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Armed teen burglar (16) gets prison term reprieve



A 16-year-old boy has been given a suspended four-year sentence after being caught red-handed breaking into a house with another burglar while armed with a hunting knife and a hatchet.

The teenager, who was in the care of the HSE at the time of the offences, was brought before Galway Circuit Criminal Court for sentence.

Both he and his co-accused, Dominic Downes (21), 3 Doire Beag, Knocknacarra, pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary at a house in Hazel Park, Newcastle, on September 24 last year in that they trespassed at the house with intent to commit theft, and at the time had with them a large hunting knife and a hatchet.

The pair also pleaded guilty to the theft of a Stanley Wonder Bar and a Stanley Axe, total value €60, from Woodie’s DIY, Galway Retail Park on September 23 last year.

Judge Rory McCabe adjourned sentence in Downes’ case to July and directed the preparation of a victim impact statement and a probation report on Downes prior to that date.

Garda Conor Barrett told the juvenile’s sentence hearing that he and other Gardai from Galway and Salthill Stations responded to a 999 call of a burglary in progress at a man’s home in Hazel Park at 1.55am on September 24 last year.

He and Garda Robert Molloy climbed into the garden at the rear of the property where they spotted the juvenile coming out through a rear window while Downes had an implement in his hand.

The pair ran and were chased by Garda Barrett and his colleague over a number of garden walls. The youth dropped a bag containing property stolen from the house.

Both were caught and arrested.  Downes was found in possession of the large hunting knife.

Both Gardaí went back to the house where they met with the man who had made the 999 call.

He was in his underpants and was holding a kitchen knife.  He was in shock and was visibly shaking.

A hatchet, left behind by the burglars, was located under the window in the man’s bedroom.

CCTV from Woodie’s captured the two accused entering the store the day before and stealing a hatchet and a jimmy bar, which were both used in the burglary.

Garda Barrett read the man’s victim impact statement into evidence. The man said he had been woken around 2am by tapping on his bedroom window.  He realised someone was trying to open the window from the outside and he ran to the kitchen to find something with which to defend himself.

He ran upstairs and crouched down on the landing while at the same time dialling the emergency services for help.

He could hear voices in his bedroom downstairs while he was talking to the operator on his phone.  He hid behind the bannisters and luckily, he said, the Gardaí arrived very quickly.

He suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and had to take two weeks off work. He had nightmares for weeks and could not be on his own in the house. He moved house and said he had suffered a huge financial loss.

Garda Barrett said the juvenile had four previous convictions for robbery, theft, assault and breaching the peace and had served a five- month period of detention last year for those.

Judge Rory McCabe said the teenager was entitled to credit for his early plea, his co-operation with Gardai and for the fact he was not the principal motivator in the crime.

He accepted the youth had taken “significant steps” to change his life around while in custody. “If he has to have any chance of leaving his past behind him, it’s obvious he needs to be trained and educated to enter the workforce and live a life without crime, drink and drugs,” Judge McCabe said.

He then said the appropriate sentence was four years, suspended for six years on condition the youth be of good behaviour for that period.  He also placed the youth under the supervision of the probation service for the next 24 months.


Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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Official opening of Galway’s new pedestrian and cycle bridge



The new Salmon Weir pedestrian and cycle bridge will be officially opened to the public next Friday, May 26.

Work on the €10 million bridge got underway in April 2022, before the main structure was hoisted into place in early December.

A lunchtime tape-cutting ceremony will take place on Friday, as the first pedestrians and cyclists traverse the as-yet-unnamed bridge.

The Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, previously said the bridge, once opened, would remove existing conflicts between pedestrians, cyclists and traffic “as well as facilitating the Cross-City Link public transport corridor over the existing 200-year-old bridge”.

The naming of the new bridge has been under discussion by the Council’s Civic Commemorations Committee since late last year.

One name that has been in the mix for some time is that of the first woman in Europe to graduate with an engineering degree – Alice Perry.

Ms Perry, who was from Wellpark, graduated from Queen’s College Galway (now University of Galway) in 1906. The university’s engineering building is named in her honour.

The bridge was built by Jons Civil Engineering firm in County Meath and was assembled off-site before being transported to Galway. Funding for the project was provided in full by the National Transport Authority and the European Regional Development Fund.

(Photo: Sheila Gallagher captured the city’s new pedestrian footbridge being raised on the south side of the Salmon Weir Bridge in December. It will officially open next Friday, May 26).

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Minister branded ‘a disgrace’ for reversing land rezoning in Galway City



From the Galway City Tribune – Minister of State for Local Government and Planning, Kieran O’Donnell was labelled a “disgrace” for overturning councillors’ decisions to rezone land in the new City Development Plan.

Minister O’Donnell (pictured) confirmed in a letter to Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath last week that he was reversing 25 material alternations made by councillors to the CDP 2023-29. He made the decision on the advice of Office of Planning Regulator (OPR).

Minister O’Donnell directed that 14 land parcels that were subject to land-use zoning changes by councillors as part of the Material Alterations to the Draft CDP should be reversed.

He directed that a further 11 land parcels in the city should become “unzoned”.

The Minister found that the CDP had not been made in a manner consistent with recommendations of the OPR, which required specific changes to the plan to ensure consistency with the national planning laws and guidelines.

At last week’s Council meeting Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) asked for clarity on the process by which councillors could rezone the lands that had been changed by the Minister’s direction.

Cllr Declan McDonnell said, “What he [Minister O’Donnell] has done is an absolute disgrace”.

And he asked: “Do we have to have another development plan meeting to deal with it?”

Both Cllrs Hoare and McDonnell wondered what would become of the lands that were rezoned or unzoned by the ministerial direction.

Mr McGrath said the Council had put forward an argument in favour of retaining the material alterations in the plan, but ultimately the Minister sided with OPR.

He said if councillors want to make alterations to the new plan, they could go through the process of making a material alteration but this was lengthy.

The Save Roscam Peninsula campaign welcomed the Minister’s decision.

In a statement to the Galway City Tribune, it said the direction would mean the Roscam village area on the Roscam Peninsula will be unzoned and a number of land parcels would revert back to agriculture/high amenity.

A spokesperson for the campaign said: “the material alterations made by city councillors following lobbying by developers continued the long-standing practice of councillors facilitating a developer-led plan rather than an evidence- and policy-based plan that meets the needs of the city.

“The Minister’s direction is an important step in restoring confidence in the planning system. It is clear from the City Council’s own evidence on future housing projections that there was no requirement to zone these lands for residential purposes in order to meet the needs of the targeted population increase up to 2029,” the spokesperson added.

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