Belfast Telegraph

The brutal reality of 'joyriding'

Editor's Viewpoint

Two nights ago a stolen car driven at speed on Belfast's Falls Road crashed into three other vehicles injuring a number of people. Fortunately the injuries were not too serious, but there could so easily have been fatalities.

'Joyriding' - or as victims' groups more accurately call it, 'death driving' - is a scourge of modern society, particularly in Belfast and Londonderry, where young people drive recklessly around in stolen cars virtually every night.

One young man who was once a joyrider knows what those young people think - that it is just a bit of craic, a bit of excitement in otherwise drab existences, something that gives a buzz.

But the reality can be brutally different, as Barry McGuigan found out when he crashed a stolen car at high speed, leaving himself in a coma from which doctors thought he would never emerge. Miraculously, he did, but was paralysed, unable to walk, talk, feed himself or even go to the toilet without help.

The accident happened when he was 22 and for most of the rest of his 20s he had to stay in the only suitable accommodation for him, an old people's home.

Barry, who candidly admits that even his loving family could not stop him joyriding, now tells his story to other young people at PSNI roadshows in the hope that it gets through and stops some other young man or woman ending up like him.

Perhaps one of the hardest things for him to accept was that the so-called mates he used to run around with all abandoned him after the crash. Talk about no honour - or even sympathy - among criminals.

Barry is to be commended for his work with young people now, and quite rightly has been given several awards by the Justice Department.

There are all kinds of hard-hitting road safety messages portrayed on our televisions - the dangers of speeding, drinking and driving, carelessness and so on. But even the most graphic advertisements cannot carry the same weight as the testimony of Barry.

He knows what drives those who engage in joyriding. He speaks their language and, cruelly, he knows how his life has altered immeasurably for the worse thanks to the activities he regarded once as just a bit of craic. His hopes and aspirations have all gone, or changed beyond recognition. Now, he just wants to save others from themselves.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph