Donegal car crash deaths guilty plea 'brings families closure'

Seven people died in one car. From top left: Eamonn McDaid, 22; Ciaran Sweeney, 19; Patrick McLaughlin, 21; Mark McLaughlin, 21; James McEleney, 23; Paul Doherty, 19, and Damien McLaughlin, 21. Seven young men travelling in one car died. From top left: Eamonn McDaid, 22; Ciaran Sweeney, 19; Patrick McLaughlin, 21; Mark McLaughlin, 21; James McEleney, 23; Paul Doherty, 19, and Damien McLaughlin, 21.

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A man's guilty plea to causing the deaths of eight men in a road crash in County Donegal has spared their families further trauma, a local priest has said.

The crash at Meenaduff, between Buncrana and Clonmany in July 2010 was Ireland's worst ever road accident.

Hugh Friel, 66 and seven men, aged between 19 and 23, died in the crash.

Shaun Kelly, of Hill Road in Buncrana, had previously pleaded not guilty to charges of dangerous driving.

Car removed from crash scene The crash was Ireland's worst ever road accident

Seven of the victims were travelling in the same car.

They were 21-year-old Mark McLaughlin, from Fahan; Paul Doherty and Ciaran Sweeney who were 19 and from Ballyliffin; Patrick McLaughlin, 21, from Burnfoot; 22-year-old Eamonn McDaid and 21-year-old Damien McLaughlin, both from Buncrana, and James McEleney, 23, from Clonmany.

Father Michael Sweeney said the end of the court case would "bring a little closure to the families".

"It will take years for them to come to terms with their great loss, but this court case has been pending for the last four years," he said.

"For them, each time it came up for review, it was like revisiting the scene of the whole bad experience and trauma of the terrible event.

'Brave'

Kelly was driving a black Volkswagen Passat with the seven passengers when it collided with the car driven by Mr Friel.

He was the only survivor of the crash and sustained serious injuries.

He changed his plea as the jury was being sworn in at Letterkenny Circuit Court on Tuesday.

Fr Sweeney said: "It was a brave thing for him to do, to plead guilty to dangerous driving, and I feel sorry for him that he has to live with the consequences of that for the rest of his life.

"The whole community was totally shocked - it was one funeral after another, and each one of those traumatised the whole community who turned out to support those people."

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