Belfast Telegraph

Family of drink-drive victim wants UUP's Hussey to lose seat

Elizabeth and Martin Gallagher
Elizabeth and Martin Gallagher
Derek Hussey
Martin the victim of a drink-driver
Leona O'Neill

By Leona O'Neill

The family of a man killed by a drunk driver have said the disqualification of Ulster Unionist councillor Derek Hussey over his drink-driving convictions "falls far too short" and they want him to lose his seat altogether.

On Tuesday Mr Hussey (70), who represents the Derg District Electoral Area in Co Tyrone, was disqualified from sitting on Derry City and Strabane District Council for 15 months over his drink-driving convictions.

He appeared at the Local Government Commissioner for Standards Office in Belfast following official complaints from two families whose loved ones were killed by drink-drivers - one of which was the family of Londonderry man Martin Gallagher Jnr.

The 25-year-old was killed as he celebrated Halloween in the city in 2009.

His father Martin Snr brought a complaint to the Commissioner after Mr Hussey was appointed deputy mayor of the city and district last year.

One of five children, Martin Jnr had been only a few steps from his friends' home when he was struck by a car on the Racecourse Road.

When his parents Martin and Elizabeth went to identify his body in Belfast, his mother was advised not to see him, such were the severity of his injuries. Mr Gallagher said he will never get over the death of his son.

"My son Martin was knocked down as he crossed the Racecourse Road after being out at the Halloween night celebrations in the city in 2009," he said.

"He was about to step off the path when a man mounted the path and knocked him 20 yards down the road. The driver was caught and got three years in prison.

"We will never get over Martin's death. It is 10 years down the line now, but you have the same feelings. You wonder what it's all about.

"Seeing a convicted drink-driver being elected as deputy mayor was absolutely awful for us.

"I know he did not kill my son or anyone.

"He was elected to his post in the town where my son was killed. He was clapped into the chamber by councillors.

"They might as well have gone up and spat on my son's grave. It made me and my family feel so hurt and so terrible."

Mr Gallagher says Tuesday's ruling has given the family small comfort, but that it hasn't gone far enough.

He said he wants to see Mr Hussey "lose his job altogether".

He added: "Speaking as a father who has had a son killed by a drunk driver, I can understand a man being caught once and showing a bit of remorse, but I don't think this disqualification is long enough.

"This man has been convicted three times for drunk driving.

"I simply cannot understand why Derry City and Strabane District Council elected this man as their deputy mayor, knowing that in 2016 he had his third conviction for drink-driving.

"I can never get my head around why he didn't go to prison after being caught three times.

"And that is why ourselves and the Bradley family, who lost a loved one to a drink-driver 19 years ago, got together and put the complaint forward.

"If we hadn't brought the complaint forward that man would still be a councillor. No one else wanted to do anything about it."

He added: "I thought that he should have lost his seat altogether.

"If the disqualification had been three years, he would never have been able to sit as a councillor again.

"But the UUP can now just opt someone into his seat until his 15 months is up and see what happens.

"To lose his job would have sent a message out there that drink-driving will not be tolerated. When you see someone just getting a disqualification and then being put back into his role, it's not enough.

"The man who killed my son got three years in prison. But we, his family, got life. It's a life sentence for us."

Acting Commissioner Ian Gordon found that Mr Hussey had breached the Local Government code of conduct for councillors, specifically the paragraph which states that councillors "must not bring their position as a councillor, or their council, into disrepute".

Mr Hussey has stated that he will appeal the decision. His disqualification will begin on July 16.

Mr Gallagher said that if an appeal goes forward he hopes that the High Court will be "harsher" on the councillor.

"I hope that he does appeal it," he added.

"Because it will go to the High Court and they will increase his sentence and he could lose his seat altogether."

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