A DRUNK driver whose Jeep crashed into a car and killed two grandparents has been jailed for five years.
Michael Harty (29), of Askeaton, Co Limerick, was almost twice the legal alcohol limit when he smashed into the Volkswagen Caddy driven by Maurice Hartnett (61) who was accompanied by his wife, Margaret (59), on July 29, 2009.
Harty had denied the charge of dangerous driving causing the deaths of the couple at Ardtomin, Askeaton, but was found guilty by a jury on a unanimous verdict.
Harty, who has previous convictions for dangerous driving and speeding, was also banned from driving for 30 years by Judge Carroll Moran at Limerick Circuit Criminal Court.
The victims, who had six children, were returning to their home in Ballingarry when the collision occurred on an S bend.
It was the prosecution's case that Harty went on to the wrong side of the road in his Toyota Jeep and collided with the couple's van.
Harty had been drinking at Quaid's bar in Ballingarry, and an ambulance worker got a strong smell of alcohol from him.
Judge Moran said it was a heartbreaking case.
"This action should never have happened. It is the pointlessness of it all," he said.
Members of the Hartnett family and extended relations were in court yesterday and sobbed when Harty was jailed.
A daughter of the victims, Elizabeth, gave a statement describing the family's grief.
"We didn't get a chance to say goodbye to Mam and Dad and they didn't get a chance to say goodbye to us and this will haunt us to the day we die," she said.
"Mam and Dad raised a fine family and they have missed so many new grandchildren.
"Nana Mag always had the press full with sweets and Grandad Moss was always sitting by the fire with a welcome smile for all.
"All we are left with are two empty armchairs and life as we knew it will never again be the same."