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12 Aug 2022

Donegal man who killed friend in smash fails to get license restored

The victim's sisters told Letterkenny Circuit Court that they witnessed the man behind the wheel on separate occasions while he was disqualified

Letterkenny court house.

Letterkenny court house.

A Donegal man who killed his friend after speeding away from a pub in 2015 has failed in a bid to get his driving licence restored.

Seosamh McGonigle was driving at speed in July 2015 when he lost control of his Toyota Corolla at an accident blackspot at Carnashannagh, Burnfoot, crashing into a large boulder.

John Hegarty, a rear seat passenger who was 21 at the time, was killed instantly.

Mr Hegarty’s sisters claimed that that they have seen McGonigle behind the wheel while disqualified and a Circuit Court judge rejected his application to get his licence back.

McGonigle had pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and received a sixteen month suspended jail sentence and banned from driving for six years in May, 2018.

McGonigle, now 26, and from Glackmore in Muff, applied to have his license restored at Letterkenny Circuit Court after serving two thirds of his ban.

Barrister for McGonigle, Mr Sean McGee, said there had been no objections to the restoration of the license by Gardai.

Mr McGee said his client was not working in landscape construction with a company in Wicklow and his father drove him everywhere.

He was looking for his license back early as he was setting up his own landscaping firm and would need to drive, Mr McGee said.

However, two of Mr Hegarty's sisters, Ms Rachel Hegarty and Ms Michelle Lynch, said they had separately witnessed McGonigle driving different cars in Inishowen on different occasions.

Ms Hegarty told the court that she had witnessed driving twice, once in the summer of 2019  in Burnfoot and on another occasion in January 2020 when she claims he was driving a white van pulling out of a service station, also in Burnfoot.

She said she reported the first matter to Gardai.

Ms Lynch said she saw McGonigle driving on three different occasions, twice in Fahan village in 2019 and also outside a fast-food premises in Buncrana.

She said McGonigle was driving both a red Audi and also a black VW Golf.

Mr Magee said his client did not own either of these makes of car but said his girlfriend did own a black VW Golf.

McGonigle took to the witness stand and said he had not driven since his ban was imposed by the court.

"It wasn't me driving,” he said. “Definitely not. That's not true.”

Judge John Aylmer said that having heard the evidence of the two witnesses he found himself not satisfied on the balance of probability that McGonigle had complied.

He added that he was satisfied that McGonigle has been driving as a matter of probability and refused the application.

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