A MAN who in "a moment of madness" drove home drunk from a Christmas party was sentenced to three years' jail after a crash which claimed the life of his girlfriend.
Padraig McCarthy (33), a professional driver for an oil company, said he now thinks every day of the 12-year-old daughter of "his life companion" Valerie O'Donovan.
McCarthy, of Kinsale, Co Cork, pleaded guilty before Cork Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing death and driving while over the alcohol limit on December 23, 2012.
He received a three-year prison sentence with the final two years suspended.
Ms O'Donovan, who had a 12-year-old daughter, Shannon, only celebrated her 32nd birthday three days before the fatal accident.
She had been dating McCarthy for eight years and the couple got engaged four years later.
They intended to marry once Ms O'Donovan's daughter reached secondary school.
She had been attending a Christmas social with friends and work colleagues that evening with the fatal collision occurring at Manch Middle, Ballineen, on the Dunmanway to Bandon road in west Cork as she was being driven home by the defendant at 2.30am.
McCarthy lost control of his car which struck a ditch and then a telegraph pole.
Ms O'Donovan suffered serious head injuries and died before she could be taken to Cork University Hospital.
Judge Sean O Donnabhain heard that McCarthy had been drinking that evening and had a blood/alcohol concentration of 252mg/l, almost four times over the limit.
Addressing the court, McCarthy said his life will never be the same.
"Not only have I lost a dear friend... but my thoughts are with Valerie's daughter, her family and with my family," he said.
"I am very sorry for what happened. I have struggled (to cope)," he added.
Members of his family wept as he received a prison term.
Defence counsel, Tom Creed, said his client had driven "in a moment of madness".
"He will never get over this tragedy," he said.
The court heard that he had arranged for a taxi to bring him and Ms O'Donovan home that night but decided to drive.
Judge O Donnabhain was told that McCarthy, who drives for Ross Oil, is a valued employee, with the firm hoping to keep him on even with a driving ban.
McCarthy, who is a member of Kinsale GAA club and an active community worker, has no previous convictions and Judge O Donnabhain accepted that his remorse was genuine.
"She (Ms O'Donovan) has a daughter. The loss to that girl can never be made up," he said.
Judge O Donnabhain said that McCarthy's drinking was an aggravating factor and he warned that a custodial sentence would have to be imposed as a deterrent.
"I know that he has lost his life companion and that this has had a significant impact on him," the judge said.
"It is a highly traumatic case... (but) this young woman was cut down in the prime of her life," he added.
McCarthy was disqualified from driving for 10 years.