A 19-year-old student who took part in a ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest on Salthill Prom last summer, became abusive and physically obstructed a Garda who was bringing a prisoner back to the Garda Station.
Richard Kamson, Sraith Fhada, Doughiska, now realises that members of An Garda Síochána are nothing like their counterparts in US law enforcement, his solicitor, Ronan Murphy, told Galway District Court this week.
Kamson, a promising athlete and PR student at GMIT pleaded guilty to obstructing Garda Declan Whelan in the execution of his duty, and to breaching the peace, by engaging in threatening, abusive and insulting words or behaviour at the Promenade on May 30 last year.
Sergeant Cathal Rodgers said a group of up to 40 teenagers had congregated at the Prom for a Black Lives Matter march when at around 6.30pm, Gardaí encountered some of them as they were escorting a prisoner back to the Garda Station on foot.
The teenagers starting shouting “police brutality” and “let the prisoner go”, before a group of them started pushing and shoving the Gardaí and shouting into their faces.
Garda Whelan’s hat and tie were pulled off him in the ensuing skirmish.
A number of youths blocked Garda Whelan’s path as he tried to make his way back to the Garda Station and one of them was Kamson, Sgt Rodgers explained.
He said the accused made full admissions to the charges against him when he gave a voluntary memo to Gardaí on October 20 last.
He confirmed the accused had no previous convictions.
Mr Murphy said his client and his parents were taking this matter very seriously before conceding Kamson’s actions on the day were “completely indefensible”.
Mr Murphy said this occurred against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement after what happened to George Floyd in Minnesota.
“He accepts the Gardaí are nothing like the police force in the US. They’re a more structured, civilised organisation, and he accepts that,” Mr Murphy said.
“This was very much out of character and occurred out of a misplaced sense of justice,” the solicitor added while handing, what he described as very glowing references – including one from Galway Harriers – into court which stated his client was a promising athlete.
Mr Murphy said his client would never appear before the court again. “He did something very silly and appreciates the seriousness of it now,” he added.
Judge Mary Fahy said it was very serious. She said the incident occurred during the first lockdown when people didn’t understand the rules and regulations and Gardaí had to patrol areas to prevent large congregations from forming.
She said she accepted people found it difficult back then, but they had a better understanding of the rules and regulations now.
“At that time, there were more questions than answers. That’s not the case now because of the ‘roadmaps’. It’s more clear and people know where they are going and they feel they are moving forward,” she said.
The judge said Kamson’s behaviour could not be condoned or excused by the lockdown.
Sgt Rodgers said the obstruction of Garda Whelan was at the upper end on the scale of gravity and only ended because other Gardaí happened to be there.
Judge Fahy agreed the situation could have escalated and could have been very serious for Garda Whelan.
She told the accused there was absolutely no correlation between this incident and what happened to the unfortunate George Floyd in the US.
Mr Murphy said his client accepted the Gardaí were a “very well-run organisation” and he now realised Gardaí could have been injured.
The solicitor asked Judge Fahy to give his client a chance and adjourn the matter to a later date to await the findings of a Garda behaviour report.
He said his client had learnt a very sobering lesson and his parents had been very hard on him.
Judge Fahy suggested the parents, who both work, might like to make some restitution to society.
She adjourned sentence to September 1, to await the findings of a Garda behaviour report and said that if it was good, she might consider a contribution from the parents to a worthwhile cause, adding that she wanted their son to understand what he did was wrong and he will not do it again.
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.”
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).
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.