Drunk driver: I just didn’t think

“I just didn’t think, I just jumped into the car.” Those were the words of Finbarr O’Rourke, the man who consumed up to 10 pints of cider before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle and crashing into a family car, resulting in the death of a four-year-old boy.

O’Rourke, aged 40, of Laurel Drive, Portlaoise, admitted dangerous driving causing the death of Ciarán Treacy at Ballymorris, Portlaoise, on April 17, 2014.

Finbarr O’Rourke
Finbarr O’Rourke

The head-on collision occurred as Ciarán’s mother Gillian was returning home to Portarlington with her sons Ciaran and Sean, 7, after spending a day with their grandparents in Stradbally, Co Laois.

Ms Treacy told gardaí the driver “appeared to be slumped over the wheel” just prior to the collision.

O’Rourke was later arrested after he walked away from the scene.

Mrs Treacy had to be cut from the car. Husband Ronan arrived on the scene after being alerted to the incident. It took an hour before Ms Treacy was freed and taken to the Midland Regional Hospital at Tullamore. Her sons were brought to hospital in Portlaoise. She has undergone 10 operations and may yet lose the lower part of one of her legs.

Sergeant David Lynam told the court that, on hearing of Ciarán’s death, O’Rourke “essentially rammed his head through a window in the station”.

On the day in question, O’Rourke had visited a number of pubs in Portarlington with a friend, where each had consumed an estimated eight or 10 pints before there was a disagreement and O’Rourke decided to leave in his car.

Sgt Lynam confirmed that O’Rourke had given a urine sample which recorded 200mg of alcohol per 100ml of urine. The legal limit is 67mg of alcohol per 100ml of urine.

O’Rourke, a separated father of two, took to the stand to apologise.

“I would give my life. I never went out to hurt anybody that day,” he said. “I just didn’t think, I just jumped into the car.”

The court heard O’Rourke had attempted to harm himself after the incident. On one occasion he jumped from a moving car outside Portlaoise Prison.

“I jumped out of the car, I just wanted to go straight to prison, I felt so bad,” he said.

Conor Devally, defending, said O’Rourke had entered a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity. His client has no previous convictions and is now attending AA, he pointed out.

Mr Fennelly told the court the penalty for dangerous driving causing death was a fine of up to €20,000, a disqualification not less than four years, and up to 10 years in prison. The potential penalties for drink driving were up to six months in prison, a fine of up to €5,000, and for the recorded alcohol level, a disqualification of two years or more.

Judge Keenan Johnson commended the Treacy family for their powerful statement and said it should be compulsory reading for anybody who is considering drunk driving.

Judge Johnson described the matter as “clearly a case that will carry a custodial sentence”.

O’Rourke will appear in court again on Tuesday, when sentencing is expected to be finalised.

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