Sunday 23 October 2016

Five years not enough for hit-and-run driver who left my husband in ditch


Margaret O'Leary
Margaret O'Leary

A BRAVE mother whose husband was left lying in a ditch after a heartless hit and run has branded the culprit an "absolute disgrace".

Margaret O'Leary has said Shane Fitzgerald should be ashamed of himself after leaving her husband Paud O'Leary "lying in a ditch like a dog".

Last month, the 23-year-old student was found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving - two years after he killed the popular cyclist.

Mr O'Leary, from Gneeveguilla in east Kerry, was on a bicycle when he was knocked down by a vehicle driven by Fitzgerald.

Mr O'Leary was training for the annual Ring of Kerry charity cycle.

The deceased took part in the event every year to honour his daughter, who has down syndrome, and other children.

Mr O'Leary, who worked as a farmer and a school caretaker, was just 1km from his home when he was knocked down.

Fitzgerald had been drinking heavily in nearby Killarney on the night of the accident and did not stop after he struck the cyclist.

Just 24 hours after the accident, Fitzgerald had boarded a ferry to Liverpool and later travelled to Perth in Western Australia. He was extradited to face trial.

Fitzgerald had pleaded not guilty to the charge but last month a jury found him guilty.

He was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison with the final 18 months suspended.


Speaking to Newstalk radio today, Mrs O'Leary said the Government need to "reexamine the laws" when it comes to hit-and-run sentences.

"It's far too lenient for what he did," she said, "for what he put a family and four small children through just to look after himself."

The brave mum recalled having to tell her children the news and how she prayed for the culprit to hand themselves in.

"I have a daughter with down syndrome and she is excellent at reading a situation. Her eyes were red and she asked was dad dead?

"All I could do was try and explain what had happened as best as I could.

"The boys were very upset and just kept asking why didn't he stop and they cried and cried and cried.

"Every day I would pray and light a candle for whoever did it to hand themselves in and tell the truth so our two families could grieve together. But he never did," she said.

"My husband was a great man in the community, and he left him lying there in a ditch like a dog.

"He is an absolute disgrace we could never forgive him ..to get five years for putting a family through that is just not fair," she said.

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