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Drink driver caused ‘chronic, life-changing injuries’ in crash



A driver who was three times over the legal alcohol limit, caused chronic, life-changing injuries to another motorist while chasing her now ex-partner, whom she mistakenly believed had abducted her son from her home.

Oonagh Carter (36), from 13 Ashfield Road, Greenfields, Newcastle, received a three-year suspended sentence and was disqualified from driving for four years at Galway Circuit Criminal Court.

She pleaded guilty in January to driving dangerously at Polkeen, Castlegar, on July 10, 2016, which caused serious bodily harm to the male driver of another car.

She also pleaded guilty to a second charge of drunken driving at N17, Tuam Road, Castlegar, on the same date, which stated that a blood sample taken from her at the time gave a reading of 168mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

The reading showed she was more than three times over the maximum legal blood/alcohol limit, which is 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

Sentence was adjourned to last week’s court for the preparation of a probation report on Carter and a victim impact statement from the injured man.

Garda Dermot Hardiman said he arrived at the scene of the head-on collision, finding one of the cars over on its side. The impact had occurred on Carter’s incorrect side of the road.

Carter, he said, had been driving a BMW while the other motorist had been driving a Passat.  The injured man had to be cut from his vehicle.

Both he and Carter were removed by ambulance from the scene. A blood sample was taken from Carter in the hospital which gave the above reading.

Garda Hardiman said Carter had a few drinks in town earlier that night where she had a dispute with her partner.  She got a taxi home and went to bed.  The argument continued at home and he stormed out of the house. She presumed he had taken her son and she jumped into her car, barefoot and dressed in her night attire, and drove after him out the Tuam road.

The injured man underwent emergency lifesaving surgery that night for internal injuries he sustained in the impact.

He also suffered a fractured vertebrae in his neck and developed sepsis and a blood clot post-surgery. He spent a month in hospital recovering from his injuries.

Garda Hardiman said the man still suffers from quite severe, life-changing conditions as a result of the internal injuries he sustained that night.

His victim impact statement was read into evidence by Garda Hardiman as he did not wish to attend court.

The man said that while he felt lucky to be alive, he no longer felt safe and confident and had been unable to return to work.

He said his favourite pasttime had been driving cars but he could no longer do that.  He continues to have trouble sleeping and sees the lights of the other car coming towards him.

“My independence and confidence have been stripped away. I cannot garden and I cannot play with my grandchild.  I have pain every day.  I have a constant stream of medical check-ups and I will be under the care of the surgical team in UHG for a long time,” the man said in his victim impact statement.

Defence barrister, Conal McCarthy, said Carter wanted to publicly apologise to the man and his family.

He said it was an exceptional case in that Carter didn’t intend to drink and drive that night.

“She had done everything right by leaving her car at home and taking a taxi into town.  She drank three to four craft beers and a couple of pints and took another taxi home.

“She went to bed and fell asleep but her then boyfriend woke her up and they had a fight.”

Mr McCarthy said Carter suddenly believed the man had left her home with her son and she hopped into her car and went after him.

He said his client suffered significant injuries in the impact too.

Judge Rory McCabe said the other innocent driver had suffered “profound and serious injuries” while going about his own business that night and the fact that Carter had taken alcohol was an aggravating factor.

However, he said, Carter’s probation report could not be any more positive and sending her to jail would not bring the victim back to full health or serve the interests of justice.

The judge said she had made a bad decision that night and her barrister had painted a picture of a concerned parent who mistakenly believed her son was being abducted.

He sentenced Carter to three years in prison for the dangerous driving causing serious injury charge which he suspended for five years and imposed a four-year disqualification.  A concurrent four-year disqualification was also imposed for the drunken driving charge.


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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