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Female passengers complained of sexual misconduct by taxi man



A taxi driver, whose licence was revoked by Gardai before Christmas after two female passengers made complaints of sexual misconduct against him, has been unsuccessful in his appeal to have the licence restored.

Judge Mary Fahy imposed restrictions, preventing publication of the name of the married father of two, after hearing he will face trial at a later date in relation to the alleged sexual assault of one complainant.

A separate prosecution was withdrawn after the second woman withdrew her complaint.

The man appeared before Galway District Court last week where he lodged an appeal against the decision of the licensing authority to revoke his Public Service Vehicle (PSV) licence, under Section 13(3) of the Taxi Regulations Act 2013.

PSV inspector, Detective Sergeant Tony McHugh, gave evidence the man had been granted a PSV licence to operate a taxi in Galway City in July 2010.

On December 17, 2015, he was involved in an incident late at night after he brought a young, intoxicated woman to her home in his taxi. She could not find her keys and had to climb in a window.

She made a complaint to Gardai, which she later withdrew, that while she was attempting to climb in the window, the taxi driver had touched her intimately.

He was interviewed and made admissions of touching the woman intimately on more than one occasion as she was attempting to climb in a window at her home.

“He said it was an accident and he didn’t mean to do it,” Sgt McHugh said.

Chief Superintendent Tom Curley met the taxi driver on December 17, 2015, and explained to him that while there would be no prosecution because the woman had withdrawn her complaint, it was his job to drive a taxi and not help people go in the window of a house.

The driver was given a ‘notice of advice’ not to get involved in this type of behaviour again.

Sgt McHugh said another woman made a complaint to Gardai about the same driver on December 30, 2017.

She too had been intoxicated in the man’s taxi that night and had fallen asleep. The man made admissions to Gardai when interviewed in May 2018, that he had touched the woman’s breasts and had put his hands inside her underwear while she was asleep in his taxi.

Chief Supt Curley revoked the man’s PSV licence on November 12 last year following the second complaint.

The man appealed that decision last week.

His solicitor, John Martin, said the appellant was a married father of two and was the sole breadwinner. He said his client was abiding by a curfew imposed on him by the court in December which prevented him from operating a taxi at night.

He said the man was awaiting the service of a Book of Evidence in relation to allegation made by one complainant and that his trial might not take place in the Circuit Court for a year or more.

He suggested his client be allowed operate his taxi during daylight hours as he had a mortgage to pay.

Judge Mary Fahy said that under the Act, the safety and welfare of members of the public was paramount when it came to taxi drivers.

“Whether a person is vulnerable or not, when a person is paying a fare in a PSV vehicle, they are entitled to have their dignity and integrity respected and protected,” Judge Fahy said.

She observed it was more serious when someone was vulnerable, particularly an intoxicated female on her own.

“I have not heard anything that would be appropriate for me to allow this appeal,” Judge Fahy said.

“When someone gets a taxi licence, along with that right to earn a livelihood, there is also the rights of the public to be treated with respect and dignity. There is a question mark about his suitability as a taxi driver and, therefore, I cannot allow the appeal,” Judge Fahy said.

She added she had recently read that unemployment in Ireland was at an all-time low, and she hoped the man could get work in some other sphere.


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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