A mother who has been crusading for new laws since her son was killed by a drunk driver has warned young people about the dangers of getting in to a car with a driver who is under the influence of drink or drugs.
In a powerful and emotional address to a road safety conference for teenagers, Christina Donnelly urged them to remember her tragic story if they are offered a lift in a car by someone who has drink taken.
“If this ever arises, I want you to remember me and my son Brendan,” she said.
“Never think it’s cool to get in to a car with a driver who is behaving irrationally.
“And if someone calls you chicken, fluff your feathers and walk away.”
Her son, Brendan, 24, died alongside his friend, Lee Salkeld, when the car in which they were travelling was in a crash outside Castlemartyr in East Cork on October 26, 2009.
Their car was struck by a car being driven by Anthony Long, 29, who was drunk and driving on the wrong side of the road.
Long was jailed for five years in November 2010 for dangerous driving causing both deaths. He served three years and seven months.
Cork Circuit Criminal Court was told Long had been drinking since 3pm the previous day and was driving “like a bat out of hell” when the collision occurred.
Long, the court heard, drank 11 cans and bottles of beer, seven pints of beer, two vodkas, three After-Shocks and had consumed a line of cocaine before attempting to drive home after a row with his wife.
He drove his car head on into the other car on the main Waterford-Cork road.
Mrs Donnelly was among several people who addressed a road safety roadshow for second-level students in Cork, organised by Cork City Fire Brigade and supported by Axa.
She said she was delighted to reach out to the young drivers of the future.
“It’s an amazing feeling that out of something so destructive to my son, that we can bring something so productive,” she said.
She also told students of her campaign for new legislation — “Brendan’s law”.
She wants a new, get-tough policy with longer licence disqualifications for those who drink-drive and cause accidents in which others are injured or killed.
And she is also campaigning for any driver involved in a fatal collision who tests positive and is over the limit to be suspended from driving until their case is heard before the courts.
Transport Minister Paschal Donohue met her last month and has pledged to discuss the matter in depth before Christmas.
“These things don’t happen overnight,” said Mrs Donnelly said.
“When I started this campaign, I was told I was whistling in the wind.
“I’ve had so many doors closed in my face. People said how can we change the law?
“But I’m simply asking how it can be done.
“I’m very proud of Brendan’s legacy. I know this is right, and that is why I’m working on it.
“I’m simply a voice. I know he’s up there shouting me on. I believe he is working his socks off for me.”
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