A garda has been given a two-year suspended sentence for dangerous driving causing the death of a mother of three in a crash on the M4 motorway near Kinnegad four years ago.

Patrick McDonnell, originally from Belmullet in Co Mayo and with an address at Corofin, Co Galway, had pleaded guilty at Trim Circuit Court earlier this year to the charge.

Jacqueline Wolohan, 51, from Coolock in Dublin was killed in the collision.

She was on her way back from Longford to her home with her son, his friend and her cousin when the crash happened on 13 February 2016.

Mr McDonnell was travelling to Dublin and was off-duty at the time of the crash, which happened on the M4 motorway at Rossan, Kinnegad on the Meath-Kildare border.

Prosecuting counsel Carl Hanahoe told the court that Mr McDonnell was not at the scene of the crash when gardaí arrived.

The court heard that a heat seeking device had been used in a search but he could not be located. Six hours later the court heard Mr McDonnell admitted his involvement in the incident.

At a sentencing hearing today, the court heard how one driver witnessed Mr McDonnell overtaking on the motorway that night.

In a statement read to the court, the witness remarked that Mr McDonnell "flew past me".

Another witness said he was on his way to work that night and that road conditions were good.

He said there was were very few vehicles on the road and, as a professional driver, he said he set his speed limiter at 120kph. 

In a statement read to the court, he said he was overtaken by Mr McDonnell in an Opel Astra, who was travelling "15 to 20km faster".

He witnessed the crash and said no brake lights came on and he called the emergency services at 1.14am.

The court heard phone records taken from Mr McDonnell's phone showed he received a text message at 1.12am, however, defence lawyers said there was no evidence to suggest the text message was opened or read.

In a victim impact statement read to the court, Alison Wolohan, the deceased’s eldest daughter, said her family had been "truly robbed" of a "kind, caring, loving person", who would do anything for anyone.

"We are a close-knit family and our Mam was the brightest, kindest member," the statement said.

She said her mother was just 51 years old when she was killed and her family were "truly robbed".

"She was young, lively, she loved life," the statement added. 

"Every family occasion is tinged with guilt and sadness."

"We think of the all the milestones she has missed and will miss."

Ms Wolohan said the accused will never realise how his actions have devastated so many lives.

They said they have never received an explanation about what happened that night and were "dragged from court date to court date" until his guilty plea.

Judge Terence O’Sullivan said this case was at the lower to mid-range end of the dangerous driving scale.

Judge O'Sullivan said it is always difficult for the families of the bereaved listening to evidence in a case like this.

He said he had to determine where the moral culpability lies in this case.

He said it would appear the car which Mr McDonnell was driving came up behind the car which Jacqueline Wolohan was driving and for some reason did not overtake.

He said it was accepted that Mr McDonnell was travelling in excess of 120kph and probably 20-30kph in excess of it.

Judge O’Sullivan said, however, Mr McDonnell had shown remorse, had pleaded guilty and had no previous convictions. He said he accepted that this was "entirely out of character".

Judge O’Sullivan said he did not think Mr McDonnell set out to do harm but the nature of his driving exposed him.

He imposed a two-year sentence, but taking into account a number of factors, including the 42-year-old’s previous good character, his guilty plea and evidence of genuine remorse, he suspended the sentence fully for two years.

Mr McDonnell also received a four-year driving ban.

The court heard Patrick McDonnell was attested from An Garda Síochána in 2003.

He is currently suspended from the force.