September 27, 2021

‘Any time of the year is hard, but Christmas is very hard’ – heartbroken Waterford mother of drink-driving victim

“Any time of the year is so hard, like coming up to his birthday or to his anniversary. But Christmas is a very hard time when you’ve lost someone. My heart is ripped apart over Brendan.”

Those are the heartbreaking words of Christina Donnelly who lost her son Brendan (24) to a car crash 10 years ago when he was travelling to Cork Airport in October 2009.

His friend Lee Salkeld (26) also died when the diver of the other car, Anthony Long, ploughed into them.

“It’s like little bits of it are broken away. I look at his photograph, and I look at those big brown eyes and I think what a waste,” said Christina.

“I have decorations now in the boot of the car to go down and decorate where he died in Castlemartyr. Brendan adored Christmas, he was like a child in a chocolate factory. He was so excited for it, God love him.

“You’re going down the same road Brendan took, and you’re passing the exact spot where my son had his life taken from a drunk driver to place a wreath on a wall, and I’m talking to a plaque.

“I’m talking away and telling him I’m here and keeping his garden nice for him because that’s what you’d want. That’s the conversation I’m having at the side of the road this Christmas and every other Christmas. Christmas is the hardest.”

It emerged in court that Long, from Leadington, Leamlara, Co Cork, had drank 11 cans, seven pints and taken a line of cocaine before he got into the car.

He was subsequently sentenced to five years in jail, serving a total of three years and eight months.

Christina said she plans to visit the scene of the collision over the festive period.

“Brendan was in the prime of his life. Every year, apart from the first because we were very numb, but since then Sean, Brendan’s brother, buys him a little gift with a little card and he gives it to me,” she said.

“I buy Sean a gift and I write the card just like Brendan would of written with ‘hi bro’ and put some funny little message in it and get him something stupid because that’s what Brendan used to do.

“They were very close, there’s only 14 months between them. Sean finds it desperately harder as he’s gotten older. He really, really misses him. When they were younger it was the play and the banter but as he’s gotten older it’s very hard.

“I’m writing a card at the table and I’m writing across the hallway and placing it next to Brendan’s picture. I don’t have an address to send it to.

“I’m ringing his little phone that I replaced because his is lost – I’m lucky because the phone network gave me his sim card number so I could hear his little voicemail. I’m ringing him all the time to hear his voice.

“All you hear is, ‘Hi, this is Brendan, leave a message’. I’m leaving him little messages at Christmas.”

She said recent reports of over 300 drivers arrested on suspicion of intoxicated driving as part of An Garda Síochána’s Road Safety Campaign “baffles” her.

“Just over 300 drivers were caught over the limit [in the first few weeks of the campaign]. That will tell you how much certain drivers are taking heed of the laws and legislations. That’s a very high figure.”


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