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Examiner online archive 30 - 07 - 99
Families of dead sweethearts pleased with verdict
by Gerry McLaughlin
A 19 YEAR OLD County Donegal man was jailed for two and a half years after admitting killing two teenage sweethearts in a horror crash last year. Ciaran Mulligan of The Mall, Ballyshannon was also banned from driving for 15 years after pleading guilty to a charge of dangerous driving causing the deaths of local couple, Laurence Reilly (19) and Sarah Woods (17).
Thirty gardaí ringed the small courthouse in Donegal town as the verdict was announced yesterday after a tense two-day hearing which earlier erupted in violent scenes when family members on both sides made impassioned pleas to the judge. Ciaran Mulligans father, Peter, claimed his son was in no fit state to give evidence. He said the youth had changed completely since the accident and had become withdrawn and was very depressed. But Laurence Reillys father, Jimmy, called for the maximum sentence to be implemented. Two teenagers were slaughtered. I am appealing to you to give the maximum sentences for our sakes, he said. Laurence was my whole life and that has been taken away. If Ciaran Mulligan goes to prison, then at least his parents can go and visit him but I will never see my son again.
Sarah Woods eldest brother, PJ , said her death was like somebody hurling a hand grenade into our family. We dont want vengeance but we want justice. There are eleven in our family and Sarah was the baby.
The young couple were killed after Laurence Reillys Volkswagen Golf burst into flames when it was struck by Mulligans Peugeot 306 at Cloghore, close to the Donegal-Fermanagh border in the early hours of February 8 last. Laurence died soon after impact while Sarah, who was in the front passenger seat, died four days later in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin from multiple injuries. Passers-by who came on the scene fought desperately to save the occupants and smashed windows of the blazing car to free back seat passengers. The group of friends had been returning from a night out in Bundoran, Co. Donegal when the collision happened.
Judge Matthew Deery said it was a very traumatic case for all concerned. Judge Deery said the consequences of the crash were so severe that he had to impose a two and a half year sentence on each count. Laurence Reilly was on his own side of the road when he was hit by Mulligans oncoming car. Sarah Woods eldest sister, Ellie, said after the verdict was passed that she was pleased with the outcome. This is a start and will show drivers they cant get away with killing people. Too often they get away with suspended sentences, she said. The decision today means our families have a little less grieving. Justice has been done and Ciaran Mulligan will now have time to think about the consequences of his action.