
‘This is a classic case of catastrophic injuries being inflicted from a one-punch assault. Such cases are a great worry to the court.’
The judge added that he could see the remorse and trauma of the defendant was genuine, adding that Coyle had also ‘suffered’ because of his actions.