A man who left two pedestrians seriously injured when he drove onto a busy footpath before “calmly” leaving the scene has been jailed for seven years.

Paul Connolly (37), of Cregg Court, Kilmeague, Robertstown, Co Kildare, was under the influence of drugs and driving his young child to school when his car mounted the footpath at Coolmine Road on May 1, 2018.

Connolly, who was on a 25-year driving ban at the time, left a young law student who had been on his way to catch a train to college with a “catastrophic” brain injury.

Connolly has 215 previous convictions, including 14 for dangerous driving and three for hit-and-runs.

He pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm to Michael Igoe (54), and 19-year-old student Francis Dhala. He admitted taking cocaine and tablets the night before.

He also pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of drugs; possession of cannabis; failing to remain at the scene; failing to offer assistance; failing to alert gardai; and driving without insurance or a driving licence.

At a previous hearing, the court heard how Connolly “undertook” a line of traffic stopped at a railway barrier, before suddenly swerving onto the pavement where he first hit Mr Igoe and then struck Francis Dhala, causing him “catastrophic” injuries.

Witnesses described him going back onto the road, doing a U-turn and driving “calmly” from the scene with a smashed windscreen.

He was followed by a driving instructor who kept in touch with gardai until they were able to intercept him.

The court heard Connolly told initially gardai he thought he had hit “a bush”.

Mr Igoe and Mr Dhala both sustained very severe injuries from the hit and run.

Judge Melanie Greally sentenced Connolly to eight-and-a-half years in prison, with the final 18 months suspended.