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Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 3°C

"He just grew quieter and quieter and then there was silence" - family share heartbreak of son killed by drunk driver

Gillian and Ronan Treacy’s four-year-old son Ciarán was killed by a drunk driver in Co Laois in April 2014.

treacys RTÉ Gillian and Ronan Treacy RTÉ

THE MOTHER AND father of a four-year-old boy killed by a drunk driver in Co Laois have spoken of the pain they live with each day in the wake of the tragedy.

Gillian and Ronan Treacy’s son Ciarán was killed when Finbarr O’Rourke, who had consumed up to 10 pints of cider, hit the car he was a passenger in along with his brother Seán, driven by his mother, head-on near Ballymorris in the midlands county on the afternoon of Thursday, 17 April 2014.

The two are now fronting a Road Safety Authority Christmas campaign urging people not to drink and drive by sharing the impact their tragic loss has had on both them and their wider family.

Speaking on last night’s Ray D’Arcy Show on RTÉ, Gillian said that the last thing Ciarán said to her before the crash was to ask her whether or not they would be having pancakes and lemons when they got home.

“It was just a normal day, we were getting ready for Easter, and earlier I had left the two boys (Ciarán and his older brother Seán who survived the crash) with my parents in Stradbally – so they had a beautiful day at the woods and the lake, two excited boys,” she said.

The last thing before the collision Ciarán just said ‘Mam, are we having pancakes when we get home’, and I said we were, and he just said ‘oh wow Seán, we’re having pancakes’.

She says that the whole accident happened “so quickly, and yet it felt like slow motion”. “He came across to my side of the road, and you don’t have time to think”.

“There was the smell of smoke, the airbags, both engines crashed in on my legs, the sound, and then just this silence, and that was actually more scary than the noise itself,” she said.

Both boys were screaming, but then Ciarán got quieter and quieter, and then there was silence, and then Seán said that he thought Ciarán was dead.


It took emergency services at the time over an hour to cut Gillian from the wreckage. She had broken both ankles, had a compound fracture in her left leg, a broken pelvis, a broken elbow, and a broken sternum. She in fact came very close to death herself and had to be resuscitated at Tullamore General Hospital. For some time it had looked likely that her leg might have to be amputated.

Despite all this, she still managed to attend Ciaran’s funeral. She described how Ciarán’s body was brought to her in Tullamore from Midlands Hospital Portlaoise on the Friday night, so that she could say goodbye.

“I would have spent all day talking to him. It was the hospitals that organised that, I have to say they were fantastic,” she said.

Her husband Ronan, meanwhile, describes 17 April 2014 in the new RSA campaign as “the worst day of my life”.

Of Finbarr O’Rourke, he says “he just finished work that day and then went on the rip”.

He had anything up to 10 pints and then he walked away from the scene. He phoned the friend he had been drinking with twice but he never attempted to ring emergency services.

O’Rourke was initially sentenced to seven and a half years in prison. That has since been reduced to six years on appeal, a fact that makes the Treacys “without a doubt very angry”.

“You don’t get enough for that particular kind of crime here,” said Ronan. The maximum penalty for death by drunk driving is 14 years in the UK, as opposed to 10 years here.

If anything it’s taken time off our lives with the stress of it.

Gillian read a portion of her victim impact statement from the trial of O’Rourke:

“Some of my darkest moments have come at night when the children have slept. The fire and the screams of my children and not being able to attend to them.”

I’d lie awake at night and want to die and Ronan would hold me and we’d both cry together.

“If this (the RSA campaign) saves one family from going through what we have gone through it will be worth it,” she said.

Read: Pfizer cancels €400m expansion at Dublin plant

Read: “I would love to meet the child that she could have been” – mother of disabled daughter speaks out

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