Young driver in 150km/h race on Listowel-ballybunion road

A YOUNG Ballybunion man who raced another car at speeds of up to 100 miles an hour on the main Ballybunion/ Listowel road on Stephen's Day escaped a driving ban when a judge heard he needed his licence to continue working in Canada.

Brian O'Connor, The Astor, Sandhill Road, Ballybunion appeared before Judge Mary Larkin at Listowel District Court on Thursday charged with careless driving. Garda Ian Kelly told the court he saw two cars, including a Honda Civic, line-up side-by-side on the road at Gortnaskeha at 6.22pm on St Stephen's Day last.

"Both took off at speed, racing, and travelling side-by-side," Garda Kelly said. He told the court he drove at 150km/h an hour (93mph) to try to keep up with the cars and ' they were going a lot faster than that'. The court heard how the Honda Civic, which was on the right hand side of the road, had to pull in at one stage to avoid an oncoming car. The cars sped along a no overtaking zone and split up in Lisselton, five miles from where the race began.

Garda Kelly said he identified Mr O'Connor as the driver of one of the cars and arrested him later that evening.

The court heard that Mr O'Connor had no previous convictions. Solicitor Pat Enright said his client came from a very well-respected Ballybunion family and had returned from Canada, where he is working and intends to return to.

Mr Enright said the incident happened on a straight stretch of road and asked Garda Kelly if it was not the case that the no overtaking zone was there due to bumps in the road for the most part. Garda Kelly agreed.

Mr Enright told the court that Mr O'Connor's parents were most disapproving of their son's behaviour.

"It's a classic sin," Judge Larkin said. "A huge amount of youthful indiscretion" was how Mr Enright responded.

Mr O'Connor told the judge he is working as a welder and fabricator in Canada and needs his driving licence to keep his job as he regularly travels between the states of Saskatchewan and Alberta.

"I take into account the fact that the accused has entered a plea and come in here today with his hands up," Judge Larkin remarked. "I can't excuse the nature of the driving on Irish roads and it's extremely important that there was no death or accident as he hit speeds of up to 90 miles an hour which are greater than would be allowed on a motorway."

However, Judge Larkin said she accepted, as a special reason, his need for a licence for work in Canada. Mr O'Connor was fined €1,000 for careless driving and given three months to pay.

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