TAOISEACH Brian Cowen has conveyed his sympathies following the deaths of eight men in a horrific road accident in Donegal.
Mr Cowen, on a trip to New York, urged people to continue to push for improved safety.
“I am deeply saddened to learn of these deaths and I want to extend my sincere sympathies to everyone who lost loved ones,” Mr Cowen said.
Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said the weekend loss of life — 10 people died in all — on the country’s roads was “truly shocking”.
“Just over two weeks ago, I accepted an EU award marking Ireland’s progress to improve our road safety record. Today, we are vividly reminded that we can never, ever become complacent about road safety,” he said.
TDs and senators for the Donegal area also warned that the horror of the crash will touch every family in the Inishowen peninsula.
Fianna Fáil deputy Jim McDaid said: “The emergency services who dealt with this were very distraught, I don’t think any of them had dealt with a tragedy of this magnitude before.
“This is another huge tragedy for north Donegal — it’s just very hard to take in. It seems to have been total carnage on a narrow, windy piece of road.
“We certainly seem to have more than our fair share of these tragedies up here, despite efforts to try and make things safer.”
Former junior transport minister Mr McDaid, who was banned from driving for two years after being three times over the drink drive limit in 2005, said the road safety message was failing to get through.
“All these TV ads, the message doesn’t seem to be getting through — a tragedy like this where eight young people pack into the back of a Passat — that is illegal in itself. These things happen — it’s only afterwards we react to them instead of being pro-active,” the deputy added.
Donegal North East Fine Gael TD Joe McHugh said it was a black day for the area: “Inishowen is a very closely knit community. Everyone living there will have some family connection to one of the victims.
“Even the emergency officers themselves who witnessed the accident have been traumatised by what they witnessed.”
Sinn Féin Donegal Senator Pearse Doherty said the peninsular was gripped with hurt and anguish: “The devastating loss of eight people in a car crash is a tragedy of immense proportions, not just for the families and friends of those who have died, but for the wider close-knit community on the Inishowen peninsula.”
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said he had been in contact with the Taoiseach: “This is horrific. I’ve been texting the Taoiseach in relation to it. It’s terrible news. We have been reducing the fatalities on the road but something like this just sends us back.”
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