Man gets 3-year sentence over ‘runaway Massey Ferguson’

By Gordon Deegan

A judge has jailed a west Co. Clare man for two years concerning a series of offences involving “a runaway tractor”.

At Ennis Circuit Court this week, Judge Gerald Keys imposed a three-year prison term – suspending the final year – on a 26 year-old man for the unlawful use of the now 40-year old Massey Ferguson tractor on July 21, 2018.

The individual, who is from the Kilrush area, also pleaded guilty to two counts of dangerous driving of the tractor on the night and a criminal damage charge.

Judge Keys described the man – who has 57 previous convictions – as “a threat to society” and also imposed a six-year driving ban.

According to Garda Brion Dolan, the man appeared drunk on the night when eventually arrested on suspicion of drink driving.

However, he avoided a drink driving charge after the Garda blood sample sent off for analysis clotted.

His counsel, Brian McInerney BL, commented that the blood clotting may have arose “from the cocktail of substances he had in his system”.

The individual stole the tractor from the farmyard of Sean Culligan at Killimer in the early hours of July 21, 2018.

The Kilrush man admitted to Gardaí that he didn’t know how to drive a tractor; however, he did drive it for 12 miles before crashing it into the wall of a house in a Kilrush housing estate.

According to evidence from Garda Dolan, a local man, Tom Murphy, kept in pursuit of the tractor and was updating Gardaí on its progress.

Garda Dolan stated that the tractor was driving over continuous white lines and driving through yield signs and flaunting road traffic laws.

Garda Dolan further stated that the tractor crashed into a wall at Upper Cappa Drive in Kilrush town at around 5.30am and continued on.

Garda Dolan added that the tractor was coming towards him with agricultural forks at the front.

He said the tractor continued on to a farmyard where the driver appeared not to be able to stop the tractor.

The counsel for the defendant told the court: “Even for the hard-working farming community in west Clare, the presence of a Massey Ferguson tractor at 5:00am on the roads would be unusual.”

He added: “Even more unusual – but not unique – would be the sight of a Massey Ferguson tractor in a housing estate at that hour of the morning.

This was an old Massey Ferguson – they keep going forever but they get louder and louder the older they get.

The defendant’s counsel stated that driving around on a Massey Ferguson tractor around west Co. Clare at 5:00am “was tantamount to putting an ad on Clare FM that said ‘I’m up to no good’; or a sign on the roof of the tractor”, adding: “It was going to get attention.”

Garda Dolan stated that he “would be very concerned what [the defendant] would be capable of while intoxicated”.

He added: “When not intoxicated, he is easy to deal with and you could have the bit of craic with him.”