'beyond devastated' | 

Parents’ anguish as driver who caused death of Estlin Wall (3) has licence restored

‘We are one month from the sixth anniversary of this nightmare beginning and this has brought all the emotions from that horrific time back up to the surface’

Amy with Estlin


Vincent Wall with Amy and Estlin

Senan O’Flaherty

Gordon DeeganSunday World

The parents of Estlin Wall (3) today endured anguish as a judge restored early the driving licence for the driver whose careless driving caused the death of their daughter six years ago.

At Ennis Circuit Court today, Judge Francis Comerford restored the driver's licence for Senan O’Flaherty (66) despite Garda objections.

Outside court after the hearing, Estlin's mother, Amy said: "We are beyond devastated that once again, the justice system has not valued the life of our beautiful daughter, Estlin. Nor has it valued the life changing injury that my husband will battle for the rest of his days.”

In April 2020, as part of his sentence at Ennis Circuit Court, a four year driving ban was imposed on Mr O’Flaherty of Lower Gowerhass, Cooraclare, Co Clare for the careless driving causing the death of Estlin Wall on March 15th 2017 - a number of days before Estlin was due to celebrate her fourth birthday.


In court today, Judge Comerford initially deferred the restoration of Mr O’Flaherty's licence until March 20th out of respect for the upcoming sixth anniversary of the fatal crash.

After a plea from Amy Wall from her seat at the back of the court to defer the restoration until what would be Estlin's 10th birthday date at the end of March, Judge Comerford deferred the restoration of Mr O’Flaherty’s licence until April 10th.

Amy was seated with her husband, Vincent who today continues to recover from a brain injury he sustained in the crash.

Prior to making his ruling, Judge Comerford told the court that he didn’t wish to add the tiniest element of distress on the Wall family as it was so great from “their cataclysmic loss” in March 2017.

Mr O’Flaherty’s four year ban was due to expire in April 2024 and in restoring his licence one year early, Judge Comerford said that he was attaching particular weight to the evidence of Mr O’Flaherty’s diagnosis of Leukemia 18 months ago.

In his ruling, Judge Comerford stated that Mr O’Flaherty has complied with court orders and was someone of good character before the accident.

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Judge Comerford said that he didn’t pay particular weight to the need for Mr O’Flaherty to have his licence back to allow him get back to work as a bus driver.

Judge Comerford stated: “I’m not sure Mr O’Flaherty was given much credit in the other courts for the remorse he was expressing. It wasn’t in the forefront of his mind in this application.”

“Rather he is concerned with his own circumstances and I suppose with time, that is what happens.”

Today was the first time in the entire courts process concerning the fatal crash that Mr O’Flaherty gave sworn evidence.

While in the witness box, Judge Comerford put it to him that his driving “did cause terrible damage”.

Vincent Wall with Amy and Estlin

Judge Comerford asked Mr O’Flaherty: “How do you feel about that?”

In response, Mr O’Flaherty said: “What can I say? Anybody that loses a child your honour, it is sad. I was 40 years driving, that is all I can say.”

Earlier in evidence, Mr O’Flaherty told his counsel Rebecca Treacy BL that: “I live alone. I live in a rural area, very isolated. I am three miles from the town and there is no public transport. I have only a bicycle.”

Mr O’Flaherty said that since the driving ban, “I haven’t been driving and I haven't been working.”

Mr O’Flaherty said that if he can get his licence back, there is work available.

He said: “I have been contacted by numerous companies asking ‘when would I be available?”

Two letters from bus companies confirming there is work for Mr O’Flaherty were handed into court.

Mr O’Flaherty said due to his Leukemia diagnosis, he is “hiring cars, hiring people, private transport to make medical appointments”.

Objecting to the licence restoration, Det Garda Ruth O’Sullivan said that gardai were objecting “due to severity of the incident and the continuous impact on the Wall family”.

In a statement outside court after the hearing on behalf of Amy and Vincent Wall, Amy said: “To say we are saddened by the court’s decision today would be a massive understatement.

"Throughout this entire process, we have always felt that the courts have treated Senan O’Flaherty as a victim too, even though it is his actions alone that have found all of us here today. And for those actions, there must be consequences.”

She added: “Having to stay off the road for a mere four years felt like a small price to pay.

"Senan O’Flaherty has never expressed remorse, in fact, we know he has convinced himself of his own innocence despite all the evidence to the contrary and multiple eye witness accounts stating otherwise and offering a guilty plea in 2019. For this fact alone, he should have had to serve his full sentence.

“We are one month from the sixth anniversary of this nightmare beginning and this has brought all the emotions from that horrific time back up to the surface.

She added: “Senan O’Flaherty could’ve quietly served his short sentence and left us to grieve in peace. But instead he’s selfishly thought only of himself and insisted on reopening our wounds and today he has been rewarded for that.

“All we can do now is go home, hug our surviving children and cry for our sweet daughter who deserved so much better than the supposed justice system has given her.”

Amy continued: “He took the stand today and for the first time in the entire experience we heard him speak and the judge gave him ample opportunity to finally apologise to our face and he chose not to. I think that says everything about Senan O’Flaherty.”

Senan O’Flaherty

“We are horrendously disappointed but nothing that was going to happen here today or throughout this entire process would have ever brought Estlin back. All we can now is move forward and never have to be in a room with him again.”

At Ennis Circuit Court in April 2020, Judge Gerald Keys imposed a €750 fine on small farmer, Mr O’Flaherty for the careless driving causing the death of Estlin Wall on March 15th 2017.

Judge Keys also imposed a €750 fine on Mr O’Flaherty for careless driving causing serious bodily harm to Mr Wall on the same date near the village of Inagh.

Imposing sentence, Judge Keys stated that Mr O’Flaherty’s culpability was low and "at the bottom end of the spectrum" in the accident.

However, the DPP successfully appealed the undue leniency of the sentence. A three judge Court of Appeal in January 2021 imposed a 16-month sentence on Mr O’Flaherty but suspended the entire term on condition that he be of good behaviour for two years.

The court found that the trial judge was wrong to place Mr O’Flaherty’s culpability at the lower end of the scale with Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy saying he was at the “upper end” and that his blameworthiness was more significant than that identified by the judge.

The court upheld the €1,500 fine and a four-year driving ban.

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