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Two Laois Men Convicted For Roles In Violent Feud Between Two Traveller Families

One man had part of his ear bitten off during the incident.

Two Laois men have been convicted for their role in a violent incident in Portlaoise three years ago in which one male had part of his ear bitten off during a feud between two Traveller families.

Keith McDonagh (23) and Patrick McDonagh (21) each pleaded guilty to a single charge of violent disorder on the Mountrath Road, Portlaoise, on May 28, 2018 during an incident in which gardaí recovered a shovel, a spade, an axe handle and a weights bar.

Keith McDonagh, a father of one of Highfield Meadows, Portlaoise, also pleaded guilty to a burglary at Laois Sawmills, Ballymacken, Portlaoise on February 17, 2019 in which equipment to the value of €4,000 was stolen.

Detective Garda Michael O’Donovan told Tullamore Circuit Criminal Court that the two defendants had been sitting in traffic when two individuals got out of another vehicle and attempted to smash the back window of Patrick McDonagh’s Volkswagen Passat.

He said it was lucky that nobody was killed as a violent melee took place on the public road during which another vehicle drove up on a footpath before a girl got out of the car armed with a shovel.

Det Garda O’Donovan said one of those involved in the fracas, Michael O’Donoghue, had part of his ear bitten off during the incident while both vehicles were badly damaged.

He told the court that Keith McDonagh, who suffered injuries to his leg, had admitted punching Mr O’Donoghue but made no admissions in relation to the wound to his ear.

When arrested Patrick McDonagh claimed he had been acting in self-defence.

Det Garda O’Donovan accepted that Patrick McDonagh, of Timahoe Road, Portlaoise had not instigated the fight and had not caused the injury to Mr O’Donoghue.

The court heard McDonagh was an unemployed married man with no previous convictions, who was extremely remorseful and had acted out of fear after being set upon by the other group.

His counsel, Suzanne Dooner BL, said it was very unlikely that he would come before the court again as he was “not a troublemaker by nature.”

Keith McDonagh, who has 33 previous convictions, is currently serving a four and a half year prison sentence for assaulting a garda with a knuckle duster in December 2016.

Det Garda O’Donovan said the feud had settled down since the incident on the Mountrath Road but noted that Keith McDonagh, who had already been on bail at the time of the burglary and violent disorder, had been in custody over the period.

The court heard that McDonagh had brought €4,000 to court as compensation for the items stolen during the burglary.

Judge Keenan Johnson said incidents like the “particularly savage altercation” in which the two defendants were involved were “far too prevalent.”

“Such feuding does a great disservice to the Traveller community”, the judge remarked.

He encouraged the two families to use the services of a mediator rather than take the law into their own hands.

The judge said he was prepared to sentence Patrick McDonagh to carry out 240 hours of community service if he was deemed suitable for such work rather than impose a three-year jail term.

Judge Johnson sentenced Keith McDonagh to two consecutive terms of two-years in prison for the two offences backdated to June 1, 2020.

However, the judge said he would suspend both sentences for a period of ten years on condition that McDonagh kept out of trouble over the period.

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