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Coroner’s warning following opioid-related deaths



Galway West Coroner, Dr. Ciaran MacLoughlin

From this week’s Galway City Tribune: The Coroner for Galway West issued a warning this week against the abuse of highly-addictive opioids which contributed to three deaths that came before Galway Coroner’s Court.

Dr Ciarán MacLoughlin said he was “very sad” to see a number of these cases come before him on Monday and noted that opioids were being abused by people in receipt of them legitimately, by prescription, and by those who were purchasing them illegally on the streets.

“If taken in ignorance, people are not aware that they can, if combined with other drugs, have a synergistic effect – or if taken with alcohol, that can also have a synergistic effect – and as we’ve seen, the outcome can be fatal.

“Doctors who are prescribing these drugs need to be made aware that we are seeing a number of this type of incident,” said Dr MacLoughlin.

This came after the Coroner closed the inquests of three men who all died following opioid abuse.

In the first case, Dr MacLoughlin heard how Niall Caden (43) from Renmore was found collapsed by waiting staff from the King’s Head Bar and Restaurant on the Old Malt Lane in Galway City when they heard a bang against the window.

The inquest heard evidence from Paul Folan, a friend of Mr Caden, that the deceased had been drinking on the day of his death prior to his collapse. Mr Folan said Mr Caden appeared to be asleep on the ground on Old Malt Lane when he arrived at the scene.

Jason McCarthy, who described himself as a friend of Mr Caden going back 22 years, drove into the city centre to assist. He said Mr Caden was “snoring” on the ground but that he and Paul Folan managed to get Mr Caden walking to the car.

When they arrived at Mr McCarthy’s house, Mr Caden was left asleep in the car. Mr McCarthy said he had checked on Mr Caden a number of times throughout the night but at 1.20am, he found him in an unresponsive state and had his wife call an ambulance.

Mr Caden was taken to UHG where he later died following failed attempts to resuscitate him.

The pathologist’s report stated that Mr Caden had gone into cardiac arrest. A tablet that was found in Mr Caden’s possession was sent to the State Laboratory for testing and was found to have been an Oxycodone tablet – an opioid.

Reading into evidence the post mortem examination findings, Dr MacLoughlin said Mr Caden had “lethal levels” of oxycodone in his blood and a blood alcohol reading of 240mg per cent.

“Oxycodone is a prescription medication but it is available on the street with a street name of ‘Oxycotton’. It’s very addictive and we’ve, in the past, had at least one death in the city with this drug,” said Dr MacLoughlin.

Giving a verdict of death by misadventure, Dr MacLoughlin said the cause of death was respiratory depression due to the combined effects of alcohol and opioid overdose.

“It was a reckless thing to do and the effects, unfortunately, resulted in his death. It was not an accident; it was misadventure which is when somebody does something quite risky and unfortunately, that risk materialises – that risk caused his death,” said the Coroner.

Dr MacLoughlin offered his condolences to Mr Caden’s family and to his friends, whom he said had acted responsibly on the night of his death and who were not aware of the seriousness of his condition.

(Photo: Coroner Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read it in full, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.


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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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).

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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.

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