Victim impacts statements over Donegal crash read out in court

Several family members of those who died did not want to see driver Shaun Kelly jailed

Family members of most of those killed in the July 2010 crash in Inishowen, Co Donegal, gave victim impact statements at Letterkenny Circuit Court on Thursday before Shaun Kelly was jailed for his part in the incident.

The death of his brother Hugh had such a profound impact on the life of Anthony Friel that he revealed he twice planned his own suicide, he said.

When Hugh had not returned to the home they shared in Clonmany, Co Donegal, by 2.30am on July 12th, 2010, Anthony knew something wasn't right.

He had heard about a crash but never “in a million years” thought his brother would have been killed as a result of it.

Mr Friel said he can barely face life without his brother, and has to remind himself every morning that his brother is not coming home.

“I can’t bring myself to work on the farm any more. I can’t look at the farm. I can’t get out of bed knowing he’s not there. I shake and get angry when I drive past the spot of the accident,” he said.

He says his wife Kathleen now gets the brunt of his anger and his roaring and shouting.

He added that he used to walk a mile a day but now he cannot leave his sitting room and doesn’t even bother listening to the radio or watching television.

He finds it difficult to look after his 14-acre farm and described how he lost a cow recently through not being able to look after it properly.

‘Fallen apart’

“My world has fallen apart,” he said.

Eamon Sweeney, the father of Ciaran Sweeney, thanked Judge O'Hagan for giving the victims the chance to speak for the first time since the incident.

He said his family’s life had changed forever and no amount of words could describe how much they missed Ciaran.

“When you lose a child, a void is created that can never be filled,” he said.

He revealed that as soon as he was well enough, the driver of the car, Shaun Kelly, who has been jailed for two years over his part in the incident, called to his home to visit them.

He said his son Ciaran willingly got into the car and that it was unfair that Kelly should get all the blame.

“We don’t want another family to be without their brother. It is our wish that Shaun be given a chance in life. He needs all the support and not punishment.

“Enough lives have been ruined. For him to be sent to jail would only make it worse – it’s not what we would want,” said Mr Sweeney.

A spokesperson for Roma McLaughlin, the mother of Mark McLaughlin, said Ms McLaughlin could not compile a victim impact statement because nothing could explain what it would feel like to lose your child.

Radiant smile

Damien McLaughlin’s sister Kate described her brother as a quiet, mild, soft-spoken young man with a radiant smile.

She said he was a very kind person who took great pride in his work and contributed on a weekly basis to the running of the family home.

She said her family’s lives had changed forever as a result of the crash and that no words could describe their loss.

“We may have lost you in our lives but you will always be in our prayers,” she added.

Aoife McLaughlin, the sister of PJ McLaughlin, said her late brother was the quickest and smartest in their house.

‘Future all planned’

“He was the best at maths and technical drawing and his future was all planned out.

“He was smart, funny, ambitious, reliable and always honest. If there was a problem then he was the man to go to,” she said.

She criticised the defence for what she said was the manner in which the case was continually put back.

“Time and time it was put back, and that was heartbreaking,” she said.

She said this was her family’s fifth year of not being able to celebrate PJ’s birthday on January 6th, saying he loved occasions like birthdays and Christmas.

“It’s just impossible to explain what we are going through,” she added.

No words

Paul Doherty’s father said the family has no words to describe what they are feeling and that they are tortured searching for answers.

Felix Doherty said they felt like the other families who lost a loved one, and felt Kelly was already serving a life sentence.

“We do not believe he should go to prison,” he said.

Eamon McDaid’s brother said his family are devastated at what had happened. He said Kelly “loved all the boys” adding, “We don’t want Shaun or his family to suffer any more.”

Robert McEleney said no outcome of yesterday’s (THURS) court case will ease the family’s pain and the loss of their brother and son, James.

He revealed how he had lost a brother prior to the crash and that James had tried to keep up their spirits after this bereavement.

He added that James had five little nieces, including his godchild, and he doted on them all.

“But we know he is never coming back and it is like a nightmare which we can’t waken from,” he said.

He added James would harbour no hatred for the driver of the car.

He said the family knew it was not for them to decide the sentence, but said they did not wish Kelly to receive a term of imprisonment.