Saturday 10 December 2016

Widow 'will never forget children's cries' after father killed

Published 24/04/2015 | 02:30

Margaret O’Leary, the wife of hit-and-run victim Paud O’Leary, leaves Tralee Court with members of her legal team, Katie O’Connell and Andrew O’Connell
Margaret O’Leary, the wife of hit-and-run victim Paud O’Leary, leaves Tralee Court with members of her legal team, Katie O’Connell and Andrew O’Connell
Paud O'Leary
Shane Fitzgerald received a five-year sentence over Paud’s death

THE widow of a cyclist killed by a hit-and-run driver has said she will never forget the cries of her four children when she told them their father was dead.

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Margaret O'Leary was giving her victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing of Shane Fitzgerald (23), who was jailed for five years for dangerous driving causing the death of Paud O'Leary.

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

Mr O'Leary (42) was killed at Scrahanfadda, Gneeveguilla, Co Kerry on July 1, 2012 shortly after 5am, while on a training cycle for a charity event.

Fitzgerald admitted his guilt for the first time in a probation reported submitted to the court.

He left for Britain within 24 hours of the crash, applied for an Australian visa the following day and flew there on July 12.

He was arrested at Heathrow Airport as he attempted to board a plane for Australia in February 2014.

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

Judge Thomas E O'Donnell suspended the final 18 months of the custodial sentence. He also disqualified Fitzgerald from driving for 10 years.

In her victim impact statement, described by the judge as one of the "most powerful" he had ever heard, Mrs O'Leary said her children had depended on her husband so much, as the head of the family and the authority figure in their home, but that all changed on July 1, 2012.

She said three days later, their daughter Antoinette, who has Down syndrome, turned 12 on the day her father was laid to rest.

Honour

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

"Paud took up cycling when Antoinette was born and did the Ring of Kerry Cycle 10 years in a row to honour not only Antoinette but every child born with a disability," she said.

Her other children - Ross, Paud and Shannon - were aged seven, nine and 14 at the time.

"Paud loved his children so much and they were his life," his wife added.

She said his death had a ripple effect on the wider community, as Paud was well-known for his voluntary work and for coaching ladies' football and basketball.

Mrs O'Leary said it would have been some small consolation had her husband's organs been donated, but this was not possible as he had laid in the ditch for eight hours.

She said she found it hard to encourage forgiveness as the loss was too great and the cries of her children too hard to bear.

"All we ever wanted was the truth. We all accept accidents happen, but we can never accept that at no point did anyone ever own up or admit their involvement in the death of Paud," she said.

Imposing sentence, Judge O'Donnell said he had to take account of the aggravating circumstances that included the "appalling amount of alcohol" Mr Fitzgerald had consumed, the deliberate lies and the concealment of the vehicle.

Judge O'Donnell said Mr Fitzgerald - of Upper Knockeen, Knockduff, Meelin, Co Cork - has also shown a lack of concern up until the day of sentencing and this had added to the trauma of the family.

He said the outcome might have been very different if Fitzgerald had stopped his vehicle and "stood his ground".

Irish Independent

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