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Jailed for ‘vile’ messages sent to autism campaigner

July 30th, 2022 5:50 PM

By Southern Star Team

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A 55-YEAR-old man who sent ‘vile, vulgar and offensive’ messages to a West Cork autism campaigner about her family has been sentenced to 10 months in prison.

Eamonn Deegan of 43 Springfield Court, Cellbridge, Co Kildare pleaded guilty at Clonakilty District Court this week to a charge of harassing Fiona O’Leary on dates between June 3rd and 7th in 2019.

The court heard that Fiona O’Leary, who has four children with  autism, initially received a number of silent phone calls, which was then followed by a series of messages on the Messenger app insulting her and her family. Following a garda investigation they traced the holder of the phone to the defendant.

Some of the messages sent by Mr Deegan initially were read out in court and said: ‘You are a bag of suicide waiting to happen’ and ‘are you autistic too, b****?’. He said there is no such thing as autism and that she was simply a ‘bad mother.’

Ms O’Leary did not respond to the initial messages but later replied and called him a ‘coward’ and that he was ‘sad man.’

The court heard that he has 13 previous convictions including several for the possession of knives and a number for drug offences including cultivation.

Solicitor Conrad Murphy said his client, who was homeless at the time, regrets sending those messages to Ms O’Leary.

‘He was stressed and living in hostels then and he had never any intention of travelling down to West Cork,’ said Mr Murphy, who added that it was his client’s first time in court for such an offence of this type. Mr Deegan apologised in court for his behaviour.

Judge James McNulty said that the meesages were ‘beyond vulgar abuse and crossed the line of decency’.

‘It wasn’t just silent phone calls in the middle of the night but then it went further with online vile, vulgar and offensive remarks about the woman’s children and what he proposed to do with them,’ said Judge McNulty.

He sentenced him to 10 months in prison and recognisances for an appeal was fixed in his own bond of €5,000 with no cash required. However, while on bail pending his appeal Judge McNulty directed him not to communicate with Fiona O’Leary or her family and also directed him not to engage directly or indirectly in any online abusive messaging to any person or group and to stay out of Cork except for court appearances.

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