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City mum smuggled 151 tablets into court



A city man, who was handed 151 tablets covertly by his mother as he sat in Garda custody last year, failed to convince a judge that these were for his own use at Galway District Court.

Judge Mary Fahy commended the diligent work of a Garda, who was on prison escort duty at the time, for becoming suspicious of the package handed to the defendant by his mother in the cell area of the courthouse.

“Passing of drugs between families and prisoners is causing on-going disruption – they are never going to be rehabilitated, and the families are doing them no favours,” she said.

Michael ‘Sonny’ Barrett (26) denied having the diazepam (valium), alprazolam, and clonazepam for sale or supply in the cell area of the courthouse on December 4 2013. He is currently serving a five-year sentence at Castlerea Prison.

Garda Raymond O’Dowd told the court that he became aware during the preceding court appearance that people were trying to make contact with Barrett.

“After the case, I took him to the cell area, and his mother requested a visit,” he recalled.

“I supervised it; she wanted to give him some items – a cigarette, a newspaper, a pack of Amber Leaf tobacco, and a lighter.”

The Garda’s suspicions were heightened during the interaction, however, and he took the latter two items from the prisoner.

On closer examination, he noticed that the seal on the packet of tobacco had been tampered with, and cellotape used instead.

Inside it, he found three separate packages of various tablets – 64 blue ones, 61 pink ones, and 26 orange tablets – all ‘controlled drugs’ under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Garda O’Dowd said that Barrett claimed that his mother knew nothing about the drugs, that they had been sent in from “Frank”, and were all for his own use.

Solicitor for the defendant, Olivia Traynor, put it to the court that if it were to be accepted that these were for Barrett alone, he could not be prosecuted, and she requested that the matter be struck out.

However, Judge Fahy did not believe the story and said that, considering the huge number of tablets involved, Barrett had a case to answer.

The defendant reiterated that the tablets were for his own use, and that he had been consuming 15 tablets per day. He claimed that his head had been “wrecked from all the courts” at the time, but that he had since given up drugs and smoking.

“That didn’t even occur in my mind,” he said of the State’s claim that he had planned to sell the drugs to fellow prisoners in Castlerea Prison.

“What’s the point selling them in prison… I swore on the Bible. I’m a Traveller, I’m very Catholic.”

However, Judge Fahy did not accept Barrett’s evidence, remarking how shocked she was that this would occur after court proceedings.

Inspector Derek Gannon advised the court that the defendant was currently serving a five year sentence for robbery and assault, imposed at Galway Circuit Court last July.

Owing to the serious nature of the charge before her, Judge Fahy said that she had no other option but to add to that sentence.

“I normally wouldn’t, but for something to be passed in a courtroom situation is shocking, and has to be marked by a custodial sentence,” she said.

A nine month prison term was imposed, to be served on the lawful termination f the sentence currently being served.

Recognisances were fixed, in the event of an appeal, on his own surety of €500, and an independent surety of €1,000, half to be lodged by a party approved by the State.

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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