Belfast Telegraph

Jail killer drivers for life, demand parents of tragic hit and run victim Marty Gallagher

Elizabeth and Martin Gallagher’s son Marty was killed by hit-and-run driver Jonathan Francis McGonigle 10 years ago
Elizabeth and Martin Gallagher’s son Marty was killed by hit-and-run driver Jonathan Francis McGonigle 10 years ago
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

A father whose son was killed by a drunk driver in a hit-and-run has said anyone convicted of killing someone through dangerous driving should get life in prison.

Martin Gallagher was speaking on the 10th anniversary of the death of his son Marty.

The 25-year-old was on his way home from Halloween celebrations in Londonderry in 2009 when Jonathan McGonagle crashed into and fatally injured him before driving off.

McGonagle spent three years in prison and three out on licence.

Marty Gallagher
Marty Gallagher

But his victim's parents, Martin and Elizabeth, said this proved to be no deterrent as McGonagle went on to commit further car crimes.

They were responding to the launch of a public consultation on sentencing policy by the Department of Justice, which includes offences that result in death by dangerous driving.

Mrs and Mrs Gallagher said the maximum sentence should be life.

Mr Gallagher said the pain of losing their son has not eased 10 years on.

He said: "Martin was on his way home from celebrating Halloween with his friends, only he never made it home because one man who decided to get into his car drunk and on drugs knocked him down and killed him.

"Our lives have never been the same nor will they ever be again.

"Halloween is one of the biggest nights in Derry but for Elizabeth and me it is the night our world was turned on its head.

"Marty was a great son, he was only 25 and we never stop missing him.

"Even yet, if I hear the door opening for a split second I think 'I wonder is that Marty?' and the pain of losing him hits you again.

"We look at Marty's friends now - they are all married and are having families of their own, but that was taken from Martin and from us."

Marty enjoyed running and was a member of Foyle Valley Athletics Club.

Every year over 1,000 people take part in Marty's Run in the city and raise money for charity.

Jonathan Francis McGonigle
Jonathan Francis McGonigle

Mr Gallagher added: "That is one day we do enjoy, it means so much to us that our son's memory is being kept alive in this way and that he was so highly thought of by so many."

Mr Gallagher said seeing the man who killed their son showing no remorse still fills them with a sense of injustice.

He continued: "That man got three years behind bars but he should have been given a life sentence, instead we are the ones serving the life sentence. There was no justice for us.

"I am glad the Department of Justice has launched this public consultation on sentencing because things need to change and the voices of victims need to be heard.

"The man who killed our son showed no remorse. To this day he had never said he was sorry and he went on to commit other car crime, so the sentence he was given did not deter him.

"At the end of this review I really do hope the powers that be listen to people like us and that things change so that anyone who takes a life through drink driving or dangerous driving is given a life sentence."

The review was commissioned by former Justice Minister Claire Sugden and is now open to public consultation.

Ms Sugden said: "This review is long overdue in Northern Ireland because, within the UK, we don't have the same types of sentences they have in England and Wales, and that was certainly my intent when I commissioned the review.

"Judges need to be the ones with the law at their fingers and be able to make the decision on sentencing ultimately but they do that from a framework.

"The sentencing review aims to look at those frameworks and decide is it appropriate that death by dangerous driving is nine years, and taking mitigating circumstances into consideration that is taken back to six and most custodial sentences have a period, usually half, on licence.

"It is about seeing if they are appropriate and seeing is it fit for purpose any more."

The consultation process runs until January 6 and the Department of Justice is holding public meetings in Derry, Enniskillen, Craigavon and Belfast during November.

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