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Bomb in underpants man gets six years



Date Published: 20-Nov-2009

GALWAY Garda Station and surrounding streets had to be evacuated and the army bomb disposal team called in, when a “ready to go and viable” pipe bomb, packed with almost half a kilogram of explosives, was found in the underpants of a Galway city drugs mule last February.

Mark Phelan, a carpenter and 24 years old father of two, who is a native of Castle Park, Ballybane, was sentenced to six years in prison at Galway Circuit Criminal Court last Friday with the final two years suspended after pleading guilty to having a nine-inch long pipe bomb, containing .43 kgs of shotgun powder and pellet mix, in his possession for an unlawful purpose at Galway Garda Station, Mill Street, Galway, on February 27 last.

He also pleaded guilty to being found in possession of a .22 Remington Speedmaster rifle with silencer and telescopic sight fitted, under suspicious circumstances near Athlone on the same date.

Detective Garda Shaun Durkan said Gardai received information that Phelan would be transporting drugs from Galway to Dublin and they followed his car as it travelled along theN6 and watched as it pulled into a filling station off a roundabout on the dual carriageway near Athlone.

Phelan’s car then left the filling station followed by a van to a nearby open shed, 150 yards from the roundabout. Garda watched as an exchange took place between Phelan and the driver of the van.

Both vehicles returned to the dual carriageway where Phelan headed back towards Galway and the van proceeded towards Dublin. The van driver was later arrested near Moate.

Phelan was arrested at the end of the dual carriageway near Athlone and while a preliminary search revealed nothing he was taken to Galway Garda Station where the pipe bomb was found in his underpants.

The Garda Station at Mill Street and the surrounding area was evacuated while the Army Bomb Disposal Team from Athlone arrived to make the device safe.

The nine-inch pipe bomb comprised a piece of gun barrel packed with a highly explosive mix of 25 gauge gunshot powder and BB shot pellets. It was sealed at both ends and was primed with a nine and a quarter-inch fireworks’ fuse coming from one end.

Detective Durkan said that if the bomb had gone off it would have caused serious injury or even death. In reply to Judge Raymond Groarke the detective said the bomb fuse would have been lit with a match and was “ready to go and viable.”

Detective Durkan said Phelan was a cocaine addict who was “tasked” by his suppliers to transport the .22 rifle from Galway to Athlone and hand it over in exchange for the pipe bomb which he was then to transport back to Galway.

Mr Martin Giblin, SC defending, said Phelan was just a “runner or a mule” for people to whom he owed €500 for cocaine.

He said Phelan had freely admitted to Gardai that he had transported drugs for his cocaine suppliers in the past and was doing so under threat because he owed them money.

He said his client remained under threat while in prison. He said that while Phelan was trusted by the criminals to deliver the goods; that trust was based on fear and he had hoped this would be his last run for them and that it would clear his debt. The court was told Phelan had started taking cannabis at 13 and was a cocaine addict by the time he was 17.

Judge Raymond Groarke said the consequences of the pipe bomb exploding could have been hugely devastating to people in its vicinity. He said it was a weapon of attack designed to cause a lot of harm. “It’s well known that the drugs trade now brings with it huge degrees of violence and the use of firearms and explosives by people who seek to protect their nefarious trade,” Judge Groarke said.

He accepted Phelan was acting under threat and that he was just a “mule or foot soldier” but, he said, such criminality could only prosper and survive and criminals could stand back from their criminality so long as they could get weak people like Phelan to do the work for them.

The message, he said, had to go out to such facilitators that they would be punished severely if caught. He imposed concurrent six-year sentences on both charges and suspended the final two years.

The sentence was backdated to February 28 last, when Phelan was first taken into custody.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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