Belfast Telegraph

'Slap on wrist' no deterrent to joyriding scourge: priest

Call: Fr Patrick McCafferty
Call: Fr Patrick McCafferty
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

A Catholic priest who witnessed the crash outside Belfast City Cemetery on Saturday says more needs to be done to deter so-called joyriders from destroying lives.

Fr Patrick McCafferty had conducted the funeral Mass of Seamus Conlon's friend Raymond Walker at Corpus Christi Parish in Ballymurphy and was leaving the cemetery when the fatal collision took place.

Speaking at his home yesterday, Fr McCafferty said: "People are upset and saddened because Mr Conlon and his family are very well-known.

"They have described the atmosphere today as though there is a cloud hanging over this close-knit community.

"While they are bewildered and frightened, they're also conscious that the tragedy could have been multiplied as there are children up and down the Whiterock Road all the time.

"What happened is catastrophic for the Conlon family but it could have been so much worse if a car had ploughed into a group of children."

Fr McCafferty said that during his 30 years in the priesthood he has buried many car thieves and their victims.

He has also called for a crackdown on joyriding, saying there is no meaningful deterrent for those who steal cars and drive them dangerously, often under the influence.

"The law is failing people and something needs to be done to deter people from driving recklessly and killing members of their own community," said the priest.

"Those who commit these crimes get a slap on the wrist and then they are released to keep putting people at risk of death of serious injury. It's totally unacceptable.

"They need to know that if they do this they will suffer a just penalty and be imprisoned for a substantial amount of time."

The priest described Mr Conlon as a "colourful, larger-than-life and highly respected" member of the community.

"Seamus went out on Saturday morning to attend his friend's funeral and little did we think that he would not be coming home," he said.

"Now his family have been left to cope with their enduring heartbreak."

He added that the person responsible would never be able to put that right, no matter what they did.

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