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CITY TRIBUNE

Burglar fell asleep on the job

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A man is living in fear and has installed security cameras around his home since he was was hit in the face with a broken bottle by a would-be car thief who broke into his car while it was parked in his driveway.

39-year-old Mark McDonagh, from 11 Ballinfoile Park, Headford Road, received sentences totalling 17 months at Galway District Court for a spate of alcohol-fuelled, sometimes violent offences which he committed over the last couple of years around the city.

He pleaded guilty to assaulting the man, causing him harm at a property at Glenanail on September 1, 2020.

He also pleaded guilty to damaging the driver’s window of the man’s Hyundai i10, and to interfering with the mechanism of the car during the same incident.

The court heard McDonagh also broke into the County Club at Gaol Road on April 27 last year where he stole a safe containing €220 and a bottle of vodka from the bar.

He was arrested shortly afterwards by Gardai who found him lying in a highly intoxicated state in the club’s garden alongside the empty bottle and the safe.

He was taken to Garda HQ in Murrough where a routine search revealed he was carrying a screwdriver.

McDonagh pleaded guilty to all of the charges and also to stealing a bottle of wine and a pack of face masks from Dunnes Stores on May 28 and to stealing a bottle of vodka from Tesco on July 17 last year.

Sergeant Aoife Curley, prosecuting, said the victim of the assault interrupted McDonagh whom he found sitting in his car at 10.30pm on September 1, 2020. The driver’s window had been smashed to gain entry.

The injured party shouted at McDonagh to get out of his car before he was hit in the face.  He sustained a cut, possibly from a broken bottle found at the scene which McDonagh had used to smash the car window.

McDonagh was identified by a spot of blood found on the broken bottle which matched his DNA, Sgt Curley said.

An impact statement, prepared by the victim, was handed into Judge Mary Fahy.

She noted the man needed to get stitches in the Emergency Department for the cut to his face and he had been very badly affected by the assault.

“This person is living in fear since and has had to purchase CCTV cameras for his house and for his safety,” the judge observed.

Reading his statement, she also noted it had taken him four years to pay off a car loan.

Sgt Curley said McDonagh has caused €1,400 worth of damage to the vehicle.

McDonagh’s solicitor said all of his offences were due to his chronic alcohol addiction. During Garda interviews, she pointed out, he told Gardai he could not remember anything but he wished to apologise to the injured party whom he hit in the face.

“If he is so remorseful, he will have €1,400 for the injured party’s car so,” Judge Fahy said.

The solicitor said her client would pay compensation if given time.

Judge Fahy said the damage to the car was caused 18 months ago and McDonagh had brought nothing to court.

In relation to the burglary at the County Club, adjacent to the Cathedral, Sgt Curley said the manager there noted the fence beside the electronic gates had been breached and he then noticed a window into the club had been smashed.  He discovered the safe containing petty cash was missing along with a bottle of vodka from the bar.

McDonagh, she said, was found in the garden with the safe and the empty vodka bottle nearby.

He later admitted to being on the property but denied breaking into it.

“What makes this more serious is that this occurred in April 2021, while he was already charged with other serious offences,” Judge Fahy observed.

She said it had been a very unfortunate situation for the victim of the assault whose car had been interfered with outside his home.

The judge said it was obvious McDonagh tried to steal the car and the owner got badly cut in the face – probably with the broken glass bottle – and needed to get stitches.

Judge Fahy said the victim of the assault had been trying to protect his property which he was entitled to do.

McDonagh’s solicitor said her client would pay compensation if given time.

Judge Fahy said she didn’t think the victim wanted anything to do with McDonagh ever again.

“He wants to be left alone to enjoy the peace of his own property,” she said, before sentencing McDonagh to nine months in prison for the assault.

Noting the damage to the car was extensive and no compensation had been paid, the judge imposed a consecutive two-month sentence for the criminal damage charge.

A consecutive, six-month sentence was imposed for the County Club burglary, bringing the total sentence to be served to 17 months.

Judge Fahy refused an application by McDonagh’s solicitor to suspend some of the sentences.

She said it was a very bad case.

“While the victim may have physical scars that heal, he definitely will have mental scarring for a very long time due to the manner in which this happened,” the judge replied.

She granted leave to appeal the sentences on McDonagh’s own surety of €500 and one independent surety of €800 with half of each to be lodged in court pending an appeal.

(Photo: The County Club on Gaol Road).

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises

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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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CITY TRIBUNE

Official opening of Galway’s new pedestrian and cycle bridge

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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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CITY TRIBUNE

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

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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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