Mi­nor feud that fes­tered into a farmer’s hor­rific man­slaugh­ter

Crow­banger tragedy shocks fam­i­lies and a com­mu­nity

Irish Independent - - News - Ralph Riegel

NORTH Kerry is no stranger to great tragedies in­ex­pli­ca­bly wo­ven from the most mi­nor of lo­cal dis­putes and feuds.

This, af­ter all, is where abun­dant in­spi­ra­tion was pro­vided over the decades for writ­ers such as John B Keane and Bryan MacMa­hon.

North Kerry is where ‘The Field’ was born be­fore be­ing brought to an in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence by Hol­ly­wood.

Tragedies linked to feuds over pol­i­tics, land and af­fairs of the heart are part and par­cel of an area that boasts a mys­tique all of its own. Yet the killing of farmer An­thony O’Mahony (74) on April 4, 2017 out­side Bal­ly­duff stands some­how apart.

The fact the highly re­spected hor­ti­cul­tural farmer died fol­low­ing a dis­pute over the noise cre­ated by some­thing as triv­ial as a crow­banger stretched cred­i­bil­ity be­yond be­lief.

The hor­rific man­ner of how he died – im­paled on the prongs of a tele­porter driven into his car by fel­low farmer Michael Fer­ris (63) – made the tragedy all the harder to com­pre­hend for lo­cals.

Last Oc­to­ber, a Kerry jury ac­quit­ted Mr Fer­ris of the mur­der but con­victed him of Mr O’Mahony’s man­slaugh­ter by a 10-2 ma­jor­ity ver­dict af­ter al­most five hours of de­lib­er­a­tion.

Mr O’Mahony died within sight of Rat­too Tower and the prime land he turned over decades into a renowned hor­ti­cul­tural en­ter­prise.

Mr Fer­ris farmed lo­cally and like­wise woke up each morn­ing to the sight of the fa­mous north Kerry tower.

Over the years, Rat­too has seen its share of tragedies from Vik­ing and Nor­man raids right through to the sav­agery with which the Civil War was fought in Kerry.

But the iconic land­mark, which dates back to the 10th cen­tury, never wit­nessed any­thing as bizarre as the row which led to two highly re­spected farm­ers and pil­lars of the com­mu­nity fall­ing out to the point where one killed the other in a row about a crow­banger.

Both men were so adept at farm­ing, so ded­i­cated to work­ing the land and proud of their com­mu­nity, they should by any logic have been friends and col­leagues.

Mr O’Mahony, an un­mar­ried man hailed by lo­cals as “a ge­nius” in the tillage farm­ing sec­tor, had worked a hold­ing that sur­rounded Rat­too Tower.

Just days be­fore his killing, he had ar­ranged for the plough­ing of his land which swept around the tower in prepa­ra­tion for the com­ing sea­son. But it was a har­vest he would not live to see.

He died on his way to check his hold­ing, his ve­hi­cle rammed by the pronged agri-ma­chine driven by Mr Fer­ris.

The fa­tal con­fronta­tion fol­lowed an in­creas­ingly bit­ter dis­pute over the noise cre­ated by a crow­banger on Mr O’Mahony’s land. Bal­ly­duff vil­lage lies just 2km away.

Even now, more than 18 months since the tragedy, lo­cals re­main deeply shocked and in­cred­u­lous by what hap­pened. Most don’t like com­ment­ing for fear of of­fend­ing ei­ther of the two fam­i­lies.

At the time, re­tired teacher Mau­rice O’Con­nor ex­plained that in a tight-knit area like Bal­ly­duff, it was a tragedy that af­fected the en­tire com­mu­nity.

“Peo­ple just can­not be­lieve that some­thing like this could have hap­pened here,” he said. “It is a tragedy for ev­ery­one.”

“The com­mu­nity re­mains in shock,” lo­cal priest Fr Bren­dan Walsh ex­plained last year.

Both Mr O’Mahony and Mr Fer­ris were de­scribed by other lo­cals as pil­lars of the lo­cal com­mu­nity. The two men were reg­u­lars at Mass and were staunch sup­port­ers of lo­cal com­mu­nity events.

Mr Fer­ris was renowned for his will­ing­ness to help oth­ers – of­ten halt­ing his own work to help a neigh­bour in need.

“He is a mighty man for work – and he couldn’t do enough for his neigh­bours. That’s the kind of man he is,” ex­plained an­other lo­cal, who asked not to be named.

Mr O’Mahony, whose brother Sea­mus and sis­ter An­gela both live lo­cally, was de­scribed as the “go to man” for ad­vice on any­thing of a hor­ti­cul­tural farm­ing na­ture.

He had at­tended War­ren­stown Agri­cul­tural Col­lege and had ini­tially be­gun his farm­ing ca­reer by pro­duc­ing toma­toes.

Mr O’Mahony later branched into veg­eta­bles be­fore fo­cussing on the pro­duc­tion of corn for which he be­came renowned across Mun­ster.

Lo­cals de­scribed him as “sin­gle-minded” and stub­born if he be­lieved he was cor­rect over some­thing.

Sea­mus O’Mahony stressed the 74-year-old’s life pas­sion was his farm­ing work.

Crimescene: The quiet coun­try road near Rat­too Tower where An­thony O’Mahony was killed last year by fel­low farmer and neigh­bour Michael Fer­ris (be­low)

An­thony O’Mahony: His land lay around Rat­too Tower

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