Over 100 balloons were released into the skies over Co Donegal today in a special ceremony remembering the victims of road traffic accidents throughout the country.
Organised by Public Against Road Carnage (PARC), the ceremony and Mass in Buncrana was originally intended to commemorate those killed in the county since 2004, when the husband of the group’s founder Susan Gray was killed.
However, after reports previewing the ceremony appeared in the national media, the group received requests from victims’ relatives nationwide asking them to release balloons and remember their loved ones.
The event was organised to coincide with World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, which is also being supported by the Road Safety Authority (RSA).
Mrs Gray said: “We were very surprised at the amount of calls we got from people who had heard about what we were doing.
“They asked if we could put their loved ones name on a balloon. The amount of people who are just crying out for someone to acknowledge their loved ones,” she said.
Mrs Gray, whose husband Stephen was killed on St Stephen’s night, said she had received a call from a girl who had lost her boyfriend in an accident just a fortnight ago.
“It is a very fitting tribute to all our lost loved ones, to have a day each year set aside in memory of their life on this earth,” said Mrs Gray.
“It is also a day to remember all those who have been seriously injured on our roads, many needing permanent care for the rest of their lives.
“This is also a day to remember all the grieving families left behind with the heartbreaking pain of never seeing our loved ones again.”
PARC also requested prayers from all dioceses of both the Catholic Church and The Church of Ireland for all those affected by road deaths and injury.
Mrs Gray added she hoped that next year the day would be commemorated with special events throughout the country.
The RSA marked the day by distributing over 400,000 high-visibility arm bands.
Gay Byrne, RSA Chairman, said: “It’s all part of a major road safety blitz by the RSA aimed at protecting vulnerable road users, i.e. pedestrians and cyclists during the dark winter months.
“Wintertime is traditionally a high risk period for pedestrians and cyclists as poor light and weather make using the roads more dangerous.”
A Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims was first initiated by RoadPeace, the UK national charity for road victims (www.roadpeace.org).
United Nations General Assembly officially adopted it in 2005.