SEVEN people involved in an illegal “cruise and drift” event in North Clare last March, organised on Facebook, have been fined €750 and disqualified from driving for six months having shown “total disregard for human beings”.
Wayne Danaher, aged 19, with an address at Snipe Lodge, Knockagulla, Lisdoonvarna and 20-year-old Jennifer Canavan, of Derrymore, Lahinch pleaded guilty at Ennis District Court on Wednesday evening to a public order charge of engaging in offensive conduct in public on March 8.
Meanwhile, Gabriel Weck, aged 21, of Bealcragga, Connolly, 27-year-old Shaun Larkin of 22 Inis Carraig, Ennis, Sean Keane, aged 19, of Ballyhannon, Quin, 21-year-old Rory Downes of Clonakilla, Kilmilhil, and Kevin Baker, aged 18, of Finn Trá, Miltown Malbay pleaded guilty to careless driving on the same date.
Galway-based detective Garda Barry Walsh gave evidence that on the request of Superintendent Seamus Nolan in Kilrush he carried out a surveillance operation of an event in North Clare on the night of March 7 and morning of March 8.
“Superintendent Seamus Nolan informed me that he received intelligence that boyracers known as the North Clare Cruisers and Diffs had arranged an event in Lahinch,” he said.
He explained that Diffs are car manoeuvres. He said he attended undercover in plain clothes and in a Honda Civic car accompanied by another undercover garda.
“There were 70 cars in total in attendance at the prom at Lahinch. I observed people placing a traffic cone into a vehicle and this was a silver Renault Megane registered to Jennifer Canavan.
“A short time later, it was removed from her car into a Green Toyota Corolla. The convoy then left Lahinch prom and travelled along the R478 at Lislorkin North and they stopped outside the Cliffs of Moher visitor centre.
“A male in a blue jacket ushered cars to pull up on left hand side at the entrance to the Cliffs and a silver Altezza began to perform donuts on the public road outside the entrance to the cliffs. While performing the donut he was doing it around a male in a blue jacket. Wayne Danaher was in the middle of it,” he said.
Judge Patrick Durcan commented that Mr Danaher was “the nut in the middle of the dough”.
Detective Walsh said the vehicle was being driven by Kevin Baker.
“A large crowd of 150 to 200 people were gathered. I had a clear view. There were no safety barriers and it was highly dangerous. I was concerned for spectators.
“There was no barriers and loud screeching. After a few minutes, the convoy left arriving Doolin Pier at 12 midnight. I was positioned in the middle of the convoy. I found it difficult to catch up to the convoy and 10 to 12 cars overtook me along the way to Doolin Pier,” he continued.
He said the participants were cautious of the presence of gardaí at all times. He said Jennifer Canavan was sent to check for gardai and she came back to the convoy to say ‘the gardai are now gone, we can go’.
“Throughout the night she acted as a scout, she led them out. She would drive ahead of the convoy on the road,” he said.
Detective Walsh gave evidence that Rory Downes overtook him on bends while it was dark.
“At points during the overtake he turned on and off his lights. A car approached and the convoy had to brake hard to let him join the correct side of the road,” he said.
The convoy then went to St Breckan’s GAA and were there until 1am and from there they headed to the N67 Donnyvarden junction.
“They blocked both lanes of the roadway so people couldn’t go up or down, people left cars unattended. I could hear tyres screeching. I couldn’t see stunts being performed, by the time I got there, there was a large traffic cone placed in the centre of the junction and I observed a Lexus perform donuts around the cone for a minute. This was Shaun Larkin’s car,” he said.
He added that shortly after that he observed Gabriel Weck, Sean Keane, Shaun Larkin and Kevin Baker’s cars perform donuts around the same cone.
Detective Walsh said he and his colleague were not identified on the night. “We were questioned by Mr Danaher at one stage, and we told him ‘we were just up for the cruise’. That was it,” he said.
Inspector John Ryan, prosecuting, told the court the rubber markings left on the road were dangerous and could cause bikes and other vehicles to skid. Detective Walsh said he interviewed Wayne Danaher at Shannon Garda Station where he told gardaí that he and Kevin Baker were the main organisers of the event and had set up a Facebook page. He estimated 50 to 60 people indicated they would attend the event, and 200 people approximately attended on the night.
Mr Danaher said he told people to keep an eye out for gardai. He told gardaí “We knew what we were doing was wrong” and “looking back I think it was highly dangerous”.
“No one wanted to get hurt. We stood back when people were diffing. I’m sorry for all the hassle and I’m sorry for organising the event and I’ll never do that again,” he told gardaí.
Inspector Ryan described this as “extremely reckless” and said he spoke to a farmer in the North Clare area following the event who was “frightened for his life”.
“He had animals calving and could not come out of his house because of the number of people there, he felt locked into his house,” he said.
Judge Durcan described the incident as “horrendous”. He said “the roads are the property of the people of Ireland and those who have a right to be on them and they should be safe for people at all times.”
He said each of the seven individuals before the court would be treated equally as in his mind “it was a chain that was kept together by all the links, whether they were weak links or strong links”.
He ordered each defendant pay a fine of €750 in respect of one charge each and disqualified them from driving for a period of six months.
“I have seven people here who have had opportunities in their lives and who because of daftness have had total disregard for human beings,” he said.
Recognisance was fixed in the event of an appeal.
By Carol Byrne