Updated: 28/07/17 : 05:13:35
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Sligo man gets suspended sentence and life driving ban for death of Fermanagh pensioner

A 56-year-old man has been handed a suspended sentence after pleading guilty to causing the death of a Co Fermanagh pensioner in a horror smash.

Gerry Higgins, of McGuinness Court, Aclare, Co Sligo, was sentenced to four years in prison, suspended for 10 years, over the death of Tommy Flanagan from Ballinamallard.

The Irish News
reports that the 84-year-old died from injuries suffered in a crash in Co Sligo on St Patrick's Day 2015 after a Peugeot van collided with the Toyota Auris driven by his wife Marie (78).

The elderly couple were on their way to a holiday home in Enniscrone.

Higgins pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Mr Flanagan at Ballisodare and dangerous driving at Templeboy on the same date.

He was banned from driving for life.

In a victim impact statement read in court, Mrs Flanagan said she could not attend her husband's funeral because of the injuries she suffered.

"We were married for 57 years, we were always together and I miss his company each and every day and feel very lonely," she said.

"He was the true heart of our family and was taken away in such a tragic and sudden way has left a void that can't be filled."

Sligo Circuit Court was told that Higgins came around a bend on the wrong side of the road and struck the couple's car "head-on".

The court heard that the defendant was slumped at the wheel. The couple's car spun and went over a bridge into water before they were rescued by a fire crew.

Higgins told the court that if he could swap places with the late Mr Flanagan, he would.

In sentencing, Judge Keenan Johnson said he appreciated that the suffering of the accused "pales into insignificance when compared to the hurt and pain sustained by the Flanagan family".

However, while he said the Flanagan family "may feel that the sentence imposed was too lenient", he was "firmly of the view that the interests of justice would not be served by a harsh punishment".

Judge Johnson said he believed Mr Flanagan was “a man of reason, fairness and forgiveness” who would not want any more suffering to be endured by any of the parties in the case.