Padraic Nally: After the Headlines

RTÉ Two, Monday 12 March 2012, 9.30pm

On October 14th 2004 Padraic Nally, a 61-year-old farmer from Co Mayo took the law into his own hands and shot and killed an intruder on his land. The deceased was a traveller, John Ward, father of 11 who Nally claimed had been terrorising him for months. Nally never denied shooting John Ward but sighted fear as his only defence. For months Nally had been living in an outdoor shed, a loaded gun at his side, anticipating raiders attacking his farm. He was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison but 11 months later his conviction was quashed and he was released, a free man.

The judge described it as "the most socially divisive trial in modern Irish legal history". It was a landmark case, one that would challenge our views on self-defence and on the use of proportionate force. Irish society was truly divided, on the one hand an unarmed man in "manifest retreat" was shot and killed in broad daylight, on the other a terrified bachelor farmer, fearing for his life, defending his property from trespassers. Locally many see Padraic Nally as a hero, propelled into the limelight, he became a cause celebre for both victims of crime and aggrieved rural dwellers who felt their traditional way of life was under threat. For others he is a prejudiced and stone cold killer who went way beyond self-defence and intentionally took the life of an unarmed man, leaving 11 children without a father. For them, this case more than any before, illustrated the prejudice against travellers in our society and in our justice system.

Charlie Bird now revisits the story and asks is this case still as divisive as it once was. He examines the role the media played at the time and the prejudices existing in Irish society. He meets Padraic Nally on his farm and spends a day with him at the mart to see how life has changed for him since his release from prison in 2006. Does fear and rural isolation still play a big part in the lives of farmers around Ireland and will the new "Nally law"do anything to protect people in their homes?



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