Grandfather jailed for part in Belfast ‘punishment’ shooting

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A 41-year-old grandfather who took part in a dissident republican shooting in the Ardoyne area of Belfast has been given a 10-year sentence.

Patrick Joseph O’Neill, of no fixed abode, will serve five years in prison with a further five years on licence upon his release for the “extremely serious” gun attack.

O’Neill was one of three masked men who forced their way into the Brompton Park home of their victim in November 2010.

Their intended target was shot several times in the legs and groin, and has been left with permanent scarring and in “chronic pain” as a result.

Passing sentence at Belfast Crown Court, Judge Patrick Kinney ruled that despite the seriousness of the offences, he didn’t consider O’Neill fell into the category of presenting a danger to the public.

Judge Kinney also revealed that it has never been established which of the three men pulled the trigger that night.

The court heard the father of six and grandfather of three had a limited criminal record and had not been associated with any similar offending since the gun attack, which was later claimed as a punishment shooting by Oglaigh na hEireann.

At least five shots were fired and a crime scene investigator seized two spent bullet heads and five spent cases. They were fired from a Glock 17 pistol which had been stolen during a burglary at a policeman’s house over four years earlier in 2006.

Judge Kinney said the incident occurred in a “paramilitary setting”, adding: “Whilst there is no evidence he (O’Neill) is a member of any illegal organisation, I am satisfied his offending on the evening in question assisted the aims of an illegal organisation.”

A previous hearing was told that on the evening of November 15, 2010 three masked men forced their way into their victim’s home before opening fire.

The victim’s mother tried to defend both her and her son by arming herself with knives, before she too was threatened with being shot. A DNA sample was later recovered from one of the knives – a brown-handled kitchen knife – and five years after the shooting O’Neill was linked to the gun attack.

When arrested last year for a totally unrelated domestic offence, DNA from O’Neill was found to match that recovered from the knife.

O’Neill subsequently pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm with intent, and unlawfully and maliciously causing grievous bodily harm, on the grounds of joint enterprise.

Judge Kinney said that while he accepted there was no evidence to suggest O’Neill was the gunman, he would nonetheless have been “fully aware” both of the intent of the masked men and that a gun would be used.

As he was being led away by prison staff after being sentenced, O’Neill gave the thumbs up to family and friends in the public gallery.