Saturday 1 October 2016

Man denies causing Ireland's worst ever road tragedy in which eight men died

Greg Harkin

Published 25/02/2016 | 14:59

The car in which seven men died is removed from the scene near Clonmany in Donegal. Photo: Margaret McLoughlin
The car in which seven men died is removed from the scene near Clonmany in Donegal. Photo: Margaret McLoughlin
Shaun Kelly. Photo: PA

A MAN who killed seven friends and a pensioner in Ireland’s worst car crash denies causing the accident, an inquest into their deaths heard.

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Shaun Kelly, now 27, is serving eight years in prison after pleading guilty to causing the death of the eight men by dangerous driving.

His solicitor Ciaran MacLochlainn made the claim at the hearing in Buncrana, Co Donegal, as another woman involved in the incident appeared to give her evidence.

It emerged today that her car had a number of defects.

The crash happened near Drumfries in Inishowen on the night of the World Cup soccer final on July 11, 2010.

The claim from Mr MacLochlainn was severely criticised by a barrister for the Garda Commissioner Stephen Byrne.

Shaun Kelly. Photo: PA
Shaun Kelly. Photo: PA

It was also criticised by solicitor Frank Dorrian, representing 62-year-old Anne McGilloway whose car also collided with Kelly’s VW Passat on the night of the collision.

Kelly’s vehicle was involved in two collisions on the night, firstly with Mrs McGilloway and a short time later with 66-year-old Hugh Friel who died at the scene.

Seven of Kelly’s friends died after his car crossed the road and collided head-on with Mr Friel’s vehicle.

They were Eamon McDaid, 22 of Ballymagan, Buncrana; Mark McLaughlin (21) of Ballinahone, Fahan; Paul Doherty (19), of Ardagh, Ballyliffin; Ciaran Sweeney (19), of Ballyliffin; PJ McLaughlin (21), of Rockstown, Burnfoot; James McEleney (23), of Meenaduff, Clonmany and Damien McLaughlin (21), of Umricam, Buncrana.

Coroner Dr John Madden had to interject in today’s proceedings on numerous occasions to remind Kelly’s solicitor Mr MacLochlainn that an inquest cannot apportion blame for any death.

Mr MacLochlainn told the hearing that whilst his client had pleaded guilty to causing the deaths of the eight men due to excessive speed, he denied causing the accident.

He argued that Mrs McGilloway’s car was over the white line on the wrong side of the road when the first collision occurred.

However Mr Dorrian said his client “denies any responsibility” for the accident.

“The idea that Shaun Kelly admits in the criminal court to causing the deaths and then at the same denies responsibility defies every logical reasoning,” said Mr Dorrian.

“He is trying to diffuse blame elsewhere and this is not the forum for doing that.”

Mr Dorrian revealed that Kelly had begun High Court proceedings against his client Mrs McGilloway but had withdrawn the case.

“Drip-feeding suggestions is not in the interests of the grieving families here,” said Mr Dorrian.

“To suggest Mrs McGilloway has done something wrong is grossly offensive.”

Mrs McGilloway faced questions from Mr MacLochlainn and a number of relatives of the men who died.

During the evidence it emerged that her vehicle had two defects – a broken dipped left-side headlight and a defective front passenger side tyre.

The NCT on the vehicle was also two weeks out of date.

Mrs McGilloway insisted that Shaun Kelly’s car crossed to her side of the road and struck her Renault Megane.

Mr MacLochlainn has been refused permission to enter a defence engineer’s report in which it is claimed, the inquest heard, Mrs McGilloway’s car had crossed slightly over the white line to the wrong side of the road.

Relatives of the dead men, who are not legally represented, have been questioning witnesses.

Felix Doherty, father of teenager Paul Doherty, told Mrs McGilloway that he wanted to be able to go to his son's grave and tell him what happened on the night of the crash.

Mrs McGilloway denied that her car had crossed over to the wrong side of the road.

"He was on the wrong side of the road. I was on the right side of the road," she said.

The hearing continues.

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