Monday 24 July 2017

Drunk GAA fan 'drove a horse and cart down M1 on way home from All-Ireland final'

Christopher Gunning (58)
Christopher Gunning (58)

Andrew Phelan

A GAA fan was caught drunk driving a horse and carriage on a motorway on his way home from the All Ireland final.

Christopher Gunning (58) was stopped by gardaí as he drove an antique Dutch carriage festooned with Dublin flags and pulled by a black-and-white piebald on the motorway.

He was described as highly intoxicated, and an officer who had to rein the horse in while he called for backup in heavy traffic said he feared for their safety.

Gunning, a grandfather-of-four, denied he was drunk and said bringing the flag-draped carriage to the All-Ireland was a "tradition".

He told gardaí he had had six pints, but insisted in court it had been only three shandies.

Judge Michael Walsh found him guilty and fined him €300, describing his behaviour as "reckless in the extreme".

Gunning, of Clonshaugh, Cloughran, pleaded not guilty to being under the influence of an intoxicant to such an extent that he was not capable of having proper control over an animal-drawn vehicle.

Dublin District Court heard the incident happened on the M1 in Santry on September 18, 2016. Garda Colm Reid told the court he had finished duty and was driving his motorcycle home at 7.55pm.

"In front of me, holding all the traffic behind it up was a horse and cart, it was a black-and-white horse and the back of the cart was draped in Dublin flags," he said.

It was dark and there were no lights on the cart. He got up beside it and Gunning was sitting in front, with cars beeping and swerving around him.

He felt the situation was "extremely dangerous". The garda shouted at him to get off the road and Gunning looked at him and said nothing.

The garda managed to pull him in.

"He wasn't able to understand what I was saying even though I was very close to him," the garda said.

"He was barely able to speak a proper sentence. Nothing he could say to me made much sense."

As he was on the phone for assistance, Gunning pulled back out into oncoming traffic, with some "near misses".

Agitated

Garda Reid parked in front of him, stopping him again and Gunning told him he was trying to go home. Cars were "flying past" and the garda was "extremely nervous" for his safety. The horse became agitated and he feared they would be clipped by a car.

The garda had to hold the horse's reins while on the phone. Gunning was very unsteady on his feet when he got off the carriage and the garda "knew he had consumed a hell of a lot of alcohol".

Gunning told the court he'd had a "designated driver" in the carriage with him, but that man left on the way.

He said cars were beeping and taking photos of him on the way. He did not initially know the man who told him to stop was a garda.

Gunning said he did pull away a second time because he was moving to a safer place for his horse. He said he was not intoxicated, but more "tired".

The defence argued that Gunning had proper control of the vehicle. He said the horse in question was "placid".

"God only knows what might have happened if something upset or disturbed the animal… I can only imagine the consequences," Judge Walsh said.

Irish Independent

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