A Belfast native living in Ballyheane witnessed his parents being shot and killed in front of him when he was only a toddler.
This led to a dependency on cannabis, which saw him before Castlebar District Court last Wednesday, the court was told.
Seamus McDonald of Derrew, Ballyheane, Castlebar appeared before the court charged with cultivation of cannabis after plants worth €4,000 were found concealed behind a false wall in his shed.
Defending solicitor Tom Walsh told the court that when Mr McDonald was only a toddler, both his parents were executed in front of him in Belfast.
The Evening Herald on July 10, 1976 described the killing the previous night as ‘one of the most merciless double killings in the North during the current wave of sectarian violence’.
Seamus McDonald, aged two and a half at the time, and his four month old sister Margaret, were left orphaned by the atrocity.
Mr Walsh told the court Mr McDonald suffers from post traumatic stress disorder as a result and had often used cannabis to treat himself, stating that Mr McDonald felt conventional medicals were ‘not agreeable’. There was, Mr Walsh added, ‘no hint’ of Mr McDonald selling or supplying the drugs to others.
Mr Walsh said that after his parents were murdered, his client was taken in by his uncle, who he referred to as his stepfather.
He is married with three kids and has, Mr Walsh said, ‘made his life here in the west of Ireland’. He is now living in Ballyheane for 17 years. He is working in Westport, the court heard.
Suspended prison sentence
In 2009 Mr McDonald received a suspended prison sentence for possession of close to €10,000 worth of cannabis plants. Mr Walsh said his client had received the benefit of leniency then and abstained for the drug for some time afterwards.
He said, however, McDonald subsequently starting attending with an organisation in Belfast who deal with victims of sectarian violence and this had brought back much of the trauma for him and he ‘stupidly’ went back to using cannabis.
He bought seeds online, something corroborated by the gardaí, and built a false wall in the shed in order, Mr Walsh said, to conceal the drugs from his three children. The court was told his children are aged 16, 15 and 11.
A doctor’s report was handed in which said Mr McDonald is no longer self-medicating and ‘is doing well’. The court was also told of McDonald receiving reiki treatment in Westport, which has led to an ‘excellent improvement in his behaviour’, according to his reiki instructor. He has been drug-free since this detection, the court was told.
The detection took place on June 3, 2017 after gardaí received confidential information about the possible growth of drugs at McDonald’s home.
Judge Devins said her biggest concern was for McDonald’s three children. She also said that someone was concerned enough to report the matter to the gardaí.
She adjourned the case to May 16 next and directed the preparation of a Probation Report.