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Death driver with drink and drugs in his system is sent to jail

A well-known Galway GAA man died after his car was hit by a vehicle driven by a neighbour who was three times over the drink driving limit and tested positive for cocaine.

PJ Mahoney, a grandfather, father of six and goalkeeper on the championship winning Ardrahan hurling teams in the seventies, was pronounced dead at the scene of the fatal collision, a short distance from his home in Tullira, Ardrahan, on December 7, 2021.

A farmer and contractor in south Galway and north Clare, Mr Mahoney (76) was praised by presidents, Mary McAleese and Michael D Higgins, for his support to flood-hit communities, the court heard.

PJ Mahoney was driving from his home in Ardrahan to Gort to collect a prescription when his car was struck by a car on the wrong side of the road, the court heard.

At Galway Circuit Court this week, Judge Brian O’Callaghan imposed a four-year sentence with the final twelve months suspended, on David Gough (33).

Judge O’Callaghan said Gough’s driving on the day he caused the death of PJ Mahoney “was nothing short of absolute and utter madness”.

In a victim impact statement, the family of PJ Mahoney urged the court to impose the maximum ten-year sentence for what the deceased’s son, Patrick, said was the “reckless, dangerous and mindless actions of the defendant”.

“The grief, pain and distress we feel is deep and hard to describe”, he said.

Patrick Mahoney said the family are “haunted” and have been “robbed” of their ability to grieve.

The court heard PJ Mahoney died a month after the death of his wife, Marie, and days after her month’s mind.

“The image of our father, lying dead on the road, the rain falling on him…”, Patrick Mahoney added.

Patrick Mahoney said reports their father died as a result of the storm, caused distress.

He said weather conditions were calm and his father was a “cautious man” who would not have driven if he thought it was dangerous.

Patrick Mahoney said his father had the GAA in his veins and was synonymous with Ardrahan’s hurling success in the seventies.

He said his father’s death has had a terrible impact on the family and said Gough showed a “knowing, arrogant and reckless disregard for human life”.

David Gough, a father of one and panel beater, with an address at Grannagh, Ardrahan, and originally from Kilderry, Muff, Co Donegal, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of PJ Mahoney.

He also pleaded guilty to counts of drink and drug driving in the Gort area and a separate count of dangerous driving that occurred near Gort, hours before the death of Mr Mahoney.

Garda Jason Clarke confirmed to prosecuting counsel, Geri Silke BL, that when tested after the fatal crash, Gough was three times over the drink driving limit and a blood specimen also tested positive for cocaine and traces of morphine.

Garda Clarke, who was commended for the manner in which he delivered his evidence, told the court the collision occurred near Kiltartan, on a straight stretch of the R458 road between Gort and Ardrahan, on which the speed limit was 80km/h.

Garda Clarke said a Garda investigation, including CCTV taken from “reference” points along the route driven by Gough, estimated the accused was driving at a speed of 131.5 km/h when the head-on collision occurred.

An advanced paramedic pronounced death at the scene and a local priest performed the last rites on Mr Mahoney, the court heard.

Met Eireann issued a storm warning on the day of Mr Mahoney’s death. but Patrick Mahoney said weather conditions were calm when his father left home.

Defence barrister, Bernard Madden SC, told the court he had been instructed by his client to apologise for the manner in which Gough had brought about the death of the deceased.

He said Gough was Mr Mahoney’s neighbour and offered his “deep remorse”.

Counsel said his client started to abuse alcohol and cocaine after the death of his young son.

He said his client instructs he gave up drink and drugs, without the assistance of services, but has no proof of this.

Judge O’Callaghan commended the deceased’s son, Patrick Mahoney.

“It was appropriate and right that the man who went to the scene to meet his dad and formally identify him, gave the most powerful victim impact statement to the court.”

In sentencing, Judge O’Callaghan said: “The facts of this case are quite horrendous.”

He said by way of general comment: “The court has to again ask why so many young people are not only drink driving, but mixing alcohol with cocaine.”

Judge O’Callaghan continued: “It is absolutely frightening, this toxic mixture.”

He said cases come involving drugs and alcohol regularly come before the court, “resulting in tragic and other serious consequences”.

The court heard that, hours prior to the fatal collision, Gough was involved in a separate incident of dangerous driving where he followed shop worker Lauren Deely from Labane to Gort.

Gda Clarke told the court that Ms Deely said: “I was afraid he was going to crash into me.”

Judge O’Callaghan said: “The taunting of Ms Deely in such a serious and dangerous manner and putting her in fear of her life – not once but twice – it is so hard to understand.”

He said it is of no comfort to the family that Mr Mahoney was “quite literally in the wrong place at the wrong time”.

Judge O’Callaghan set a headline sentence of six years and imposed a post mitigation sentence of four years.

Judge O’Callaghan suspended the final twelve months and imposed a concurrent four-month sentence for the other dangerous driving charge.

The judge also imposed a mandatory four-year driving ban.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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