The head-on crash occurred in the Ballykisteen area of west Co Tipperary, close to the village of Limerick Junction at about 7.15am. It’s believed both drivers died instantly.
The victims were named locally as John Ryan, in his early 80s and from Monard, about 8km from Tipperary town, and 43-year-old Mary O’Donnell who lived in Barronstown, Limerick Junction, with her husband James O’Donnell and two young children.
Ms O’Donnell, originally Mary Moloney from the village of Golden, worked as a nurse at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick and was believed to have been on her way to work.
Mr Ryan was a retired farmer whose wife Margaret died some years ago. They had four grown-up daughters who live in Dublin.
Mr Ryan, known as a local historian, is believed to have been driving to Limerick Junction to catch a train. He lived at Ballyryan, and came from a family steeped in Fine Gael politics.
The crash happened on the N24, the main route between Limerick and Waterford, about 6km from Tipperary town.
The parish priest of nearby Solohead, Fr John Morris, gave the victims the last rites and both were pronounced dead at the scene and their bodies removed to South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel.
Neither had any passengers in their respective cars.
“It’s a terrible loss and a terrible tragedy,” said Golden-based chairman of Tipperary County Council Michael Fitzgerald, a relative of Mr Ryan. “People are genuinely numbed about what happened.”
Mr Fitzgerald was a neighbour of Mrs O’Donnell when she lived in Golden and said her family are regarded as “very decent and well-liked” people.
He said the late Mr Ryan’s family are “very respected” throughout Monard and beyond. “His brother, Pat Ryan would have been on the canvas with me before the election.”
Fr Morris described the late Mr Ryan as “a repository of knowledge” and said he regularly went to Dublin to research documents at the National Archives.
The cause of the crash is being investigated by gardaí in Tipperary who have appealed for any witnesses, or anyone on that stretch of road between 6.40am and 7.20am yesterday, to contact them on 062-80670.
Independent TD Mattie McGrath offered his sympathies to the families of both victims and said if the N24 was “upgraded and improved, [then] the more likely it is we can minimise the risks of such terrible accidents occurring”.