Niall Dorr from Dundalk died after a horrific attack on October 13, 2010. His parents David and Veronica (Foy) who both come from Mohill, Co Leitrim are still trying to come to terms with his loss. Here David talks to Martin Grant from our sister paper, the Dundalk Democrat.
When he heard about the death of Emyvale man Jason McGovern last week, David Dorr, father of the late Niall Dorr, immediately rang his wife Veronica.
“We know that when similar cases happen that it will bring back memories. When I heard about Jason McGovern I phoned Veronica and asked was she alright,” David told the Democrat.
David was speaking just weeks after Douglas Ward from Knockbridge was sentenced to 16 years (with the final three years suspended) for the manslaughter of Niall in October 2010.
Niall was with two friends on Castle Street when at around 9pm on 13 October 2010 a group approached them and a row broke out. The court was told that Niall was trying to stop the row and keep the peace when Douglas Ward punched and kicked him in the head - continuously, viciously and repeatedly.
Ward received his sentence last month but the Dorrs are left with a life sentence – a life without their cherished Niall.
“Niall was a class act,” says David, “He was a great lad to be around around. He never got frustrated with anything. He was a very calm individual. He would never argue with you about anything.”
All his life Niall steered clear of conflict. This is what makes the nature of his death even harder to comprehend.
“The one thing that stands out about Niall, when myself and Veronica look back, he was a lad that always wanted to avoid conflict of any shape or form,” David continues.
“If something cropped up in the house and I pulled him up on something, he might have made a point, but he would have just said ‘ok dad’ and walk away.
“He might not have been happy, but to avoid it, he would just walk away.
David recalls a son who had a great zest for life. He looked after his friends, he enjoyed comedians and loved laughing.
“Kickboxing was the love of his life. He didn’t achieve his black belt, which is what he wanted to achieve, but we got it handed to us at his funeral by the Cobra Khan kickboxing club,” he remembers. “He liked Liverpool. For his sixteenth birthday we took him to Liverpool. Myself, Shane and a few other relations went over. It was the highlight of that year.
Like many young men his age, he had just started to learn how to drive.
“Driving was something that he started to do. You would never find a happier lad in the front seat, he adds. “I look back now picturing us in the car together. He loved it,” David explains.
Recalling the horriffic night on 13 October 2010, David said “We got a text at home from one of Niall’s friends who wasn’t involved, at about 11.30pm saying that Niall had been involved in a row and was taken to hospital.
Initially, they thought it wasn’t anything serious.
“Veronica didn’t think to much of it, it didn’t sound major. I said that I would take Shane with me to Drogheda,” David explains.
When they got to the hospital, the first indications were that Niall would be ok.
“Niall was lying on the bed, wearing a neck brace, covered in blood. He was badly beaten up,” he remembers.
“They had to do a compulsory scan, but as far as the hospital was concerned he was ok and that it would be alright.
“We went into the waiting room and the Gardai arrived. They told us that they heard there was a disturbance and that they were investigating it.
“About an hour and a half later, a doctor and a nurse walked into the room. You always know what is coming to you when this happens. The nurse didn’t even want to be in the room either”
It was at this moment that David realised that something was wrong.
“The doctor said that I should sit down, but I wasn’t sitting down for anybody. I asked him to tell me what is happening,” he remembers.
“He said that Niall’s brain had been damaged very badly. I asked him on a scale of one to ten, one being good and ten being bad, how is he. The doctor said nine.”
The shock was immediate.
“Myself and Shane didn’t know what to do,” he remembers.
They realised they would have to go home and tell Veronica.
“I wanted to drive back to Veronica, the Gardai offered to drive me back, but I wanted to drive back,” he says.
“It is a haunting memory. We went from thinking that Niall was going to be alright and an hour and half later we didn’t know what was happening. There are no words for it.
“On the drive back to Dundalk, all I could think of was why, why and why.”
They got home and told Veronica the news no parent ever wants to hear.
“Relaying the message to Veronica is a memory I don’t want to revisit. It was not good,” he recalls.
“After that we went back to Drogheda and we had to go to Beaumont Hospital with Niall. He was then sent back to Drogheda. When we arrived to Drogheda he was on the life support machine in the ICU.”
They were told that Niall’s brain was no longer functioning.
“When we watched him on the hospital bed with the machine on him and tubes coming out of him, we still had hope.
“You could feel his heart beat. His hands were warm, his eyes would flicker and we would think to ourselves, maybe, just maybe he would pull through.
“They had to get two doctors to independently verify that his brain was no longer functioning. Then they turned off the machine and he was officially pronounced dead and that was it.
“They took his body away that evening and operated on him for the organ transplants. I would recommend anybody to carry a donor card. It helped us so much. It lifted us.
“It’s a fantastic to think that Niall’s heart and lungs are still going and his liver is still serving somebody. “
It was only when the court case started that they realised the extent of the attack on Niall.
“At that time we didn’t really talk to the Gardai about what happened, we were in the grieving process.,” he recalls.
“On the first day of the court case, when Detective Sergeant Patrick Marry was reading the evidence it hit home with me how bad it actually was.
“I expected x,y and z. But I got the whole alphabet. I thought after five minutes of his evidence that I was going to get up and leave.”
He goes back over the incident one more time.
“What transpired was that Niall and his two friends were walking down the street, a row had happened the night before, which Niall wasn’t involved in. He was at his interview for the army the night before, so it had nothing to do with him.
“One member of the group that attacked them, attacked the two lads and Niall was standing there,” David continues.
“A lot of people’s reactions would be to run away. I always told Niall to run away if anything like this happens.
But Niall didn’t. They were his friends. Niall stood in and wanted to be the peacemaker and the next thing bang. He got hit a box, down he went and this animal came over to him and started into him.”
The details of the events still haunt them.
“The question I have is when was he going to stop. How much of a beating does he have to give to somebody before he learns and stops and says I can’t be doing this, this is wrong,” he asks.
“He kicked him. He picked his head up, I think at least ten times and banged his head off the ground. I hope Niall was unconscious and didn’t know what was happening. It’s the stuff of animals.”
Where does it end, he wonders.
“People have no regard for human life at all. They kick, punch and beat people to death and lads run away. The people who conduct these acts are only concerned with their own self preservation,“ he states. “I would like to think, but it’s doubtful, that what happened to Niall will wake some people up. You go out and you don’t pick fights with people.”
For the Dorrs, the nightmare continues.
“We can’t run away from this thing. If I am feeling it I run into another room or take a tablet. But that stuff doesn’t work, you are left holding this thing,” he says. “I never thought that I would be doing interviews like this talking about the death of my own son. I hope that people will wake up and realise what they are doing is totally shameful.”
“These guys went to court and were very uncooperative with the Gardai,” he points out adding that if he had been told, one month after Niall’s death, that the incident would result in one manslaughter conviction and a 16 year sentence “I’d have been disappointed.”
The knowledge that Niall is gone and will not return hurts them deeply.
“Niall is gone and he is gone forever and I am never going to see him,” says David, “I am never going to talk to him again. It’s a huge loss to Shane, Veronica and myself. “
However David says he is determined to look beyond the anger he feels.
“I would hate to live the rest of my life feeling angered. I try to find the positives in life. His organs are still here. The contribution Niall made when he was here is amazing,” he explains. “I can’t think about the negatives, it would destroy my family.”
They have some great mementos from his life.
“We have a gold medal and a silver medal sitting at home which he won when he represented Ireland in the World Kickboxing Championships.”
They have lots of photographs “but I can’t watch the videos we have. That just kills me. “
His bedroom remains the same.
“The day he left his bedroom, it is more or less the same as it is today. All his certificates, medals and drawings are still there. It is the monument that he left behind. We still say good morning and good night to Niall.”
Despite everything they have gone through, David is still thinking of the people he wants to thank.
The Gardai deserve a lot of credit,” he says. “They have done a very professional job, they left no stone unturned. The residents of Castle Road were fantastic and gave the Gardai everything that they possibly knew and could.
“There is so many people we would like to thank, we are grateful,” he concludes.