Sunday 25 August 2019

Sinn Féin candidate: 'I'm still embarrassed and ashamed that I got behind the wheel that night'

Sinn Féin's general election candidate Pat Buckley
Sinn Féin's general election candidate Pat Buckley

Ralph Riegel

A General Election candidate admitted a drink driving conviction is "a cross I will have to carry for the rest of my life".

Councillor Pat Buckley, the Sinn Féin candidate for Cork East in the 2016 General Election, appealed to Irish motorists to think twice before they get behind the wheel after drinking.

He said his experience should serve as a stark warning not to drink and drive, particularly in the run-up to Christmas.

"Reading the newspapers over the past few days brought it all back to me. The headlines were all about a different case but I kept being reminded about my own case. I'm still embarrassed and ashamed that I got behind the wheel that night," he said.

But the Midleton politician, who founded a suicide support charity after two of his brothers took their own lives, said he was very disappointed that political rivals would anonymously circulate the media about his drink driving conviction rather than having the courage of speaking out openly about it.

"It is a matter of public record. I spoke about it at the time and, if anyone raises it today, I'm straight up about the mistake I made."

The politician was stopped by gardaí and found to be over the limit as he drove home from a family celebration.

Cllr Buckley had his license disqualified for three years and was fined €500 after being convicted at Midleton District Court last December of being over the permitted alcohol limit while driving.

The politician, a member of Cork County Council's eastern electoral area, was stopped by gardaí in the early hours of June 9, 2013, at Mill Road in Midleton and was later found to be more than three times over the permitted blood-alcohol level.

Judge Brian Sheridan imposed a three-year driving ban which came into force in the new year.

Based at Broomfield West in Midleton, Cllr Buckley is best known for his campaigning for enhanced health services and the founding of a support group for the families of suicide victims.

He lost his brothers Mark and James to suicide in 2002 and 2003.

Immediately after his conviction, Cllr Buckley addressed the media and urged other road users to learn from his mistake.

"As a Sinn Féin public representative I regret my actions and my choice to drive after drinking," he said.

"In turn, I accept the justice handed down by the court.

"I strongly respect the value of human life through my founding of the 'Let's Get Together Foundation' to tackle suicide.

"I urge all people out socialising to respect the roads and not to drink and drive, particularly over the festive season," he said.

"I wish it hadn't happened and I'm just relieved that no-one was hurt," he told the Irish Independent.

"I'm very ashamed about what happened."

Read More: Sinn Féin candidate 'ashamed' at drink-drive conviction

Read More: Sinn Féin nominates councillor in bid to calm row

Irish Independent

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