‘He’s not stopping, I’m going to die’: Woman beaten by soldier condemns suspended sentence

Defence Forces says any conviction of serving member ‘may have implications for retention’ in the organisation

Natasha O'Brien (24) who was assaulted by serving Irish soldier Cathal Crotty (22), of Parkroe Heights, Ardnacrusha, Co Clare, at O’Connell Street, Limerick in 2022. Photograph: Brendan Gleeson

A woman beaten into unconsciousness by a serving soldier on O’Connell Street in Limerick has described the fully suspended sentence he received on Thursday for the unprovoked assault on her as “horrific”.

Natasha O’Brien told Limerick Circuit Criminal Court she had thought she would not survive the incident in which Cathal Crotty, (22), of Parkroe Heights, Ardnacrusha, Co Clare, kept punching her after she had been knocked to the ground by two initial blows.

“As I lay in the foetal position, and losing consciousness, he continued his relentless beating – my last conscious thought was: He’s not stopping, I’m going to die,” she said in an impact statement.

In addition to severe physical injuries, she said she had suffered from trauma caused by the assault and had subsequently lost her job because of the impact it had had on her.


Crotty initially attempted to blame Ms O’Brien for the assault, saying she had instigated an altercation but he admitted his guilt after being shown CCTV footage. He had later boasted about the assault on social media.

One of the officers at Sarsfield barracks, where Crotty is based, Commandant Paul Togher, told the court Crotty was an “exemplary”, “courteous” and “disciplined” soldier.

Judge Tom O’Donnell described Crotty’s actions as “utterly appalling” but said he had to give him credit for pleading guilty to assaulting Ms O’Brien, causing her harm.

He sentenced him to three years but suspended the sentence, saying said he had “no doubt” if he imposed an immediate jail sentence Crotty’s army “career is over”.

In a statement, the Defence Forces said it commended “the bravery of the victim in this case”, condemned “any actions by serving personnel that are contrary to or do not reflect our values” and said “any conviction in a civilian court may have implications for the retention and service of members” of the force.

Its own disciplinary procedures will commence now, it said.

Sarah Benson of Women’s Aid said “I think what this case tells us is that we are not in a good place when it comes to the perpetration of violence against women.”

Ms O’Brien said, in her opinion, the court had sent “a message” to Crotty and anyone else that they could attack women in public and not be jailed.

“The lack of justice is horrific, in spite of the seriously appalling cold hard evidence. There was a complete disregard for the gravity of Crotty’s actions,” she said.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times