Latest crash brings back painful memories

 

AS THE rain clouds rolled across the rugged Inishowen Peninsula yesterday, locals were struggling to come to terms with the fact that eight men had died in a crash the previous night near the rocky outcrop known locally as the King and Queen of the Mintiaghs.

Locals were visibly shaken as they grappled with the news that the crash with the highest number of fatalities of any crash on Irish roads since records began nearly 50 years ago had occurred on their doorsteps.

At 5.30pm a hearse, led by a Garda escort, made its way through Clonmany. Relatives and friends with tear-stained faces followed in cars behind in a cortege – a sight that will be all too common in the area in the days to come at the removals and funerals of those killed.

Charlene Duffy from Buncrana described the atmosphere locally as “eerie”, her eyes watering as she described the huge impact on the local community.

“The amount of people from the parish, the whole way down here, cars are stopped on the road . . . chatting to neighbours.

“Even if you meet a car driving down, the car might be a half-mile away from you but they’re pulling in. Everyone’s so nervous.”

Bernard McLaughlin from Ballyliffin said nobody in the village had wanted to go to work yesterday as people came to terms with the loss.

“It just seems to affect people a lot. You’d nearly think you are one of the family, it’s that kind of feeling. Everybody’s the same. I’m just devastated.”

Dermot McGonagle from Carndonagh said, “It was my friend’s brother that got killed. You don’t know how to take it.”

Mayor of Buncrana and deputy mayor of Donegal Pádraig Mac Lochlainn described as “mind numbing devastation” the tragedy that had again visited this, an incredibly tight knit community.

“You’ve three parishes affected, Clonmany, Buncrana and Fahan and there won’t be anybody in the Inishowen Peninsula who won’t know the victims – that’s the extent of the devastation. Because of the spread of the families it would be nearly impossible not to know somebody.”

For the people of the area this latest crash brings back painful memories. Fr Eddie McGuiness, curate of Cockhill parish said the following days would be hugely difficult for everyone, including local clergy.

“We have had multiple accidents in which more than a few people have died and it brings back memories for them. That’s really one of the tragedies, that it’s reinvoking the memories for all those people who lost their sons and daughters all in the same age group.”

His colleague, Fr John Walsh, the parish priest of Buncrana, spent much of Sunday night with the families who he said are naturally devastated by the sudden loss.

“It is a really cruel blow to this particular community,” he said, adding that the tragedy would also affect family members and girlfriends who have lost other people to road tragedies in the past. “Young people must realise how fragile life is and be careful and cautious and play by the rules all the time,” he added.

Pat “the Cope” Gallagher, MEP for the area, said the incident had cast “a dark cloud” over the Inishowen Peninsula once again. “My heart goes out to the families of all those involved and the wider community.”