Families of road victims finally get their voices heard on safety
THREE grieving families who lost young daughters in car crashes finally got to put their case before the Oireachtas transport committee yesterday after years of campaigning for better warning signs at roadworks.
The Gallagher family of Achill, Co Mayo; the Farrens from Carndonagh, Co Donegal; and the Keane family of Ballylongford, Co Kerry, all claim temporary road surfaces -- or the absence of any warning signs -- were responsible for the crashes in which they lost their beloved daughters.
Newly married 22-year-old Sinead McDaid (nee Farren) was killed when her car skidded on loose chippings on a road undergoing resurfacing work just two miles from her home in Craigston, Carndonagh, on June 12, 2001.
The next day, a road sweeper swept up the chippings and signs warning that there were no road markings appeared. The family claims that later on the evening of the fatal accident, flashing lights were erected at the accident scene.
"This is still happening and we want to stop this," Sean Farren told the Irish Independent. "I want my daughter's death to be properly investigated."
The family is also furious that Donegal County Council went to the High Court to prevent the Health and Safety Authority from carrying out an investigation, insisting the scene of the crash was not under construction at the time.
Ashling Gallagher (22 ), who had just graduated from college, died just before Christmas 2004 when her car skidded on an unfinished temporary road surface called dense bitumen macadam (DBM). There were no warning signs indicating a temporary surface or speed restrictions on the day she died.
National Road Authority regulations state that DBM must not be used as a final surface on main roads. Mr Gallagher yesterday revealed that on the way to Dublin from Achill for the hearing he came across stretches of newly laid DBM without any speed restrictions in place.
Mr Gallagher told the committee that Mayo County Council either did not make themselves aware of the guidelines "or choose to ignore them".
"We believe it has cost countless lives. Local authorities disregard NRA rules in the knowledge they are immune from prosecution, even if this is not written in law," he added.
Eileen Keane (18), a passenger in a car driven by her boyfriend, was studying to be a PE teacher in Tralee. On the evening of April 22, 2006, she died along with Trevor Chute (22), when their car drove through a crossroads and collided with another vehicle.
The Keane family claim they have photographs showing there were no yield or stop signs in place. All families told the committee they wanted to see a new independent system of investigating road deaths, one that was not carried out by the local authority or gardai alone.