Nally stated that he was demented with fear and this was the basis for his loss of control and killing of John Ward. The reason he was demented was that 9 months earlier a chainsaw had been stolen from his shed and the drawers in his house were ransacked. I would not begin to undermine how serious a violation this must have been for a man in his early 60s, living alone in south County Mayo however, Nally was not burgled again nor were there were no other burglaries in the area and neighbours testified that they were not afraid for their security. Evidence was put forward that strange cars passed through the area and 3 weeks beforehand two travellers stopped in a car to ask Nally directions. It was nothing more than long hours spent alone that drove this man to feelings of paranoia and fear- he spent most evenings in his shed, shot gun ready. He commented to Gardai after the shooting that he had felt something was going to happen and hadn’t slept at all the previous night. Neither his sister who spent the weekends with him or any of his friends were aware of or had any concern for this fear.
He shot Ward, a traveller with a string of convictions, as he saw him trying to gain entry to his house, proceeded to beat him with an ash plant giving him serious head injuries and then out of fear he would return reloaded his shotgun with 3 cartridges and proceeded to shoot him as he lay slumped or crouching on the ground.
At the original trial in Castlebar Judge Paul Carney directed the jury that any finding of not guilty would be perverse and the jury unanimously found him guilty of manslaughter. This was the basis upon which Nally’s defence team successfully sought an appeal leading to last weeks full acquittal. The jury could hardly have avoided the pre-publicity surrounding this trial yet they were still directed to adjudicate on the facts. Judge O’Higgins stated “If Mr Nally was frightened, scared, obsessed, and if he used no more force than he thought reasonable or appropriate, but more than what the objective person thought reasonable then he is guilty of manslaughter’. The first part of this test, the subjective element, could reduce murder to manslaughter, but not lead to a full acquittal. Only on the satisfaction of the second objective element, that the jury themselves believed Nally’s actions to be reasonable could he be found innocent. This is clearly what happened.
They as a sample of our society, peers of Nally, deemed that fatally shooting a man because of a break in that occurred 9 months ago, as he either crouched on the ground or was crawling away was a reasonable action. Ward was not a threat- he had been driven from Nallys home and was seriously injured. Irrespective of his criminal record, no man can be judge and executioner of anyone else. The only provocation or trigger for his loss of control (not enough to make an insanity plea) was that he found a traveller on his property.
While travellers representatives has expressed their dismay they have been markedly mute during these proceedings, representing a complete loss of confidence. Local community groups however have been outspoken, claiming this trial is a warning of the vulnerable position rural dwellers are in and legislation is needed to ensure their right to protect their property.
I am flummoxed they have the audacity to build on this verdict to turn Nally into a victim and claim that the execution and vicious beating of a father of 11 when he enters onto your property on the ground that he is a traveller should be a legislative initiative. This is a terrifying commentary on the value of life in this country.