Road tragedy that puts spotlight on long working hours

On 17th of January, 2014, 64-year-old Anthony Handley was driving his SUV in Balbriggan, Dublin, when it suddenly veered across a busy road and careered into 31-year-old Olivia Dunne and her baby daughter, Eabha, who were out for a walk, killing the young mother and severely injuring the young girl.

  Handley had fallen asleep at the wheel, and in an instant had taken away the future of an entire family. On Tuesday of last week, Handley was sentenced to two years in prison, a sentence that could have major repercussions in future years.

  All week the radio airwaves were full of anxious parents, whose children work in jobs where the hours worked are, in my opinion, both immoral and illegal, wondering if their kids were involved in an accident on their way home from work, would they too end up in our already overcrowded prisons? A huge number of the callers were parents of young hospital doctors, and by now you will know that I am in that category, and have seen at first-hand the stresses and strains of having to work outrageously long hours. This case has certainly opened a can of worms and the focus must now surely be on the legality of working such hours and whether or not the employer should be held responsible, in the unfortunate event of an accident.

  I have long said that the HSE needs to get its house in order and maybe the fear of substantial claims against it might force it to act, but there’s also many a lorry driver, despite the tachograph, who puts in long hours on the road. Falling asleep at the wheel could be a consequence of overwork and now the consequences and punishment just cannot be ignored.

  The case itself is one where there are no winners. The Dunne family lost a young mother in tragic circumstances, while Eabha suffered severe injuries which will affect her for the remainder of her life. Yet it is hard not to feel some sympathy for the unfortunate driver, Anthony Handley. The fact that he had no drink or drugs in his system was duly acknowledged by the presiding Judge, but it still wasn’t sufficient to allow him to suspend the sentence.

  The extraordinary facts which have since emerged, suggest that several of us, including yours truly, have either fallen asleep at the wheel or come to our senses at the last minute. This case means that in future we must read the signs and if we are feeling in any way sleepy, we must pull in, have a rest, maybe a coffee or two, and ensure that we continue on with our journey safely and do not put other road users at risk. 

Nicky, Joe and THAT show…

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of missing all three nights of the Eurovision Song Contest and the thought crossed my mind as to where are the 200 million people who are supposed to watch it. I have yet to meet anyone who admits to having seen it.

  However, once upon a time it was an unmissable show and we in Ireland have had unprecedented success with so many victories, all with songs that have stood the test of time.

  On Thursday morning, on the day of the second semi-final, which was taking place later that evening with Nicky Byrne, right, performing Ireland’s entry, I was putting out the garden furniture at work and who was standing outside the door, only Joe McCaul, who along with his sister, Donna, represented Ireland in the contest in 2005 in the Ukraine with the song Love Can Make You Cry.

  I have never met or spoken to either of the McCauls, but in the few minutes in which I was putting out my stuff, I could see that Joe is obviously still a star, at least in Athlone, as several people, all women, stopped to talk to him, shake his hand and in one case give him a hug. I said to myself that regardless of all the negative publicity or the results, appearing in the contest seems to be of benefit to most of the artists who have done so.

  I suppose an established star like Nicky Byrne might not see it as being any use to him, but I’m told he performed well on the night – and fair play to him for having a go. Where we go from here is open to opinion, but it does look as if it may be a long time before we win it again.           

We’re going to the dogs!

On the sporting front and out here in Creggs, it is an on ongoing battle to keep Creggs Rugby Club alive and well and to maintain its place among the best run clubs in Connacht. Needless to say, as with every rural sporting organisation, there is an ever-increasing demand for money.

  So accordingly, on May 27th (Friday week), the club is having a fundraising night in Longford Greyhound Stadium, and we are all going to the races. The first race is at 8 pm and tickets are only €10, with children allowed in free, and everyone is invited for an evening of fun and craic!

  There will be a bus from Ballygar, Creggs and Roscommon, and we hope you all make the effort, get to Longford and support the only rugby club in Roscommon – and have a go at beating the bookies. As the most unsuccessful punter in the world, if you happen to see me, don’t come near me.

  On the way home there will be a presentation in the Hollywood Bar, Roscommon to the successful U-15 and U-17 teams, so all in all it should be a great night’s craic and we hope to see you all there.

Farewell to Christy, sporting superstar

Finally for this week and sticking with sport, as world golf gets bigger and bigger in every way, the contribution of Christy O’Connor Senior, who died at the weekend, aged 91, should never be underestimated.

  For all of us who grew up in the pre-television era, he was probably the first Irish sporting superstar. He was a wonderful ambassador and in an age of Nicklaus, Palmer, Player and other giants of the game, Christy Senior was hugely regarded. Coming so soon after losing his nephew, Christy Junior, his loss to Irish golf and indeed the country, is enormous. May he rest in peace.

Till next week, bye for now