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Saturday 25 November 2017

'Drink driver can still call his family -- I'll never get to talk with my son again'

Majella O'Sullivan and Ralph Riegel

A GRIEVING mother yesterday told how simple everyday tasks have become a nightmare because they are tied up in memories of her dead son.

Brendan Donnelly (24) died alongside his friend Lee Salkeld (26) in a horrific car crash in October last year. A father of two was jailed for five years earlier this week for dangerous driving causing their deaths.

But Christine Donnelly admits she has not been able to pick up the shattered pieces of her life.

"When I go into the supermarket, there are times when you'd actually think I had shoplifted because I've dropped the basket and left the store," the mother-of-two told the Irish Independent yesterday.

"As big and as gorgeous as Brendan was, he had a passion for Haribo sweets and he would text me and ask me to bring home the Haribos or the chicken pot noodles.

"When I go into the shops, I see these things and I'm gone."

Ms Donnelly has experienced loss before with the deaths of her parents and her brother but she said nothing prepares a parent for this type of loss.

"You are not conditioned to lose your child," she said. "It's a whole different ball game. The impact of a phone call or a knock on the door is something you can't measure on a Richter scale.

"Anyone who knew Brendan would say he was a trier. So popular were the two boys that they had to have counselling services where they worked."

Mrs Donnelly admits she can't let her son go.


"I can't phone my son," she said. "I call his voicemail and I leave a message that he'll never get."

The Kilkenny woman says she feels no compassion towards Anthony Long (29), who left the scene of the accident, and will never forgive him.

Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard Long, of Leadington, Leamlara, Co Cork, had been drinking since 3pm the previous day before attending a fancy-dress party in a pub -- and had consumed 11 cans and bottles of beer, seven pints of beer, two vodkas, three shots of After Shock and a line of cocaine before attempting to drive home after a row with his wife.

Mr Donnelly and Mr Salkeld were en route to the airport at the time with their partners, Kate Flynn and Laura Connolly, when the collision occurred.

"I don't want a letter of apology from Anthony Long," Ms Donnelly said yesterday.

"He doesn't owe me an apology. He owes my son's legacy an apology.

"No matter what he writes he doesn't have a clue the pain and the trail of destruction he has left behind.

"Of course he was going to sit there in court and cry and say how sorry he was.

"But he wasn't man enough to make a phone call for help to see who he could help that night in the car. How would he have felt if that happened to a member of his family?

"If you knocked a dog down on the road, you would stop to move it off the road if you were half-human.

"But to hit the car that night after the intake of the alcohol and cocaine and to not even dial 999 and call for help is unforgiveable."

Long, she says, will have his phone calls to his family, and his 'Welcome Home' balloons in time. Brendan will not.

And she has vowed to fight on to change the law that allows someone suspected of dangerous driving to get back behind the wheel of a car.

"This is happening far too often for it not to be anyone's business," she said.

"When you hand back the keys of a car to someone you're handing back a time bomb to somebody who has already committed the crime.

"It's like giving them a licence to go out and do it again."

Irish Independent

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