Woman beaten unconscious by Irish soldier believes attack was motivated by homophobia

Image of Natasha O'Brien who was attacked by an Irish soldier, Cathal Crotty. She is photographed from the shoulders up, wearing a white coat and sunglasses. She smiles at the camera.
Image of Natasha O'Brien who was attacked by an Irish soldier, Cathal Crotty. She is photographed from the shoulders up, wearing a white coat and sunglasses. She smiles at the camera. @natasha.o.brien via Instagram

A woman who was beaten unconscious by an Irish soldier believes the attack was motivated by “deep rooted homphobia,” she told GCN. Cathal Crotty walked free from Limerick Circuit Criminal Court after receiving a fully suspended sentence on Thursday, June 20, despite pleading guilty to the unprovoked and vicious assault.

As reported by David Raleigh, the incident in question took place on May 29, 2022, when Natasha O’Brien and a friend “politely” asked Crotty, who was not known to them and had been consuming alcohol throughout the evening, to stop shouting “f*ggot” at other people on the street. The 22-year-old Irish soldier is said to then have directed his aggression towards the women, shouting homophobic insults at O’Brien, who identifies as lesbian, before physically attacking her.

The court was told that Crotty grabbed the now 24-year-old by the hair with one hand and punched her to the ground with the other, striking her up to six times until she lost consciousness. The woman sustained a broken nose and bruising, and said she thought she was going to be killed.

Crotty fled when a male passerby intervened, but his friends remained at the scene on Limerick’s O’Connell Street. Afterwards, the assailant bragged about the incident on Snapchat, saying: “Two to put her down, two to put her out”, in reference to punching O’Brien four times.

The Irish soldier originally tried to blame the victim, wrongfully telling Gardaí that she had instigated the attack. However, after authorities presented CCTV footage of Crotty setting upon the woman unprovoked, he admitted his guilt but never gave a full explanation for the assault.



Reading her victim impact statement in court, O’Brien said: “When Cathal Crotty attacked me I went into a state of shock, I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me, I felt completely helpless, feeling like I was being used as a punching bag, I didn’t feel human.”

She said that as she lay in the foetal position, her last thought before losing consciousness was: “He’s not stopping, I’m going to die”.

“The physical injuries I sustained were devastating; a severe concussion, a broken nose, severe swelling, and bruising on both arms, shoulders, head, right upper thigh, left eye, cheek and jaw…I spent the following weeks and months attending hospital and doctor appointments, and due to persistent concussion symptoms I was deemed ‘high–risk’ for a brain bleed, and I received a battery of tests including a head CT scan,” she explained.

“I lived in constant fear that it could still result in my death. Cathal Crotty’s actions left me in a place of darkness, I have been suffering symptoms of PTSD, and I’ve had to attend multiple therapists since the attack.”

She said that she had “a sense of constant dread and isolation” and that she “lost all interest and motivation for life”. 

“Basic tasks at work became incredibly difficult and I ultimately lost my job due to my rapidly declining performance. I became numb and detached from reality, living in perpetual fear of seeing him again,” O’Brien continued.

“(Crotty) may not remember, but my memory of the vicious sinister look in his eyes as he approached me will haunt me forever…I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be here today to have my voice heard, I am lucky to be alive and I believe the male passer-by, who intervened, saved my life.”

She concluded, saying: “I am here to seek justice, not just for myself, but to protect others from violence and malice I experienced.”

Despite O’Brien’s statement and the vicious attack, Judge Tom O’Donnell said Crotty “must be given credit” for pleading guilty.

“In fairness to him, he has come to court and publicly admitted his wrongdoing, and he has made a public acknowledgement of his criminality,” the judge said. He also expressed that he must consider Crotty’s career as a soldier, saying it would be taken away from him if he served jail time.

The Judge granted the attacker a three-year fully suspended sentence and ordered him to pay €3,000 compensation to the victim.

Speaking after the fact, O’Brien stated: “I lost my job because of his actions, because I was so impacted by what he did, but this judge doesn’t want to jail him because it will mean he will lose his job…That’s not justice.”

She added that she was “glad” she used her voice but felt the court had sent “a message” that anyone can attack women in public and not be jailed.

Since the incident in 2022, Crotty has remained in the Defence Forces, with one of his superiors at Sarsfield Barracks, Commandant Paul Togher, telling the court that he is an “exemplary”, “courteous”, “professional” and “disciplined” officer. However, following the hearing, the Defence Forces have reportedly begun the process of dismissing the soldier.


The case has caused public outrage, with protests called in three cities across Ireland. ROSA is organising the demonstrations in Limerick, Cork and Dublin, all taking place on Saturday, June 22. On the same day at 2pm, a protest will also take place in Galway.



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Un post condiviso da Susan McGrady (@susancollinsmcslaydy)

If you have been affected by this story or are looking to reach out to someone for support, advice or just to talk, there are numerous services available for LGBTQ+ people, many of which offer instant messaging support:
LGBT Helpline
The Switchboard
Dublin Lesbian Line
Belong To
LGBTQI Pavee Point
Pieta House
Mental Health Ireland

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