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Law professor accused of fatal shooting wants to be able to return to 170-acre farm for ‘welfare’ of livestock

A senior barrister is seeking to be allowed back on the 170-acre farm where he is accused of murdering a father-of-four in a fatal shooting last year, with an agricultural consultant telling the High Court that there would be “serious welfare issues” for livestock if the defendant remains excluded.

The bail variation hearing was also told by the expert witness – who has in excess of 700 “farmer” clients – that the holding could be at risk of being “put out” of an organic farming scheme if the accused man cannot access his lands.

Diarmuid Phelan – a senior counsel and associate professor of law at Trinity College – was before the High Court on Wednesday seeking a variation of his bail conditions to allow him go back on his farm in Tallaght three days a week for six hours on each day. He also wants to return to his farm in Wexford and to extend his curfew hours.

Mr Phelan has been farming in Tallaght since 2015 and holds lands in Wexford where he has been farming for over 20 years.


One of the bail conditions handed down by the Court of Appeal last year was that Mr Phelan had to stay out of Tallaght and out of his properties in Wexford. He also had to obey a daily curfew of 10am to 8pm.

Mr Phelan (54), of Kiltalown Lane, Tallaght, Co Dublin is charged with the murder of Keith Conlon (36) at Hazelgrove Farm, Kiltalown Lane, Tallaght, on February 22nd, 2022. Mr Conlon, from Kiltalown Park in Tallaght, was seriously injured in the shooting incident and died at Tallaght University Hospital two days later.

Mr Phelan was charged with Mr Conlon’s murder shortly afterwards and was remanded in custody after appearing at Tallaght District Court on February 25th, 2022.

An application for bail was later refused by the High Court, but the Court of Appeal overturned that decision and bailed him after two separate bonds of €50,000 – one from Mr Phelan and one from his sister – were lodged with the court.

The 54-year-old has been given a trial date of May 29th next year before the Central Criminal Court. The case is expected to last three weeks with French and German interpreters required by the prosecution.

In seeking a relaxation of his bail conditions in advance of his trial, the accused’s barrister, Padraig Dwyer, called agricultural consultant Geoff Barry to give evidence.

Mr Barry said he began working with Mr Phelan aboutr 15 years ago. He said the Tallaght farm was accepted into an organic scheme in January this year – a move that was part of the long-term plan for the lands.

Mr Barry said 66 cattle are presently on the holding and about 140 sheep.

He told Mr Dwyer that there had been massive progress on the farm since 2015 in regards to fencing and “making good the lands”. He said the works had been ongoing since 2015 but that this had stopped since Mr Phelan left the farm and “fencing works” have still not been completed.

Asked about Mr Phelan’s involvement in the maintenance of the farm and “getting his hands dirty”, Mr Barry said that from his communication with the accused he seemed “very much hands on”.

Asked about his concerns for the farm, Mr Barry said the entire bovine herd were running together and that cows from 2021 and 2022 were all in the same herd. “There was no segregation of animals which would be quite unusual,” he said.

Asked about maintaining the integrity of the farm, the witness said that farming has become very scientific in recent years and a lot of management was involved, adding it was not something that could be done remotely.

He said some sheds and outhouses on the farm need to be repaired as part of the “ongoing constant repair to maintain these buildings”.

Mr Barry said there would be serious welfare issues for the animals on the farm if things continued this way and it was “not good up there at the minute”.

The witness said if someone cannot access their farm then they do not have the same control over it. He said if Mr Phelan’s inspection was not successful then he would “be put out of” the organic scheme.

Mr Dwyer asked about the feasibility of his client being able to delegate work on the farm. Mr Barry said in his professional opinion it can work but he has never seen it working.

In summary, the witness said no fodder had been saved for this winter and a serious fodder crisis is looming on the farm.

Regarding the farm in Wexford, the witness said it was not as vital to have as frequent access to it and there was only a need to visit it twice or three times a year.

Under cross-examination, the witness agreed with Jane McGowan, for the State, that the Wexford farm owned by the accused is 54 acres and the average market value per acre was between €10,000 and €12,000.

Ms McGowan said the bulk of the Wexford farm was sold for €540,000 in July.

Ms Justice Siobhán Lankford asked counsel if the point being made was that the accused wasn’t required to go on the farm any more. “Precisely,” replied the barrister.

Asked about Mr Phelan’s considerable amount of farming experience and qualifications, Mr Barry said the accused had taken it upon himself to upskill and farm at a commercial level.

Ms McGowan put it to the witness that he stated in his direct evidence that it was unusual for the owner of a holding not to be actively involved in it. She then asked what would happen if a farmer became “unexpectedly unwell”.

The witness said sometimes dramatic steps are taken such as animals being sold but otherwise family members can “muck out and help to get it over the line”.

“This is a very unusual situation, there is probably no farmer on your books who has been court ordered not to attend their farm,” asked counsel. The witness said it was “very exceptional” and that he had never come across it.

The bail variation hearing will continue tomorrow morning.