Wednesday 20 September 2017

'He got just four months -- one for each year of our dead son's life'

Claire O'Brien

ARNOLDAS VALINSKAS was given a four-month prison sentence last month following the death of a child. It is a month for every year that Peter Hennessy had lived.

The youngster was killed by the uninsured, disqualified driver in December of last year. He was buried with the toys he was due to get for Christmas.

His family is now calling for tougher measures to be brought in to prevent disqualified motorists taking to the roads.

The youngster, from Oldcastle, Co Meath, had been travelling with his father, Peter Snr, and his younger brother, Paul (3), when his father's four-wheel-drive and trailer jackknifed on the N4.

Peter Hennessy Snr tried to get his two boys to the safety of a filling station while another man warned passing motorists of the danger. They didn't make it. "Paul said, 'Daddy, a white van is coming'," his father recalled yesterday.

Devastated

Peter Snr grabbed his sons to run but "next thing I knew I was on the ground". Paul was underneath him but there was no sign of Peter Jnr.

Despite breaking both arms, the father crawled on his hands and knees and found his son under the four-wheel-drive. "He was pumping blood," he said simply. "I'll never forget it."

Ann Hennessy recalled how they tiptoed into his hospital room after Peter Jnr died. "His eyes were open and he had a big smile," she said. "He had a huge bang to one side of his head. Then Paul asked, 'Mammy, why won't Peter talk to me?'"

Later, as the devastated couple tried to explain the situation to the then two-year-old, Paul wanted to know, "why did God take him? Has he no children of his own?"

His mother said yesterday that Paul still looks for his play-mate and every day moves the toys on his brother's grave because little Peter can't. The family can see the graveyard from their kitchen window.

"All we know is grief," Ann said. "There is an empty feeling in our souls all the time."

Valinskas (37) was jailed for four months for charges relating to the accident last month. He had been disqualified from driving for four years in 2008 for refusing to provide a breath specimen.

Judge Elizabeth McGrath accepted that the circumstances of the accident were tragic and that the driver was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder since it happened.

However, she told Mullingar District Court that she "could not leave over" the fact that Valinskas, of Belgard Green, Tallaght, had been disqualified at the time and had not been driving for any emergency reason. He had been going fishing.

He was jailed for four months for each of three charges relating to the night Peter died: driving without insurance, driving while disqualified and driving the van without permission.

"He got four months," Ann Hennessy said. "That's one month for each year of our son's life. We are left with grief."

The Hennessys said it was time the law was changed to stop disqualified drivers taking to the roads.

More than 10,000 drivers were disqualified last year, according to the Courts Service.

Irish Independent

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