A DOUGLAS Bridge woman who lost two close family members within weeks of each other due to collisions on the A5 has urged Stormont to start saving lives by beginning work on the much-delayed dual carriageway scheme as soon as possible.
Describing the A5 as “one of the most dangerous roads in Ireland”, Mrs Marie O’Brien was disappointed to learn this week that the plans to build the new dual carriageway could be pushed back yet again.
In October 2016, Mrs O’Brien’s daughter Caoimhe (23), a care worker, died when the Ford Focus she was driving crashed on the A5 between Strabane and Derry shortly before midnight.
And there was further tragedy for the family just two weeks later when Marie’s brother-in-law, Eugene O’Brien, was knocked down on the A5 in the Newtownstewart area. He was taken to hospital and put on a life support machine, but died on November 7, 2016.
Mrs O’Brien said, “Eugene had fought cancer three times. He had undergone a major operation and was just getting his life back together.”
On Monday, West Tyrone MP, Orfhlaith Begley, said she was seeking an “urgent meeting” with Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon, after the SDLP MLA announced that construction on the A5 would not start until next spring due to a £242m budget shortfall in the A5/A6 funding pot.
But in a poignant plea to all the politicians at Stormont to end the delays over the A5, Mrs O’Brien said, “Please, please, please do something before before there are a lot more lives lost on this dangerous road.”
Referring to an article published in the Ulster Herald shortly after her daughter’s death, the grieving mother said that, in the 10-year period between April 2006 and October 2016, 30 lives had been lost on the 53-mile stretch of the A5 between Aughnacloy and Derry.
And there have been further fatalities in the years since.
Mrs O’Brien said that lessons could be learnt from the construction of the A4 dual carriageway between Dungannon and Ballygawley, where the number of crashes have dramatically reduced on what was once a notorious stretch of road.
In the months after her daughter’s death, Mrs O’Brien and her husband Noel helped to found the Derry-based charity, Life After, which assists families bereaved by car accidents.
She described the charity, which is now looking to expand into the Omagh area, as a “lifeline” for the couple.
She said, “We were struggling so much. We thought, we’re stuck here and we’re suffering. We didn’t realise that there were other people suffering exactly the same as we were.”
But, to go down to the meetings in Derry she had to pass where Caoimhe died, which was very hard for her.
However, making the effort to attend turned out to be a life-changing experience.
“Everything was so raw at that time. If I hadn’t had Life After I don’t think I would be here today. I really don’t, because I was really going crazy.
“And now, they’re at the end of the phone line. You just lift the phone if you’re having a bad day. We can get in touch with each other and support each other,” she added.
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