Tragic death of nuns prompts calls for increased safety measures on “notoriously dangerous” road

October 6, 2014

The tragic death of two Sisters of Mercy nuns in a collision with a police vehicle near the Derrycraw Road junction of the A1 in Newry last Tuesday, happening just days after a Newry cyclist was killed on the same stretch of road, has prompted calls for increased safety measures along the “notoriously dangerous” carriageway.

Sr Frances Forde and Sr Marie Duddy, who were based in Belfast, were travelling to a Novena in the Dromantine Retreat and Conference Centre last Tuesday morning when their Renault Clio collided with an unmarked PSNI Mitsubishi Shogun.  The two nuns were pronounced dead at the scene while the three police officers travelling in the PSNI vehicle were not seriously injured.

The crash scene was screened off and the road remained closed in both directions until late Tuesday night as police and ombudsman investigators carried out investigations using cameras and specialist scanners.

The shock felt in the community as news of the fatalities spread was compounded by the loss of cyclist John Paul McKevitt in a collision with a lorry on the same stretch of road just days earlier.

The 34 year old father of two was cycling on the northbound carriageway of the A1, close to the off slip for Sheepbridge, when he was struck by a lorry shortly after 8.00pm on Thursday 25th September.  He was taken to hospital but died from his injuries a short time later.

As tributes poured in for the stricken nuns, the Sisters of Mercy of the Northern Province said they were “deeply saddened and shocked by the deaths of Sr Frances and Sr Mary” and were “struggling to cope with their sudden parting from us.”

Sr Frances was the retired principal of the Mercy Primary School in Belfast who had dedicated herself to parish ministry in a voluntary capacity in the Legion of Mary and the care of the bereaved.

Sr Marie taught in Our Lady of Mercy, Ballysillan as well as in Africa and Queen’s University, Belfast School of Education.  She was also an esteemed author of religious academic books.

Mayor of Newry and Mourne Daire Hughes, said there was “deep shock” in the community at the deaths of the two women and described it as “horrendous news.” He offered the thoughts and prayers of the Newry and Mourne Community and said the accident was another tragic reminder of “just how vulnerable we all can be when out on our roads.”

In the wake of the tragedy, SDLP Assembly member Karen McKevitt reiterated her call for safety improvements along the A1 carriageway.

“This junction is notoriously dangerous and has been the scene of previous road fatalities,” she said.

“I have lobbied Roads Service on numerous occasions to have measures put in place to improve safety but unfortunately it has now claimed more lives.”