Drunk driver jailed for seven-and-a-half years
A judge has suggested that legislators should look at tougher sentencing for drink driving in line with the UK.
Travelling salesman Finbarr O'Rourke (40), of Laurel Drive, Portlaoise, Co Laois, was jailed for seven years and six months for causing the death of four-year-old Ciaran Treacy. He was also disqualified from driving for 20 years.
Ciaran was travelling with his brother Sean (7) and mother Gillian when a vehicle driven by O'Rourke crossed the white line and ploughed into their car.
The family had spent a day with Gillian's parents when the collision occurred at Ballymorris, Portarlington, at 8.30pm on April 17, 2014.
O'Rourke pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death.
At the sentence hearing at Portlaoise Circuit Court, Judge Keenan Johnson described the victim impact statement of Ronan and Gillian Treacy as "one of the most powerful, harrowing, vivid and upsetting that I have ever read".
He said it served as a "wake-up call" that we as a society need to make it clear that drinking and driving is "neither socially nor morally acceptable".
Judge Johnson expressed admiration for the Treacy family for their bravery and referred to Gillian's own physical injuries as well as the family's emotional grief.
Meanwhile, he acknowledged that they had also been financially affected, as they were forced to close the family business.
He said drivers have a duty of care to others when they step into a car.
"By drinking and driving, a person is betraying that duty of care and putting other innocent road users in danger," said Judge Johnson.
"A car under the control of a drunken driver is no longer a mode of transport, it is a lethal instrument that has the capacity to kill and maim," he said.
The judge said the maximum sentence for dangerous driving causing death in this jurisdiction is 10 years, while it is 14 in the UK, and he suggested this was "worth looking into".
O'Rourke had a urine alcohol reading of 200mg per 100ml - three times over the normal limit. However, he was seven times over the legal limit imposed on him as a commercial traveller.
In a statement, Ciaran's parents said they will always wonder how life would have been.
"He never got the chance to start school, make his Communion, Confirmation, go to college, get married or have children.
"These are the things that will break our hearts even more, knowing he did not get to live his life, a life that was so brutally taken through the drunken actions of Finbarr O'Rourke. Again, this I will never forgive Finbarr O'Rourke for."
The Treacys said their two remaining children, Sean (7) and Caoimhe (3) keep them alive, they said.
"They need us and it is our goal to be good parents to them and they deserve nothing less," they said.
"We carry on knowing we have an angel in heaven watching over us."