27 Sept 2022

Donegal pensioner 'one of the forgotten souls of rural Ireland’, solicitor says

Letterkenny courthouse

Letterkenny courthouse

An 80-year-old man given a two-year driving ban has been described as ‘one of the forgotten souls of rural Ireland’.

Solicitor Mr Seamus Gunn was speaking in the case of Robert Neely at Letterkenny District Court.

Neely, with an address of Carrick, Trentagh, Churchill, was before the court charged with drink-driving and driving without insurance; matters relating to an incident at 3.50pm February 6, 2019.

Garda O’Riordan noted a vehicle being driven on the Churchill-Kilmacrennan road by Neely and suspected the defended was not insured.

Gardaí got a smell of intoxicating liquor and a subsequent sample showed a reading of 79 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.

The court heard that Neely was given a five-year disqualification on March 24, 2014 - meaning he was still banned when this incident occurred.

“Robert Neely is one of the forgotten souls of rural Ireland,” Mr Gunn told the court.

“He had an 84-year-old brother who he cared for until he passed away later that same year. H

“He is now 80 himself and suffers from severe arthritis. The nearest shop in Trentagh, three miles away, has closed since Covid. The nearest shop now is in Churchill - four miles the other way.

“He had an appointment to see me one day and it took him four and a half hours to get to me. He has to walk or hitch a lift.

“He lives with two dogs and two shetland ponies, which are, I would submit, better cared for than himself. He lives a solitary life in very frugal conditions and the nearest neighbour is around a mile and a half away.”

Mr Gunn said that his client had worked at Glenveagh National Park until he retired in 2007 after 30 years of service. He made use of a car to get provisions.

Mr Gunn said: “He now avails of a taxi service, which is pretty expensive, to get to the shop and he also very much depends on a neighbour and nephew for transport.”

On the drink-driving charge, Judge Patricia Cronin disqualified Neely for six months and fined him €105, giving four months to pay.

For driving without insurance, Judge Cronin disqualified Neely for two years and fined him €105, with four months to pay.

A charge of driving without a driving licence was marked taken into consideration.

Judge Cronin said: “I appreciate that he may never be back on the road but it is a mandatory disqualification and he was disqualified at the time of this driving. I was as lenient as I could possibly be.”

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