SUNDAY night’s terrible tragedy in Donegal, in which eight people died in a road accident, will mark everyone on the Inishowen peninsula. It will resonate with every parent, in rural Ireland especially, as they wonder how safe their children are, who more often than not must provide their own transport or stay at home, when they go out for a night’s fun.
It will resonate with gardaí, emergency services and hospital workers right across the country who will have some idea of the terrible scene their colleagues in Donegal had to deal with. Sometimes, and this is certainly one of those moments, it is almost impossible to understand how people can do this work day after day, year upon year. But they do and maybe we should take the time to recognise their selflessness and courage.
But most of all, and for the longest time, it will have a huge impact on the families, the fathers and the mothers, the brothers and sisters, the grandparents and the uncles and aunts, cousins and friends of the eight people who died in a remote country back road in the last hours of a summer Sunday evening.
For the moment it will be all but impossible to find words strong enough to assuage their terrible grief but there is hope that that time will eventually come.
The loss of one or two people in such circumstances is tragic but for a sparsely populated area to lose eight men — seven of them either teenagers or in their early 20s — in one accident will have a terrible impact on their communities.
The circumstances are not yet clear but it may be hard to understand that eight young men were travelling together in an average sized car. It was unwise and dangerous but in rural Ireland, where public transport is an occasional, passing luxury and where taxis are scarce and sometimes prohibitively expensive for young people on modest pay or without any job at all, it is too often a case of take these risks or stay at home.
That these risks are taken on some of the worst roads in Europe only adds to the danger. That those taking these risks may not have years of driving experience only adds to the potential for disaster.
It is not overstating the case to suggest that if they had lived in Dublin or Cork city, Galway or maybe Kilkenny city, most if not all of these men might still be alive. At 10.30 on a Sunday night they would have access to affordable taxis or public transport and there would certainly have been no need or temptation for eight of them to travel in one car.
This reality can only add to the pain being endured by the bereaved families and friends.
It is terribly unfortunate too as there has been such a sea change regarding road safety and driving habits.
Ireland’s road safety record has dramatically improved and we are seventh out of 27 EU states for road deaths per million population. The number of road deaths in the Republic fell by 41% over the last eight years.
Sadly, none of this matters today as we all are reminded of the risks we take, and the threat we might pose to others, when we take to the roads in our cars.
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