Joseph Gilroy’s heartbroken father was the last family member to touch him as he was led out of the doors of court number one at Letterkenny courthouse into a holding cell today.
The 23-year-old stonemason had moments earlier been handed a five year and three-month jail sentence for dangerous driving causing the deaths of his two friends Conaill McAleer and Shiva Devine.
His actions behind the wheel on a night out in Bundoran in 2018 also left his close friend Rachel Elliott in a wheelchair for life.
Just feet from Rachel was Joseph’s partner of six years who is due to give birth to their first child in October.
The consequences of this tragedy and so many like it reach out far beyond those who tragically perished and were injured on the night.
Two young people are dead. A woman will never walk again. Families have been destroyed. A child will not know its father for the first five years of its life. Sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, friends – all torn apart by one moment of madness.
Passing sentence today Judge John Aylmer noted what he called the “extraordinarily charitable attitude” of some of the victims and their families.
Rachel Elliott, choking on tears of pure sadness, did not want Joseph Gilroy to go to jail.
She said in her victim impact statement that those who got into the Peugeot 206 car which Gilroy was driving did so of their own free will.
She spoke of the caring nature of the driver and how he was a friend to all.
However, some aspects of Gilroy’s behaviour cannot be denied.
He drove at speed having consumed a certain amount of alcohol before losing control of the car.
We all know what happened next and those merciless few seconds will haunt so many families forever.
Joseph Gilroy is not the first young man to be led away in handcuffs to start a prison sentence for causing the deaths of his friends.
Tragically, he will probably not be the last.
In recent years Donegal courtrooms have been the setting for more than their share of tragic dangerous driving cases.
I have lost count times of the times I have witnessed people crying, not only relatives but hardened Gardai, reporters, courtroom staff.
You cannot help but be touched by the pure emotion we all feel as humans.
We all felt for Joseph Gilroy and his family today as he was led away into a world he never thought in his darkest dreams he would enter.
But we must also feel for the victims and those heartbroken loves ones they have left behind.
There are no answers as to why Joseph Gilroy decided to put down his foot on the accelerator of his car and risk the lives of all those inside.
The only certainty is that each and every one of us can only be responsible for our own actions.
Why young men feel the need to act recklessly behind the wheel of a car cannot be found on Google or in any book.
There may never be an answer.