Buncrana man pleads guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of eight people

The car in which Hugh Friel (66) died is removed from the scene near Clonmany in Donegal, July 12, 2010
The car in which Hugh Friel (66) died is removed from the scene near Clonmany in Donegal, July 12, 2010

An Inishowen man , who pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of eight people, will be sentenced in December.

Shaun Kelly, Hill Road, Ballymagan, Buncrana dramatically changed his plea from not guilty to guilty at Letterkenny Circuit Court on Tuesday, minutes before his trial was due to begin.

At around 11am, Kelly was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to the charge when it was put to him.

A jury of six men and six women was then sworn in and they retired to the jury room to select a fore person.

During this time, Kelly, who was accompanied in court by his parents, asked to be re-arraigned and then changed his plea to guilty.

His charge relates to a road traffic collision between Buncrana and Clonmany, near Kerrigan’s Bridge, four years ago, on July 11th, 2010.

Eight men, seven of them friends of Kelly’s, were killed in the collision.

Following Kelly’s guilty plea, which drew gasps from the court, Judge John O’Hagan directed a probation and welfare and community service reports be prepared.

He also directed medical reports be made available and released Kelly on continuing bail until sentencing on December 9th.

Many family members of the eight deceased were in court and Judge O’Hagan thanked them for attending court proceedings so often.

He added that something “very distressing but positive has happened.”

“I hope it gives you some sort of closure,” he said.

Judge O’Hagan also told the families that the court has to be aware of “all the factors surrounding a person” while sentencing and said this was why reports were compiled.

“It’s an entitlement of his and a duty on the court to allow it to happen,” he said, adding that all reports would be available in December,

Judge O’Hagan also invited each family to produce a victim impact report.

He asked that a representative from each family read the statement at December’s sentencing hearing.

He said they only had to do this if they so wished.

When the jury panel returned, Judge O’Hagan informed them of Kelly’s guilty plea and thanked them for their patience.

He told them the jury pool from which they were chosen had been selected due to the fact they did not lie in the Inishowen area.

Despite this, a number of people had earlier been excused from the panel when they informed the court they knew family members of the deceased.

The eight men who died in the collision at Meenaduff in July 2010 were Hugh Friel (66), Eamon McDaid (22), Mark McLaughlin (21), Paul Doherty (19), Ciaran Sweeney (19), PJ McLaughlin (21), James McEleney (23)and Damien McLaughlin (21).