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Kilrush man Stephen Walsh reflects, in New Shanakyle Graveyard, at the grave of his sister Ann who was killed in August 2005 aged 23. Behind him is his son Jack who never got to meet his aunt. Photograph by John Kelly

16 years for taking life akin to a ‘slap on wrist’

THE family of a young Kilrush woman who was murdered 16 years ago are “up in a heap” over the release of her convicted killer before Christmas, according to her brother.

Ann Walsh from Pella Road, Kilrush, was 23 years and four months old when she was strangled by her former boyfriend, Raymond Donovan from Cooraclare in the grounds of St Senan’s Church, Kilrush, on August 24, 2005.

Mr Donovan was convicted of her murder at the Central Criminal Court in Ennis with Mr Justice Paul Carney imposing a mandatory life sentence following a unanimous guilty verdict by a jury.

Ann had been going out with Donovan for three years, but had split from him a year previous to the attack.

Her brother, Stephen Walsh said the Walsh family are “up in a heap” over the decision to release Raymond Donovan before Christmas.

Mr Walsh claimed he was informed by the prison service recently there would be nothing done in relation to Mr Donovan’s release before Christmas. However, last week Mr Walsh was told Mr Donovan would be released before Christmas Day at an undisclosed location in Wicklow, which has caused huge distress for his family.

Mr Walsh said his family is very upset over the reversal of a commitment about Mr Donovan’s release. Stating Mr Donovan shouldn’t have been released before Christmas, he said he wasn’t told the precise location or the exact date when he would be set free.

Responding to Clare Champion queries, a spokesman for the Irish Prison Service said it doesn’t comment on individual cases.

Mr Walsh said the loss of his sister is as acute today as it was when she was first murdered 16 years ago.

“The grief doesn’t get any easier. You just learn how to live with it. You never forget it. My parents are constantly grieving, upset and angry. When things like his release come up it is harder.

“It was wrong to release Raymond Donovan before Christmas. Birthdays, Christmas and anniversaries are the worst time. The Minister for Justice has a lot to answer for. If the Minister for Justice was put in our shoes, it would be a different story. When my sister was killed, I remember my father saying ‘I never thought I would bury my daughter before myself’.

“I see my family going from happy go lucky people to everything stopped and is gone. My father just goes from the house to the shop and the grave – that is it. No matter whether it is rain, hail or snow he will not miss going to Ann’s grave.

“Even when he got his hips done we had to bring him back to the grave because he wouldn’t sleep without visiting her grave.”

He said the mandatory life sentence for murder should be substantially increased as he claimed 16 years for taking a life is akin to a “slap on the wrists”.

“Ann’s death has destroyed our family. It is horrible to think he can continue on with life.

“They seem to think more of the people who are convicted. There is no one listening to what we have to say.

“We are the ones serving the life sentence because Ann is gone and is not coming back.

“I remember having a discussion with John Lonergan on the radio three years ago. John Lonergan stated Raymond Donovan would have a tag over this head for the rest of his life. I said the only thing over my sister’s head is a headstone.

“Raymond Donovan wouldn’t be in prison if he didn’t do it.”

He said Mr Donovan, who is only 38 or 39 can now go on to enjoy life while his sister, Ann was robbed of the opportunity to meet a partner, have children and live life.

He recalled the night she was murdered there was a teenage disco in Kilkee that they used to attend.

While his sister, Ann was clever, Stephen admits she wasn’t streetwise, she was a bit gullible, easy going and very forgiving.

“I remember seeing Ann at the door of Crotty’s in Kilrush with him. They were split up at this stage. My father never wanted her with him. When I went in he was sitting at the bar. I spoke to Ann and said her father would go mad if he knew they were together.

She said they were split up and she was just having a drink with him. I thought nothing of it. She gave me a tenner. Two gardaí came to the door at 1.05am to say she was dead.

He said it is believed Ann was strangled about 10.01pm that night.

One of the items that was returned to the family after the court case was a scarf. However, Mr Walsh is adamant his sister never wore a scarf and this played on his parents’ mind.

The Walsh family was part of a national campaign to increase the time limit for parole from seven to 12 years and participated in a protest outside the Dáil two years ago.

Mr Walsh said it is wrong that a family has to write to the parole board on an annual basis opposing the early release of a murderer after 12 years of their initial sentence.

by Dan Danaher

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