Wednesday 22 November 2017

It's not my job to police drink-drivers: Publican

Tim Healy

A PUBLICAN told the High Court yesterday that it was not her responsibility to say how much a person should drink before driving.

Concepta Kelly was giving evidence in a case in which it is alleged she and her husband served too much alcohol to a customer who was killed in a car accident -- in which another person also died -- shortly after leaving their premises.

"I am not the Garda Siochana, it is up to the person themselves as to how much they should drink," Ms Kelly, co-proprietor with her husband Seamus of the Diamond Bar in Tullaghan, Co Leitrim, told the court.

She was under cross-examination in proceedings in which the court is being asked to make the Kellys partly liable for a compensation payout by the estate of the late customer who drove on the wrong side of the road and collided with an oncoming vehicle, killing both himself and a woman passenger in the other car.

That passenger was Anne McSorley, Antrim Road, Belfast, and the driver was her mother Mary Flanagan. Their car was hit by John Connolly (79), Kinlough, Co Leitrim, on the Sligo/Bundoran Road on March 31, 2005.


Mr Connolly had been drinking in the Diamond from 11.30 that morning before he got into his car to drive to his home two miles away at around 3.30pm.

He had been at a wake the previous day and the accident occurred at around 4pm. Blood tests showed he was three times over the legal limit for driving.

Ms Flanagan, Oakland Road, Omagh, Co Tyrone, who was injured in the accident, later sued the estate of Mr Connolly alleging the collision was caused by the negligence and breach of duty of care of Mr Connolly. Liability was admitted and that case was settled for €275,000.

The estate of Mr Connolly then brought what the court was told were "ground-breaking" proceedings seeking indemnity or contribution by the Kellys against that award.

It is alleged the publicans acted negligently and in breach of their duty of care in serving alcohol to Mr Connolly prior to the collision. The Kellys have denied any liability.

The case opened on March 10 last and resumed this week when a number of witnesses, including the Kellys, gave evidence.

Under cross-examination yesterday, Ms Kelly said she had served Mr Connolly four or five pints of beer before her husband took over from her in the afternoon. She said she did not know that Mr Connolly had got into his car after leaving the pub because she was not on duty when he left.

However, she had always considered him (Connolly) to be an "honourable" man who would not get behind the wheel of a car "if he thought he had too much".

Asked if she thought she should caution a customer about drinking and driving, she said it was up to the person themselves.

Ms Kelly, who is a member of the Vintners' Federation of Ireland, said: "There are people who can drink and drive with three or four pints and people who cannot drive with one (pint)."

Evidence in the case ended yesterday and Mr Justice Kevin Feeney adjourned the matter until next month when he will deal with legal submissions.

Irish Independent

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