Wednesday 7 December 2016

Student (23) sentenced for dangerous driving causing death of father-of-four Paud O'Leary

Published 23/04/2015 | 13:33

Shane Fitzgerald (aged 22 in this picture) from Upper Knockeen, Knockduff, Meelin, Newmarket, Co. Cork
Shane Fitzgerald (aged 22 in this picture) from Upper Knockeen, Knockduff, Meelin, Newmarket, Co. Cork
Paud O'Leary was found dead in a ditch
Margaret O'Leary, wife of hit-and-run victim Paud O'Leary
Brid and Muiriosa O'Leary, Gneeveguilla, remembering the late Paud O'Leary while participating in the 29th Ring of Kerry charity cycle on Saturday. Credit: Photo by Michelle Cooper Galvin
Sean Og O'Leary (left) and Paudie Keane at the Ring of Kerry Cycle in memory of Sean Og's brother Paud O'Leary, who was killed in a hit-and-run incident

A 23-year-old man has been sentenced to six and a half years in prison with the final 18 months suspended for dangerous driving causing the death of a 42-year-old cyclist almost three years ago.

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Shane Fitzgerald of Upper Knockeen, Knockduff, Meelin, Co Cork had denied his involvement in the accident which claimed the life of Paud O'Leary, a father of four, at Scrahanfadda, Gneeveguilla, Co Kerry on July 1, 2012.

He was also disqualified from driving for 10 years.

Fitzgerald, who left for the UK within 24 hours of the accident, which occurred shortly after 5am after a night out in Killarney, had pleaded not guilty during the trial but later admitted in his probation report he had caused the accident.

Within days of leaving for the UK, he applied for an Australian visa and flew there on July 12.

Gardai carried out a number of searches of isolated areas, sheds and other places connected to Mr Fitzgerald and his extended family but failed to recover the grey Toyota Land Cruiser he had been driving.

Shane Fitzgerald (aged 22 in this picture) from Upper Knockeen, Knockduff, Meelin, Newmarket, Co. Cork
Shane Fitzgerald (aged 22 in this picture) from Upper Knockeen, Knockduff, Meelin, Newmarket, Co. Cork

In her victim impact statement read out at the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee, the victim's widow Margaret O'Leary said she would never forget the cries of her four children when she told them their dad was dead.

In a harrowing statement, described by Judge Thomas E O'Donnell as one of the "most powerful" he had heard, she said: "They all depended on him so much as he was the head of the family and the authority figure in their home.

Margaret O'Leary, wife of hit-and-run victim Paud O'Leary
Margaret O'Leary, wife of hit-and-run victim Paud O'Leary

Mrs O'Leary said her son Ross was only seven, Paud was nine, Antoinette was almost 12 and Shannon was just 14.

She said her daughter Antoinette, who has Down Syndrome, turned 12 on July 4, on the day her father was laid to rest.

Brid and Muiriosa O'Leary, Gneeveguilla, remembering the late Paud O'Leary while participating in the 29th Ring of Kerry charity cycle on Saturday. Credit: Photo by Michelle Cooper Galvin
Brid and Muiriosa O'Leary, Gneeveguilla, remembering the late Paud O'Leary while participating in the 29th Ring of Kerry charity cycle on Saturday. Credit: Photo by Michelle Cooper Galvin

Mrs O'Leary said her husband had completed the Ring of Kerry Cycle for the past 10 consecutive years before his death for Down Syndrome and to honour his daughter and all children born with a disability.

Judge O'Donnell suspended the last 18 months and backdated it to March.

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