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Cell death man ‘should have been in hospital’



A man who died in Garda custody, having been arrested for his own safety as he was in a highly-intoxicated state, was unlawfully detained as the legislation did not allow for it, an Inquest into his death heard.

The Coroner for West Galway recommended that Gardaí’s powers under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act would be extended so that they could detain someone who was drunk and a danger to themselves.

Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin said that although this was “obviously the right and charitable thing to do,” someone as drunk as Sean O’Driscoll (60) should have been in hospital, rather than put in a cell on his own. In saying this, he acknowledged that staff at A&E would not thank him.

“There are numerous medical conditions that ordinary members of the public and Gardaí would not be familiar with, but if someone is in a coma in a cell it is a huge responsibility for yourselves,” he said to one Garda witness.

“You would be open to criticism if you released him, and he fell into the river or got knocked over. But looking after him is to ensure that he’s brought to a place of safety (A&E).”

These were among seven recommendations made following the inquiry, which was conducted by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), into Mr O’Driscoll’s death on November 21, 2011.

The Inquest heard that he had been a well-recognised figure to both Gardaí and the public alike, sitting on his perch outside Supermac’s on Cross Street on a regular basis. He was said to be always polite and courteous.

On the date in question, however, he had to be removed from the fast food restaurant due to his high level of intoxication. Once outside, however, he fell over a parked car, and staff rang Gardaí for assistance.

Garda Cormac McAvock said that the man was unsteady on his feet and, when asked for his address, he gave three different locations in the city. He then stumbled into the Chinese restaurant beside Supermac’s, and had to be arrested for his own safety. He was taken to Galway Garda Station and placed in a cell.

He eventually told Gardaí that he lived in St Anthony’s Rest Home on Market Street, which is run by the St Vincent De Paul Society, but attempts to contact staff failed.

Garda Emmet Rock, who was the ‘Member in Charge’ on the night – with sole responsibility for persons in custody – told the Inquest that Mr O’Driscoll was one of six prisoners in the station that night. He checked on him every 15 minutes, and each time he had replied when spoken to. However, at 4.55am, Garda Rock noticed that Mr O’Driscoll had vomited on himself. He entered the cell and found him unresponsive.

He was rushed to UHG, but all attempts to resuscitate him failed, and he was pronounced dead at 5.42am.

Consultant pathologist, Dr Sine Phelan, found that Mr O’Driscoll had a blood/alcohol reading of 140mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood – the limit for driving is 50mg – which she described as “acute intoxication.”

She concluded that pre-existing heart disease had compounded the fact that he had inhaled vomit while in a coma or asleep.

“It is a common cause of death in intoxicated people,” Dr MacLoughlin explained to the jury.

“Normally, you’d wake up, but when you are in a coma you don’t have this protective mechanism, which can have fatal consequences.”

While, the Coroner fully accepted that Mr O’Driscoll had to be taken off the streets for his own safety, he said that changes needed to be made.

“It seems to me that there should be some system in place where Gardaí can breathalyse a person, and if they are over a certain limit they are not to be detained (in the Garda Station), unless it is for a very serous crime,” he said.

Among the other recommendations were that there would be a defibrillator in all major Garda stations, that Gardaí would receive ongoing first aid training, that there would be specialist training given to ‘Members in Charge’, and that there would be better visibility into cells housing vulnerable prisoners.

The jury returned a verdict, in accordance with the medical evidence, and strongly endorsed the Coroner’s seven recommendations.

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest



Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

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Connacht Tribune

Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races



Loughrea’s Marathon Man Jarlath Fitzgerald.

On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.

But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.

“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”

We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.

Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.

To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.

He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.

Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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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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