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Forkhill man jailed for manslaughter of Dundalk taxi driver

A Forkhill man has been jailed for six years after being found guilty of the manslaughter of a Dundalk taxi driver in 2015.

Twenty four year old Joseph Hillen of Glendesha Road, Forkhill was convicted last year of the manslaughter of 53-year-old Martin Mulligan at Carnmore, Balriggan, Dundalk, on September 28 2015.

At Dublin’s Central Criminal Court on Monday last, Justice Eileen Creedon handed the Forkhill man a seven-year sentence with the final year suspended for time already served in custody.

Passing sentence, the judge acknowledged the profound effect the taxi driver’s death had on his family, describing him as “a family man whose loss could never be repaired,” but she said Hillen was entitled to credit for his offer to plead guilty to manslaughter and his acceptance of responsibility.  The judge said she had also taken into account the remorse shown by Hillen, his young age and his moderate risk of re-offending.

The south Armagh man had for almost three years denied any knowledge of the killing, claiming he never met Martin Mulligan, before making a voluntary statement last year where he claimed to have confronted the taxi driver after spotting him allegedly dumping rubbish at a plot of land owned by his friend.  Hillen said that after a short car chase, he approached Mr Mulligan – who dropped off this last fare at Forkhill at 1.45am – and a fight broke out between the men. He claimed that during the scuffle, Mr Mulligan pulled out a long, stainless steel, kitchen knife which Hillen said he “flipped” and “jabbed out” twice in self-defence after the taxi driver punched him repeatedly on the back of the head, pushing him to his knees, from where Hillen struck the fatal wounds.

The 53-year-old’s body was found at Carnmore, Balriggan, near Dundalk, early the next morning (September 28 2015). 

Gardaí said they focused their investigation on the Forkhill man because officers had chased him from Dundalk hours before Mr Mulligan’s death, after he had evaded a patrol car by speeding towards the border.

Forensic blood analysis from the road Mr Mulligan was left to die on and DNA on his jumper confirmed that Hillen was present when Mr Mulligan was stabbed. The father-of-one, who has a criminal record for road offences and handling stolen property, has no previous convictions for violence.

Reacting to the sentence, Mr Mulligan’s family said they feel “failed” by the justice system. 

Mr Mulligan’s wife Grainne also said her husband had been concerned for his safety and kept a bar on the floor of his taxi for protection and as well as a small Swiss Army knife in the car.  She said her husband would not back down in any situation and might come to blows with anyone who tried to rob him or cheat him.

Criticising his six-year sentence, she said her husband was “brutally, viciously and inhumanely killed for no fault of his own”. His daughter Sharon said Hillen’s account of what happened was “unfairly” taken as “gospel” because her father was not alive to give his side.