CONVICTED gang rapist Thomas O’Neill has been been given a six-month jail sentence for committing violent disorder in his native Limerick city, but is likely to be released in January with good behaviour.
Mr O’Neill, 33, with an address at Lenihan Avenue, Balllinacurra Weston, pleaded guilty before Limerick Circuit Court, to one count of violent disorder, following an alleged fight between a number of parties that took place in broad daylight, in Limerick city centre, on March 22, 2021.
The court heard Mr O’Neill received a telephone call on the day and told that a close relative was being attacked in the city centre by a man referred to in court as “Mr A”.
When Mr O’Neill, who the State described as “having a propensity for violence”, arrived at the scene, he confronted Mr A and grabbed him by the neck.
Gardai said Mr O’Neill ignored the directions of gardaí who were already at the scene, who asked him to desist and leave the area.
The court heard Mr A and two others, who were referred to as Ms X and Mr Y, had been involved in an earlier “fist fight” in the city centre.
Gardaí said Mr O’Neill “grabbed” Mr A and “pinned” him to a car as gardaí tried to separate them.
CCTV footage from security cameras at the scene, which showed Mr O’Neill arriving and confronting Mr A, was shown in court.
Mr A was taken by ambulance to hospital with signs of concussion, bruising to his right eye, and scrapes to his neck.
Mr O’Neill told gardaí he went to the scene to “protect” a third party, and he claimed Mr A had been the aggressor and had called him “a rapist”.
Gardaí agreed under cross examination by Mr O’Neill’s defence barrister, Liam Carroll, BL, that the accused would have been “frustrated” at being called a rapist, and that “there were two of them in it”.
Mr Carroll said Mr O’Neill had “from a young age being incarcerated for lengthy periods and has found it difficult to deal with his emotions, and he accepts his conduct was unacceptable”.
Mr O’Neill, who has two children of his own, is married to April Collins, a former girlfriend of notorious criminal Ger Dundon who turned State’s witness, helping gardaí break up the Dundon crime gang in 2013.
In summation to the court, John O’Sullivan, Senior Prosecuting Counsel, said Mr O’Neill “has a long history of violence, most notably a gang rape for which he received a ten-year sentence in 2004, he was a teenager at the time”.
Mr O’Sullivan added Mr O’Neill has previous convictions which included, “intimidation of a witness; robbery; criminal damage; and violent disorder; and he has a history of significant and violent criminality”.
In January 2004, Mr O’Neill,was one of three 16-year-old boys, including Dean Barry of Garryglass Avenue, Ballincurra Weston, and Darragh O’Neill, Lenihan Avenue, along with 15-year-old Jason Ring, of Crecora Avenue, Ballinacurra Weston, who were sentenced to a total of 31 years in prison, for a violent gang rape of a woman at Cratloe Woods, Co Clare on January 23, 2003.
The late Mr Justice Paul Carney, presiding at the Central Criminal Court, who sentenced Mr O’Neill for the rape, said gardaí had described him as the “ringleader” and the “director of operations”.
Mr Barry was found dead in his cell in tragic circumstances at Limerick Prison, aged 24, on January 21, 2012.
In June 2005, Stephen Barry (25), of Roxboro Road, Limerick, was jailed for 20 years for having also participated in the gang rape.
The five accused pleaded guilty to rape and assault causing harm to the victim, as well as the false imprisonment and assault of a man who was with the victim on the night.
Mr O’Neill received a six-month sentence for the violent disorder last March, which was backdated to September 27 last.