Micilin Feeney: 'The government has put a price on life'

THE family of a man killed in a road crash, whose anniversary falls this week, has accused the government of putting a price on human life following controversial budget cuts to the Road Safety Authority (RSA).

Charlie Mitchell took part in the RSA's highly praised 'Crashed Lives' advertisement series, which will now be cut short due to a multi-million euro suspension of funding. The ads featured victims and relatives of those killed in road crashes expressing how carnage on Irish roads affects them.

Although the campaign was due to run for three years, the RSA has said its ability to continue has been seriously hampered by having its budget cut by 80%, from €5.4m last year to just €1m.

Mitchell, whose brother Fran died in an accident in 2005, is today attending his anniversary mass with other family members but says they will now have to tell people that their efforts to publicise the effects of his death will have no more positive effect.

"While it was hard to do we felt that if we could save one life then it would have done something but then to turn around and see this [cut]," he told the Sunday Tribune.

"It's my brother's anniversary on the 23rd of this month and it's a very tender time of the year. His anniversary mass is on Sunday; people will tell us his ads are on now and we have to say no they won't [be]."

Fran Mitchell died just five minutes from his home after falling asleep at the wheel. He had been working a late shift was completely sober at the time.

His family found taking part in the publicity series difficult but felt it potentially rewarding.

"We saw people pulling in, relaxing and having their coffee before progressing. We had people telling us that they saw the ad and pulling in and not caring about being late anymore," said Charlie.

"I got a phone call from the RSA to tell me that it [the cuts] had happened and it was absolute disgust and dismay. It's not easy to do these things; there is a lot of bravery in these people to tell their stories.

"The government, by rights, has turned around and put a price on people's lives."

It is a sentiment echoed by crash victim Micilin Feeney, an outspoken advocate of road safety, since his drink driving accident in 2004 left him with permanent brain damage.

"I wasn't surprised [about the cuts] given the economic circumstances, but you can't put a price on life and that is what I feel they are doing," he said. He added that the presence of ads on television was crucial in the battle to reduce road deaths.

"Even the figures show that after the ads came out there was a reduction in the following year's figures.

"If people are in the pub having a few drinks and they remember me in the ad they might say, well, I'll get a cab."