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Elderly couple duped out of their savings



A former Spurs youth player has been given a suspended three-year sentence for duping an elderly Galway couple into handing over their bank card details to him when he called to their home posing as a PhoneWatch representative.

28-year-old Denis Igoe, from 35 Station Road, Ennis, Co Clare, had previously worked for PhoneWatch but then hatched a plan, after losing his job in 2019, to use his former credentials and work experience to dupe PhoneWatch customers into parting with their cash.

Igoe had already stolen an estimated €11,000 from ten other elderly people in Clare and Limerick – money he claimed he needed to pay off a cocaine debt to a Limerick crime family – before he preyed on a couple in Ballybane on February 27, 2020.

He pleaded guilty to trespassing at the couple’s home in Monivea Park, Ballybane, with intent to commit theft when he first appeared before Galway Circuit Criminal Court last April and sentence was adjourned for the preparation of reports.

Garda Jason Kelly told the sentence hearing Igoe called to the couple’s door after seeing a Phonewatch alarm on their house. He called himself Derek Nolan and was invited in after purporting to be a PhoneWatch representative.

He told them PhoneWatch was offering a €50 upgrade to their alarm system and the woman handed over her bank card to him.

Garda Kelly said Igoe went into the kitchen on his own where he quickly put her PIN into his phone.

He left the house but returned a short time later and asked the woman for her phone number.

Later that evening, Igoe rang the woman and told her another PhoneWatch employee called Michael O’Neill would call at some point to install the upgraded system.

The couple became suspicious after that phone call and rang PhoneWatch. They were told the company did not employ either man.

The woman contacted her bank and was told €300 had been taken from her account. An attempt had been made to withdraw a further €700, but this transaction had been stopped as there was a €300 ATM withdrawal limit on the woman’s account.

Garda Kelly said Igoe was identified on CCTV footage withdrawing the €300 from the bank’s ATM.

He confirmed Igoe had 34 previous convictions for similar theft and fraud offences, perpetrated against elderly people in counties Clare and Limerick around the same time as the Galway offence.

The court heard Igoe had received a two-year sentence at Limerick Circuit Court in September 2020, with the final year suspended, for numerous, similar theft and fraud charges.

Defence barrister, Brendan Browne, said his client, who was a Moldovan national, became addicted to cocaine and ran up a €10,000 drug debt to a criminal family in Limerick who threatened him and his family if the money was not paid.

He said Igoe had worked for PhoneWatch between 2016 and 2019 and “hatched” a plan from that experience to get the money.

Igoe brought €750 to court to repay the €300 he owed the Galway couple and the remaining €450 as a token of his remorse.

Mr Browne said the 34 previous convictions occurred during a concentrated period of time and that a probation officer who had prepared a report for the court had said that given his history of offending, at some future time Igoe could very well engage in similar offences.

Mr Browne suggested to Judge Brian O’Callaghan that as his client had already served time in prison, a suspended sentence might stop him from doing this again.

Judge O’Callaghan pointed out the report stated Igoe continued to pose a high risk of reoffending.

The judge also noted from the report that negative media coverage after the Limerick prison sentence was imposed in 2020, had impacted on Igoe’s ability to get further employment.

Mr Browne agreed that the national media had widely published the court case, adding his client had been a promising Spurs youth player until a serious injury put him on a different path in life.

“Hopefully, such adverse media attention might be avoided this time. Obviously, it’s not for the court to restrict the Fourth Estate [the Press], but it does impact on him and his family,” Judge O’Callaghan said.

Mr Browne conceded 34 previous convictions as well as the latest one now before the court, would also impact his client’s ability to secure employment going forward.

Judge O’Callaghan commiserated with the Galway couple’s plight and asked Garda Kelly to convey his best wishes to them.

He set the headline sentence at five years for what he described as a nasty, highly-planned and targeted offence.

Taking Igoe’s early plea, his successful attempts at rehabilitation, his remorse and offer of €750 into account the judge reduced the sentence to three years, which he suspended for three years on condition Igoe abstain from controlled drugs and alcohol for the three years.


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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