A5 crash victim Caoimhe O'Brien's mum urges Stormont return
The mother of a young woman killed in a crash on the A5 has challenged MLAs to get back to Stormont before the road claims more lives.
Marie O'Brien, whose 23-year-old daughter Caoimhe died instantly in the October 2016 accident, said that the three deaths on the A5 this week had traumatised her all over again.
On Monday an elderly couple from England died when the vehicle they were travelling in was involved in a collision with a lorry on the Doogary Road near Omagh.
Less than 24 hours later, Sean Reid (69) was killed in an accident on Great Northern Road in Omagh.
In total there have been six deaths over the past seven years on the Doogary Road, while 32 people lost their lives along the A5 from 2006 to 2016.
A scheme to improve the A5 was announced more than a decade ago. However, the A5 Western Transport Corridor (WTC) scheme - the single largest road scheme ever undertaken in Northern Ireland - has been continually delayed.
This week, the Department for Infrastructure's (DfI) permanent secretary confirmed a legal challenge by the group Alternative A5 Alliance (AA5A), which is opposed to the A5 WTC, has been adjourned.
This means the start date for work to upgrade the A5 has been delayed indefinitely.
Mrs O'Brien, who is from the Douglas Bridge area, said politicians must get back to government so the planned dualling of the road can progress before more lives are lost.
Her daughter Caoimhe, a care worker, was killed when her blue Ford Focus crashed on the Victoria Road.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mrs O'Brien said: "The deaths of three people on the A5 has had an awful impact on us as a family, because it has taken us right back to when Caoimhe was killed.
"No one can know what that pain is like; it is unimaginable and it is never ending.
"It has been almost two years since Caoimhe died and our whole world was turned on its head.
"She was the centre of our world, our lives revolved around her, but all that was taken from us the second I saw those two police officers standing at our door at two o'clock in the morning."
Mrs O'Brien hit out at the political impasse - and said the political focus must be on issues like the A5. She added: "Not all of these crashes result in a fatality but many of them are serious and people are being left with life-changing injuries, so that road is actually a lot more dangerous than people who don't live near it realise.
"If the work to upgrade the road had gone ahead without all these delays, just think how many lives would have been saved because it has been proved there are less crashes on better roads.
"It angers me so much that politicians are getting paid but they are not doing their job. If they had been in government there would at least have been a chance of the work going ahead.
"It is very frustrating that because they are not doing their jobs people are dying and I wonder how many more families will get a knock on the door from a police officer telling them their son or daughter has been killed on this road."
SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan has continuously called for the A5 to be upgraded and said that the latest tragedies have stunned everyone.
He said: "This road scheme is absolutely vital for this area. People are needlessly dying on our roads, especially young people. Those holding this scheme back are doing nothing to stop it.
"The A5 upgrade is the only solution that can truly make our roads safer for its users and suitable to travel on.
"It will improve safety on what is one of the most dangerous stretches of road on this island. I have campaigned for, and fought for, the completion of this scheme and I sincerely hope that it will come to fruition. The people of this area deserve better and safer infrastructure."
Local Sinn Fein MP Orfhlaith Begley said the recent tragedies had emphasised the importance of the A5 dual carriageway.
She said: "The fact that more lives have been taken on our local roads in such tragic circumstances is a sombre reminder of the importance of road safety and in particular the urgent need for the A5 dual carriageway to go ahead.
"There is no doubt that the upgrade of the A5 dual carriageway must proceed as planned, without any further delay.
She added: "Too many lives have already been lost on this road, safety concerns are the driving force behind this much-needed upgrade."