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'We told Enda he'd be safe in Belfast,' reveal Dolan parents as anger mounts over drink driver sentence

By Deborah McAleese

Published 29/04/2016

Enda Dolan’s parents Peter and Niamh at their home in Omagh yesterday; and some treasuredphotographs of the tragic student (clockwise, from top) a portrait of the family together; his parents clutch a photo of Enda; pictured with his girlfriend Sarah Graham before their school formal; on the couch with all of his younger siblings; and playing the guitar on stage at his old school
Enda Dolan’s parents Peter and Niamh at their home in Omagh yesterday; and some treasuredphotographs of the tragic student (clockwise, from top) a portrait of the family together; his parents clutch a photo of Enda; pictured with his girlfriend Sarah Graham before their school formal; on the couch with all of his younger siblings; and playing the guitar on stage at his old school
Enda Dolan’s parents clutch a photo of Enda
Enda on the couch with all of his younger siblings
A portrait of the family together
Enda Dolan playing the guitar on stage at his old school
Enda Dolan with his girlfriend Sarah Graham before their school formal

The devastated father of gifted student Enda Dolan has revealed he encouraged his son to study in Belfast rather than England as he believed he would be safer at home.

Still struggling to come to terms with the tragic death of his eldest child at the hands of a drunk driver, Peter Dolan said Enda had considered applying to a university in Great Britain to study architecture. He guided him, however, to choose Queen's in Belfast.

The 18-year-old had just started his first term at the university when he was mowed down by a drunk motorist who drove on for 800 metres with Enda on the roof of his vehicle.

On Wednesday, the late student's grieving family were left distraught when the man who killed him, David Lee Stewart, was jailed for just three-and-a-half years.

"Enda loved university," Mr Dolan told the Belfast Telegraph. "I am a chartered architect by profession and he fancied himself as an architect. It was a proud moment when he got accepted into Queen's to study architecture. He was going to follow in my footsteps.

"Initially, whenever he was looking at his choices, he was contemplating going to England. We pushed and steered him towards Belfast because we thought it would be safer. How wrong we were."

Enda was walking on the footpath along Belfast's Malone Road to his student accommodation in October 2014 when Stewart, who had consumed at least six pints and four Jagerbombs, mounted the footpath and struck him.

"Enda was killed on the night of his sister Dervla's 16th birthday," said Mr Dolan. "He and Dervla were very close. We went to bed that night and everything was good. A number of hours later, we got this knock on the door and two policemen were standing there. We were told the bad news then. That basically was the beginning of the end from our point of view.

"It was pretty much like you would see on television. You didn't know what to do. You didn't know where you were, if it was a dream. Then all the questions - why it happened, who, what, where?"

Mr Dolan and his wife Niamh then had the awful task of identifying their son's body.

"As the hours unfolded afterwards, we had to go to Belfast to identify him, which was a traumatic experience," Peter said. "The images that we came across in the early hours of the morning, I just wouldn't want any human being going through that. It was just traumatic, to say the least.

"Your son is lying there. You remember the day he was born, and there he is lying there on a slab, on a trolley, in a hospital.

"He had everything to live for and it wasn't his fault. That's the thing that's the hardest to comprehend.

Enda, from Killyclogher village on the outskirts of Omagh, was academically gifted and a talented guitar player.

"He was gentle, kind, full of fun, full of life, hard working," his dad said. "He was dedicated to everything he did. He had a great sense of humour and was loved by people of all ages, young and old.

"He had that sort of personality that he got on with everybody. He got on with his peers and his younger brothers and sister very, very well. He had a great relationship with us, his parents. He could talk to us about anything and could tell us anything.

"The last time that I saw him was on the Monday morning. I drove him to the bus and I wished him all the best and told him to take care and look after himself."

Mr Dolan explained how he could not find the words to describe how it feels to lose a child. "There are no words in the dictionary that can describe how it feels for a parent to lose a child. It is something you don't want to go through. But it happened to us and it happened Enda. Enda had so much to live for and he was so talented in so many ways. We are lucky that we had him for those years."

Last month, Stewart (31), of Gray's Park Avenue, Belfast, pleaded guilty to causing Enda's death by dangerous driving, as well as four other motoring offences, including dangerous driving and failing to provide a specimen of blood.

"Seeing (Stewart) in court, anger would be one of the words you feel - and disbelief," said Mr Dolan.

"You're thinking, 'There is the guy there responsible for my son's death and he is still walking about. Why is that?' A lot of emotions go through your head at that stage. It's hard to take in."

On Wednesday, Stewart was jailed for three-and-a-half years and banned from driving for five years. He is also to spend another three-and-a-half years on licence upon his release from prison.

The passenger in the car with Stewart, William Ross Casement (21), from Belvoir Drive, Belfast, was given 50 hours' community service and two years' probation. The sentences handed down by the court have left Enda's family devastated and campaigner furious.

"I'm angry," Peter said. "The bottom line hasn't changed. Enda is not with us. He is not going to walk in through the door. He is not going to smile. He is not going to laugh. He is not going to tell us what's happening at school, at university.

"He's not going to give us his opinion any more. He's not going to help out, he's not going to chat. He's not going to play with his friends, his brothers and sister. That's the reality of our life sentence and a guy that has killed him gets three-and-a-half years. That's hard to take."

The Dolan family are now considering appealing Stewart's sentence. The Public Prosecution Service also yesterday agreed to consider launching a review of the term.

"We are just getting to grips with what happened," explained Mr Dolan. "The sentence handed out is just unreal. To be three times over the limit, (to have) traces of drugs in the system and mowing down a young man walking on the footpath, carrying him for 800 metres on the roof of your vehicle and leaving him lying there and driving on, and he gets three-and-a-half years in prison. I don't understand that. The passenger in the car was guilty of aiding and abetting. He gets 50 hours' community service. I mean, what's that all about?

"Let us, Enda's family, decide what community service he should do. That would be an interesting one. I've no idea what I'd suggest, but it would be worth considering.

Since Enda's death, his family have been trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.

"You raise your family as best you can," Peter told this paper. "You get on with your work and do what you can. We don't have another option. We just have to get up in the morning and continue to go. The kids have to get up and go to school and get on with their lives.

"We are the same. Every day is a struggle and we have to continue, but it is a hard struggle. We miss Enda every day. We just have to keep going on for his sake. Any laughter now is tinged with sadness."

Enda's family are keeping his memory alive through the Enda Dolan Foundation, which organises youth and community activities in their local area.

"It helps everybody, us included," said Peter. "We are keeping Enda's memory alive through the foundation with projects that he would have a passion in."

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