The courtroom has been very full this week as we follow the trial of Finn Colclough, who’s accused of the murder of Sean Nolan.
The deceased was only 18 when he died, celebrating the start of the rest of his life as he left secondary school behind him. The accused was even younger, a student at the College of Further Education on Leeson Street in Dublin, at 17 too young to be named when he was arrested after the events of that night. We can only name him now because he’s had a birthday in between
Unsurprisingly, when the trial concerns people so young, the families on both sides have attended in force. Sean Nolan’s mother Charlotte sits on a bench behind the barristers with other members of the family, her face a mask of raw grief as she listens again and again to her son’s final moments. From time to time she stars bleakly at the other family sitting at right angles to her.
The mother of the accused, cookery teacher Alix Gardner, sits behind her son, starring straight ahead of her avoiding the curious glances of the press, forced through lack of space to share the bench facing the jury that is the customary seat for the accused.
The three rows of raked public seating at the back of the court are full and there’s a press of bodies to the side spreading back to the doors. These seats often fill up in the case of a trial that’s been in the news a lot, filled with curious passers-by and tricoteuses, but this time they’re filled with the pale young faces of the friends of both the accused and the deceased.
Every morning the Round Hall is filled with youngsters in their teens and early twenties, bunched in quiet groups waiting to take their seats in Court 1 to see this thing to it’s conclusion. Some of them we have heard from, telling the tale of an ordinary Friday night out that took a horribly dark turn in a matter of seconds, the others are here in silent support of the two families.
They sit politely with the other family of friends who’ve come to lend their support and the courtroom is packed. The posse of pensioners who attend every high profile murder have been banished to the upper gallery much to their dismay.
The press have begun to come down in force, colour writers joining the usual suspects of court and crime correspondents. We bunch together taking our notes, laughing at daft jokes on what is just another day on the job. It might be gallows humour but it still jars with the desperation that hangs in the air.
It’s harder to shake off a trial where the loss was so great. Sean Nolan should be a student by now, Finn Colclough should be about to start the same journey. Instead one is dead and the other is facing an uncertain future.
For the families and friends the events of that night will never be forgotten. For the press it’ll soon be just another story – but there was considerable relief when it was announced our bank holiday weekend would last till Tuesday afternoon. A welcome break for us though it’s unlikely to be felt as such by the Nolan and the Colclough families.