When self defense is not quite self defense.
John 'Frog' Ward was a traveller, a 42 year old father of 11 children with a criminal record as long as my arm, most of it for larceny. There were 4 bench warrants out for his arrest on the day in question. John Wards's son claims his father was there that day looking to buy scrap metal.
On October 14th 2002, John Ward entered Padraig Nally property. John Ward was-acccording to Padraig Nally-crouching down and had entered the back door of his home when he was confronted by the farmer.
The resulting fight and subsequent shootings caused uproar. People took very definite sides and old rifts and prejudices were re-examined.
Nally said during his trial that he had been living in fear for the five months before the fatal shooting, and that he often sat in his shed with a loaded shotgun for up to five hours at a time. The gun belonged to his father and had been in the house for 65 years.
He said a chain saw had been stolen from the house some months previously and that he was afraid of being broken into and killed in his bed. He often only slept a few hours at night and the pressure was almost unbearable.
On the day Mr Ward came into his farmhouse Mr Nally got the gun from the shed and as he confronted him at the back door, he claims it went off accidentally. He said he did not aim at Mr Ward and his hand was shivering as the trigger went off.
The defendant said Mr Ward took the gun off him and tried to hit him with it but he got it back. And in an ensuing scuffle he hit Mr Ward at least ten blows with a stick.
He then reloaded the gun and followed Mr Ward down the road and fired a second shot at him. Mr Nally said he meant to frighten the Traveller and the shot accidentally hit him. He then pulled John Ward's body over a ditch and into a field.
I'm a country girl, and despite it being non PC I can attest to the fact that certain travellers-not all- have a very bad reputation for stealing anything that is not nailed down. My own father was once offered a six bar gate he recognised as one of his own by group who swore blind he was mistaken- and even when he showed them the letters he had soldered into the base they still insisted he was wrong. In a rural community you would be hard pressed to find anyone that was at ease with discovering a man crouched by your back door. Nor in the city either I should add, but at least in the city you can run next door for help, what do you feel when your nearest neighbours might be miles away?
Padraig Nally has generated a lot of sympathy. He was a decent soft spoken man and this terrible event would never have happened at all if Ward had not been on his property that day, and if Padraig Nally had just shot him in a struggle I would back him to the very hilt.
But Padraig Nally did not just shoot him in a struggle, Pardaig Nally shot him once, beat him with a stick and then reloaded his gun. He followed Ward out onto the road. He re-aimed and shot him again in the back as Ward was fleeing for his life. And that-in my view- is not self defense. That is murder. And while of course I know that it 'wouldn't have happened if yer man hadn't been there' that does not alter any of Nally actions. I have a huge amount of symapthy for Nally, but you cannot go about shooting people in the back and then claiming self defense.
But I am not a court and yesterday Nally was freed after the Court of Criminal Appeal ruled that Judge Paul Carney, a High Court judge who presided over the murder trial, had erred in law by failing to allow the jury the opportunity to return a verdict of not guilty.
And so there is to be a re-trial, emotions are running high. Certain idiot factions are bringing race into it -which is ridiculous as travellers and non travellers are all bloody white Irish. ( one complete tool in this morning's Independent referenced the Rodney King case-I mean for Gawd's sake!) The travelling community are venting their anger very publicly on every radio and paper available to them. Equally a lot of people feel this is just, that Nally does not deserve to be punished for 'protecting his home and person'.
Watch and see, this case and retrial will become one of the most socially devisive cases we've had in Ireland for a long time.