A 23 year-old man who drove the wrong way on the south bound carriageway on the M1 motorway, for approximately 30 kilometres from Drogheda to north Louth, was jailed for two years at Dundalk Circuit Court last Thursday and was banned from driving for four years.
Stephen McDonagh with an address at Cappocks Green, Ardee pleaded guilty to endangerment, dangerous driving, criminal damage to a toll booth barrier on the M1, obstructing a peace officer and failing to comply with the requirement to provide two drink-driving breath specimens on the ninth of January last.
The court heard just after midnight the crew of a Drogheda-based patrol car who responded to a report of a woman walking on the M1 motorway, came upon the defendant’s wife in a distressed state.
She was taken to Dunleer to get a taxi home, and the court heard Stephen McDonagh was in a Volvo parked on the hard shoulder of the Mary McAleese Boyne Valley bridge.
He accelerated and exited at Junction 9 where he drove through the toll barrier without stopping and then drove down the Donore Road and Marley’s Lane before heading through Drogheda and out the North Road and travelling back towards the M1 at Junction 10, having collided with a patrol car, which received a ‘glancing blow.’
The accused drove northwards in the southbound carriageway without making any effort to leave the motorway, while being followed by gardai in the northbound carriageway, with the blue flashing lights turned off.
The court heard officers in a Dundalk-based patrol car spotted the accused approach, and a garda gave evidence that Stephen McDonagh had driven towards them, but veered away at the very last minute.
A stinger device was activated on the M1 at the Applegreen Service Station, which slowed the defendant’s car down to 70 or 80 kilometres an hour but although one tyre was gone completely and another was deflating, he failed to stop despite the bonnet opening at Newtownbalregan, blocking his vision.
The court heard how a passenger then climbed out of the car and tried to push down the bonnet and the accused narrowly avoided colliding with a car and a lorry.
After confirmation that the road had been closed from Junction 19, a decision was then made to make tactical contact with the car, at Lower Faughart – bringing it to a halt.
The investigating garda agreed with the defence barrister that Stephen McDonagh’s extreme behaviour was that of a man under the influence of serious intoxicants.
The court heard he had 111 previous convictions including 32 for dangerous driving.
The Defence counsel said her client’s family was offering €1,000 in compensation and told how he had a troubled background, had lost a brother and had used alcohol and drugs to deal with his grief.
Judge O’Shea imposed sentences totalling three years, but suspended the final 12 months, with the sentence back dated to January ninth when the accused went into custody.