A drunk driver was today jailed for four years for the dangerous driving causing the death of GAA coach, Eugene McNamara (42).
At Ennis Circuit Court, Judge Gerald Keys imposed a six-year jail term, suspending the final two years on Rene Miko (21) of Place de Plouzane, Kilrush.
Judge Keys also imposed a 15-year driving ban on Mr Miko.
Mr Miko was twice over the drink driving limit and driving at a speed of 120kmph when the BMW car he took without permission struck Mr McNamara who was walking on a footpath at a roundabout in a built up area in Ennis at 10.05pm on October 26, 2016.
At the sentencing hearing, Judge Gerald Keys described Mr Miko’s driving as ‘reckless’ on the night.
In court today, Mr McNamara’s parents, TJ and Breda along with brothers, Stephen, Barry and identical twin, David were present for the sentencing.
Eugene comes from a proud GAA tradition as Stephen is a double All-Ireland winner with Clare’s hurlers from the 1990s while his uncle, Ger Power - who was also in court today supporting the McNamaras- won eight All-Irelands with Kerry’s footballers in the 1970s and 1980s.
Mr Miko pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Mr McNamara and drink driving on the date.
On the aggravating factors in the case, Judge Keys stated that Mr Miko’s driving caused the death of an innocent pedestrian while walking on the footpath; the speed at which he was driving; that Mr Miko was twice over the drink driving limit; left the scene of the accident and that he took the car without the owner’s consent.
Judge Keys told Mr Miko that he has caused “a devastating effect on the McNamara family”.
Judge Keys stated that Mr Miko did make an early guilty plea; co-operated at Garda interview; has shown remorse and has no previous convictions.
Judge Keys said that Mr Miko comes from Slovakia with a Gypsy background.
Judge Keys said that Mr Miko has nine siblings and that he had a difficult upbringing on account on his family’s relatively impoverished status and as well as suffering ongoing racial discrimination in his home place.
Judges Keys said that Mr Miko came to Ireland in 2006 aged nine.
Judge Keys pointed out that the Probation Officer in the case stated that Mr Miko is concerned “that the level of insight into your offending behaviour may be lacking”.
Mr Miko’s partner is expecting their second child together.
Judge Keys stated that whatever sentence is imposed, the court cannot repair the situation to turn back the clock and alleviate the hurt and loss that the McNamara family have suffered.
Judge Keys told Mr Miko that on the spectrum of seriousness of his driving and his conduct, “I would put it way above 50% and that is reflected in the sentence”.
CCTV footage shown at Ennis Circuit Court captured the high speed of Mr Miko’s BMW on the dark night and Mr McNamara walking along the footpath opposite McDonalds in Ennis before the fatal impact.
Mr Miko’s car was travelling at more than twice the local speed limit of 50kmph.
Before Mr Miko’s car struck Mr McNamara, it first hit another car putting the other car airborne and spinning a number of times.
The Gardai investigation found that Mr Miko’s car made no effort to reduce its 120kmph speed before coming into the roundabout.
In a victim impact statement on behalf of the McNamara family, Stephen McNamara said that Eugene “was left to suffer alone on the side of the road” as the CCTV footage showed Mr Miko and his passenger get out of their car and flee the scene.
Mr McNamara died a number of days later from his injuries and Asst State Pathologist, Dr Margaret Bolster found that Mr McNamara died from severe traumatic brain injury as a result of blunt force trauma in a road traffic collision.
In his first Garda interview, Mr Miko maintained his right to silence and at first didn’t admit culpability.
It was only after Gardai retrieved forensic evidence showing Mr Miko’s DNA from the air bag on the driver’s side that Mr Miko admitted: “I am maybe 30% to 40% responsible but I can’t be 100% responsible because I don’t think I was the driver.”
In his victim impact statement given in court earlier this month, Stephen McNamara said that the life of his brother was cruelly taken.
Stephen said that the “nightmare” caused from that night is constantly with the McNamara family “and the circumstances around Eugene’s death are always on our minds”. He said that Eugene was one of four sons and even after purchasing his own home would have dinner at his parents’ house every day telling them his news. He said Eugene’s “chair at the family table is now empty and that is a constant reminder”.
Stephen said that his parents never have a night where they are able to sleep without waking and thinking what happened Eugene on his walk home that night.
He added that Eugene’s involvement with Eire Óg GAA as a player, coach and manager started when he was eight years of age. He recalled that at Eugene’s funeral a Guard of Honour was put on by members of the u-12 Eire Óg team that Eugene coached.
Stephen said that Eugene “was cruelly knocked down by a speeding car and was left to suffer alone by the side of the road. It is a picture that haunts all of his family and remains with us”. He added that all those left behind “are living a daily nightmare with the horrible thoughts of what happened Eugene as he walked home alone innocently on the footpath that night”.