Crash victims’ funerals - Lessons must be learned

The funerals of three of the eight people killed in Sunday night’s horrific crash on the road between Clonmany and Buncrana took place yesterday in Co Donegal.

It was the worst crash on Irish roads since records began almost half a century ago.

The accident comes against the backdrop of a distinct improvement on Irish roads over recent years. Road deaths have declined by more than 40% in the last eight years, but there is still room for a great deal of improvement, as Ireland stands seventh out of the 27 EU states in road deaths per million population.

Donegal has had more than its share of horrific accidents. Four Latvians and a Lithuanian were killed in a crash near Buncrana in 2006, and five local young people were killed in a head-on collision not far away some months earlier.

Sunday night’s accident was human tragedy that resonates with people, especially in rural communities. It is a grim reminder of the danger on the roads for their adult children on a night out, or for somebody like the late Hugh Friel, 66, who was driving home relatively early after a night playing bingo.

Fr Fintan Diggin stressed at the funeral Mass yesterday that Mr Friel would have hoped that everybody could forgive and understand. We must not jump to premature conclusions in relation to the accident. It is to be profoundly hoped, however, that lessons can be learned so that what happened can mark a distinct change in public attitudes to ensure that such an accident never happens again.

Sometimes it takes the stark reality of a disaster to prompt change. We can only hope as a society that this is a seminal low point from which lessons will be learned, so that other families and, indeed, whole communities can be spared such trauma.

It is hard to imagine a road accident getting much worse than what happened on Sunday night. Everybody should be influenced by the carnage.

Before people get into a car they should be mindful of the dangers. If this does not mark a change of public attitudes then there is little chance of ensuring more responsible driving without introducing the most drastic measures.

The gatherings at the three funerals yesterday were an expressions of enormous public sympathy. No words can adequately express the harsh reality of the grief suffered by so many families in the Donegal countryside, but the grief must prompt a general desire to see an end to such events by prompting a different attitude towards driving. Such carnage must be ended.

There are four more funerals in Clonmany and Cockhill today and the final one tomorrow. They will hopefully signify the beginning of a national determination to ensure such an accident never happens again.


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