HSA gives evidence against legal challenge by Donegal County Council

The Health and Safety Authority has argued before the High Court that it's entitled under health and safety laws to conduct an investigation into a road traffic incident in Co Donegal which resulted in the death of a 22-year-old woman.

In submissions opposing Donegal County Council’s application for orders preventing the HSA holding an investigation into the death of Sinéad McDaid, senior counsel for the HSA Shane Murphy said the authority is entitled to conduct an inquiry because of concerns expressed to it.

22-year-old Sinead McDaid, from Carndonagh, died after her car skidded on the road at Dunross, between Culdaff and Malin on the Inishowen peninsula, at about 8 o clock on the night of June 12th, 2001.

The single-vehicle crash occurred on a road where resurfacing works were being carried out by the council and Ms McDaid’s family has conducted a long campaign to have the matter fully investigated.

In judicial review proceedings, the council claims the HSA has adopted unfair procedures in the way it has opened the investigation and alleges that the investigation is oppressive.

Senior Counsel Shane Murphy for the HSA, which previously declined to investigate the accident, decided to do so after it had received new information. This included claims that the road where the accident occurred was swept of loose chippings, and that additional signage had been erected after the accident.

James O’Reilly SC, for the council, argued that the HSA “exceeded its jurisdiction” in deciding in late 2006 to conduct the investigation.

The scene of the crash was not a place of work, Mr O’Reilly submitted. While it was accepted that the scene was swept for loose chippings the day after the crash and that additional lighting had also been placed following the tragedy, that didn't change the fact that the scene “was not a work in progress”.

Ms McDaid’s family were unhappy with those investigations and claimed that the scene had not been properly preserved. They had made representations to politicians and the HSA.

Having heard concluding submissions from both parties yesterday, president of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns reserved his judgment, saying he would deliver it in due course.