A driver who was three times over the legal alcohol limit, caused chronic, life-changing injuries to another motorist while chasing her now ex-partner, whom she mistakenly believed had abducted her son from her home.
Oonagh Carter (36), from 13 Ashfield Road, Greenfields, Newcastle, received a three-year suspended sentence and was disqualified from driving for four years at Galway Circuit Criminal Court.
She pleaded guilty in January to driving dangerously at Polkeen, Castlegar, on July 10, 2016, which caused serious bodily harm to the male driver of another car.
She also pleaded guilty to a second charge of drunken driving at N17, Tuam Road, Castlegar, on the same date, which stated that a blood sample taken from her at the time gave a reading of 168mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.
The reading showed she was more than three times over the maximum legal blood/alcohol limit, which is 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.
Sentence was adjourned to last week’s court for the preparation of a probation report on Carter and a victim impact statement from the injured man.
Garda Dermot Hardiman said he arrived at the scene of the head-on collision, finding one of the cars over on its side. The impact had occurred on Carter’s incorrect side of the road.
Carter, he said, had been driving a BMW while the other motorist had been driving a Passat. The injured man had to be cut from his vehicle.
Both he and Carter were removed by ambulance from the scene. A blood sample was taken from Carter in the hospital which gave the above reading.
Garda Hardiman said Carter had a few drinks in town earlier that night where she had a dispute with her partner. She got a taxi home and went to bed. The argument continued at home and he stormed out of the house. She presumed he had taken her son and she jumped into her car, barefoot and dressed in her night attire, and drove after him out the Tuam road.
The injured man underwent emergency lifesaving surgery that night for internal injuries he sustained in the impact.
He also suffered a fractured vertebrae in his neck and developed sepsis and a blood clot post-surgery. He spent a month in hospital recovering from his injuries.
Garda Hardiman said the man still suffers from quite severe, life-changing conditions as a result of the internal injuries he sustained that night.
His victim impact statement was read into evidence by Garda Hardiman as he did not wish to attend court.
The man said that while he felt lucky to be alive, he no longer felt safe and confident and had been unable to return to work.
He said his favourite pasttime had been driving cars but he could no longer do that. He continues to have trouble sleeping and sees the lights of the other car coming towards him.
“My independence and confidence have been stripped away. I cannot garden and I cannot play with my grandchild. I have pain every day. I have a constant stream of medical check-ups and I will be under the care of the surgical team in UHG for a long time,” the man said in his victim impact statement.
Defence barrister, Conal McCarthy, said Carter wanted to publicly apologise to the man and his family.
He said it was an exceptional case in that Carter didn’t intend to drink and drive that night.
“She had done everything right by leaving her car at home and taking a taxi into town. She drank three to four craft beers and a couple of pints and took another taxi home.
“She went to bed and fell asleep but her then boyfriend woke her up and they had a fight.”
Mr McCarthy said Carter suddenly believed the man had left her home with her son and she hopped into her car and went after him.
He said his client suffered significant injuries in the impact too.
Judge Rory McCabe said the other innocent driver had suffered “profound and serious injuries” while going about his own business that night and the fact that Carter had taken alcohol was an aggravating factor.
However, he said, Carter’s probation report could not be any more positive and sending her to jail would not bring the victim back to full health or serve the interests of justice.
The judge said she had made a bad decision that night and her barrister had painted a picture of a concerned parent who mistakenly believed her son was being abducted.
He sentenced Carter to three years in prison for the dangerous driving causing serious injury charge which he suspended for five years and imposed a four-year disqualification. A concurrent four-year disqualification was also imposed for the drunken driving charge.
Brave Holly’s battle against leukaemia
A keen young camogie player from Knocknacarra diagnosed with leukaemia at the start of the first lockdown has now learned that she has lost her sight in one eye due to a rare complication.
Holly McAlinney was the picture of health at age seven. Her mother Sharon remembers the day schools were closed last March that her teacher had remarked that Holly had difficulty hearing in class.
She took her to the GP, thinking it was an ear infection and then her jaw swelled up so she thought it may have been her adenoids acting up. When medication did nothing to relieve the symptoms, they sent off a blood test.
“I went to the doctor with her on my own, you were only allowed one parent in at a time. They asked if I could call my husband so I knew things were bad. They confirmed it was leukaemia on a Wednesday and on the Monday we were in Crumlin Children’s Hospital getting chemotherapy – that’s how quickly it’s all been.”
Holly is now in the middle of her fourth round of chemo, which she undergoes weekly one day a week in the Dublin hospital. When she finishes this, she will have a fifth round given over two years to ensure the cancer doesn’t return.
Her medical team are extremely positive about her prospects. There is currently a 98 per cent survival rate with leukaemia, which is of course a huge relief to family and friends.
But things haven’t gone plain sailing throughout the treatment. Holly developed ulcers on her duodenum which left her in intensive care for a spell. And then last week, the family learned that the leukaemia had infiltrated her left eye, leaving a gap which could result in permanent blindness.
“We’re seeing a specialist in University Hospital Galway (UHG) next week but we don’t hold out much hope the sight will come back. Holly’s the most upbeat of all of us because she’s so young – she can’t see the repercussions into the future.
“That’s the way she’s been throughout the treatment. The first two rounds were heavy and the third quite light so she bounced right back. She was in school September and October, you wouldn’t know she was sick, and we felt she was safe because everything was so clean and with all the bubbles.
“It was right back down with the fourth round which was the heaviest so she can’t go see anyone just her brother – it’s heart-breaking.”
Her school friends have been keeping in touch by sending videos and cards to Holly to cheer her up.
While camogie and swimming will be out of the occasion for the foreseeable future, Sharon is confident they can find other hobbies that will enthral Holly, who is a very sociable and sporty girl. Sharon trains Holly with the U-8 camogie team with Salthill-Knocknacarra GAA.
The frequent trips to Dublin and hospital appointments has meant that Sharon has had to give up her job working in the Little Stars Montessori on the Cappagh Road, where son Alex still attends afterschool. Dad Rob works as an alarm engineer.
New mothers that Sharon met in Holly’s parent and baby group in Knocknacarra have organised a fundraiser to help the family get through the financial stress of coping with cancer.
They are planning a hike on December 6 at Diamond Hill, Connemara and have already raised €16,000 in donations.
“Rob and I are both from Salthill, but it’s been amazing the amount of people we wouldn’t have heard or seen in years who have contacted us to offer support. It’s only when you’re in trouble that you realise how good people can be.”
■ To make a donation, log on to GoFundMe
Proposals to change speed limits in Galway City are voted down
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Planned speed limit changes for Galway City are stuck in the slow lane after councillors rejected a proposal for new bylaws.
The bylaws would have introduced a 30km/h zone in the city centre and 19 other changes, including increased speed limits in areas such as Bóthar na dTreabh to 80km/h.
Management at City Hall have now been sent back to the drawing board to draft new speed limit bylaws after a majority of elected members voted against them – it could at least two years before new proposals are ready.
At a meeting this week, several councillors spoke out against plans to increase speed limits to 80km/h on approach roads into the city.
Many of them criticised the system of selecting roads for speed limit changes, lashed the public consultation process and decried the lack of input from councillors, despite speed limits being a reserved function of elected members.
Councillors were particularly peeved that the proposal had to be accepted in its entirety, without amendments, or rejected outright – they could not pick and choose individual changes.
Deputy Mayor Collette Connolly (Ind) led the charge against the bylaws, which she described as “idiotic”.
She lambasted the “incomprehensible decision” not to lower speed limits to 30km/h outside schools and she said it was “utter raiméis” (nonsense) that speeds can’t be lowered to 30km/h, if 85% of the traffic on that road travels at 50km/h.
Cllr Connolly said the bylaws were “flawed”, and cited the decision to leave Rahoon Road/Shantalla Road at 50km/h, despite a crèche and two schools on other roads like Lough Atalia remaining at 30km/h.
(Photo: A speed van on Bóthar na dTreabh on Thursday morning)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, including how each councillor voted and a map of the proposed changes, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Corrib to be opened up as new tourism and leisure blueway
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The first steps are to be taken next year to explore the development of a ‘blueway’ tourism and leisure trail along the River Corrib, from Nimmo’s Pier and onto the lake itself.
This week, Galway City Council Chief Executive, Brendan McGrath, confirmed to the Galway City Tribune, that monies had been set aside to begin exploratory work on what will be known as the Great Western Blueway.
A figure of €65,000 has been allocated in the City Council’s 2021 annual budget to commission an initial study of what’s involved in the setting up a blueway trail on the Corrib.
“The Corrib river and the lake are a most wonderful natural asset for the entire western region and I have no doubt that this project has fantastic potential in terms of enhancing the tourism pulling power of the city and its environs,” Mr McGrath told the Galway City Tribune this week.
Should the project come to fruition, it would be the fifth such waterway attraction to be developed in the island of Ireland.
Already there are Blueways on the Shannon, from Drumshanbo to Lanesboro; the Shannon-Erne project from Leitrim village to Belturbet (Cavan); the Royal Canal at Mullingar; and at Lough Derg from Portumna to Scariff in Clare.
According to Mr McGrath, the attractions developed along the Great Western Blueway would be environmentally friendly, featuring such attractions as kayaking, paddling, adjacent cycle trails as well as scenic walkways and visitor centres.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.