'He was the light of our lives, the energy in our home has now been taken from us'
Published 04/11/2015 | 02:30
A crocodile of school children on their way to the library zig-zagged past the courthouse.
Full of chat, stifled giggles and bubbling over with youthful zest, they were all about the same age that Ciaran Treacy should have been now.
Five minutes later, Ronan and Gillian Treacy arrived.
And very slowly and clearly in great pain, Gillian made her way up the courthouse steps with her crutch, to find out how long the drunk driver who killed their four-year-old son would be spending behind bars.
In the juxtaposition between these two little vignettes, we had a heartstopping snatch of the sheer, raw loss the Treacys are currently experiencing.
Some time later, a prison van pulled up outside the court and a hunched, cowering figure emerged.
Finbarr O'Rourke (40) - his jacket pulled tight over his head in a bid to conceal his face.
Sentence hearings are usually brief, cursory and shorn of emotion.
But the hearing at Portlaoise Circuit Court could do nothing but mirror the overwhelming sense of loss, grief and shattered dreams of the Treacy and Ryan families as they continue to mourn the loss of "a beautiful little boy".
As Judge Keenan Johnson began to read through his 27-page sentence document, even he became visibly emotional and had to pause as he spoke of how "in the blink of an eye, the Treacys' beautiful family was shattered".
Tears slid down the cheeks of extended family members as they heard about the happy day that had been spent by Gillian with her parents, Noel and Marie Ryan.
This account was "hard to reconcile with the calamitous events" that had then transpired," said the judge.
Gillian and Ronan sat motionless and dry-eyed as O'Rourke stood before them.
Balding and red-faced, we heard that the former travelling salesman for Cadbury was at a low point when he sat behind the wheel of a vehicle after consuming nine pints of cider.
He had been informed that he was to be made redundant, his marriage had collapsed and he was worried about his mortgage.
As a commercial traveller, he was subject to stricter levels of alcohol consumption and was therefore seven times over the limit when his car crossed the white line of the road, snuffing out the life of little Ciaran and causing catastrophic injuries to Gillian.
But the judge spoke then of how O'Rourke was "a decent human being who had made a big mistake", and said there had been emotional scenes when he had said farewell to his own two daughters on Monday, knowing that the next time he would see them it would be in jail.
O'Rourke showed no emotion as he was led away after being sentenced to seven years and six months.
At one point, Gillian attempted to pass a letter to O'Rourke, but was intercepted.
She later declined to reveal what the letter contained, saying: "No I wouldn't like to do that. That's between me and Finbarr O'Rourke."
The pain in her voice was almost unbearable as she described Ciaran as a beautiful child. "He was the light of our lives," she said.
"He was the energy in our home, and that has been taken from us."
His loss is their life sentence, she simply said.