The estranged wife of convicted garda killer Pearse McAuley has spoken for the first time about being subjected to domestic violence.

McAuley was this week given a 12-year prison sentence, with four suspended, for assault causing serious harm to Pauline Tully last Christmas Eve.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Marian Finucane show, Ms Tully described the level of violence which she was subjected to during an attack in which she was stabbed 13 times in front of their children.

She also said domestic violence can take different forms.

"Years ago, if somebody had said to me about being in a relationship where there was domestic violence I would have said 'the first sight of it I’ll walk out the door', but you don’t actually do that ... for a start I thought, well he hasn't actually hit me, so therefore it's not domestic violence.

"But I’ve learned since that even the threat of domestic violence, and even the verbal abuse, the emotional abuse, actually is domestic violence."

"If you’re in a situation where you’re in fear of the person you’re with, then there’s something wrong."

Asked what she expected in joining a very violent man in marriage, Ms Tully said: "I was reared in a republican family, I was a member of Sinn Féin, an elected councillor for Sinn Féin, I would have agreed with the republican cause, so I’m not going to start condemning different aspects of it or saying anything about it."

She added: "I’ve known people involved in the conflict all my life ... just because they’re involved in a war situation doesn’t mean that they’re on a personal level violent. I’ve known many people who are not any way violent to their spouses."

Asked if this was true even of those who had killed people, Ms Tully said: "We have a lot of soldiers all over the world go out and fight wars for different countries for different causes and it obviously has an effect, but it doesn’t mean that they come back and mistreat their families."

She said that "there are people from all walks of life engaged in domestic violence and it’s no reflection on who they are or what they do, it’s within themselves."

She added: "Unfortunately, war has gone on since the beginning of time, and people killing people".

She said she doesn’t equate a "war-like situation" with domestic violence. "I’m not saying it doesn’t have an effect, but I think the two things are very different, and I think there are a lot of people who perpetrate violence on spouses and partners and have never been involved in a war. It comes from people from all walks of life and all backgrounds."