Belfast Telegraph

Grieving parents of drink-driver’s victim in ad role

By Donna Deeney

The parents of a young man who was killed by a drink-driver will feature in a hard-hitting TV advertising campaign to be aired in the new year.

Martin Gallagher, an aspiring athlete, was just 25 when he was mown down by a speeding car driven by a man well over the legal limit on Halloween night 2009.

His parents, Elizabeth and Martin snr, agreed to take part in the DoE campaign ‘Crashed Lives’ so that no other family might suffer their enduring grief, and to let anyone thinking about getting behind the wheel of a car after drinking know the damage they could cause.

The designers of the campaign contacted the Gallagher family after they had read about how well-known and popular Martin had been.

A huge amount of tributes were paid to him at the time of his death.

Elizabeth said: “They came to us and explained how they had read about Martin and how touched they were, so even though it was so, so hard, we both agreed to take part, if just to stop other families going through what we suffer every day. It was only after Martin died that we started to get an idea about how loved he was. Martin was a member of the Foyle Valley Athletics Club and so many people involved with running knew him.

“People travelled from all over the country to pay their respects, which meant so much to us and made us realise he had touched the lives of so many.

“It shows you that when you kill someone because you have been driving while drunk, it affects so many people; no-one knows the pain that this causes.

“We had to talk about Martin for the ad, and really, it was so hard.

“I thought I was prepared for it, but when you start talking, it opens it all up again and leaves you raw, not that you don't live with it every second of every day, but this was so, so emotional.

“We felt it was important to do it because the campaign is real people talking about their loss, and even though it was hard, if it stops one family suffering the way we are, then it will be worth it.”

PSNI figures released this week show the number of drivers and motorcyclists detected drink-driving during the first weeks of this year’s winter anti-drink-driving campaign has increased.

A total of 250 drink-drivers were detected between November 25 and December 18, an increase of 28 over the same period last year.

Jonathan Francis McGonagle, the driver of the vehicle that killed Martin, was sentenced to three years in jail and disqualified from driving for 10 years after he admitted causing death by dangerous driving, driving with excess alcohol, having no insurance and failing to stop, remain or report the accident.

The minute-long advert telling Martin's story will air from January 12.

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