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Five-man extortion gang threatened to bomb car



A father of seven who answered a knock at his front door one night, was punched and kicked by a five-man gang who threatened to place a bomb under his car if he did not pay them money.

Paul Mason, a native of Garristown, Dublin who now lives in Louth, pleaded guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court last December to entering the home of James Donovan (46) at Corrib View, Polkeen, Tuam Road, Galway, as a trespasser with intent to commit theft on October 30, 2013.

Garda Paul McNulty told the sentence hearing last week that Donovan was at home with his family at 9pm when he answered a knock at his front door to find five men outside.  They rushed at him and knocked him to the ground.

Four of the men beat him as the fifth man stood by the stairs in the hallway. They demanded money and asked where was his safe.

A piece of paper with a phone number written on it was thrown at him as he lay on the ground.

He was ordered to ring the phone number the next day at 7pm and if he didn’t co-operate a bomb would be placed under his car.

The intruders left and Mr Donovan contacted the Gardai straight away, giving them the phone number he had been instructed to ring the next day.

Gardai came across a car with three occupants including Mason, at 10.55pm that night at Briarhill Shopping Centre and found a piece of cardboard in the car with the same phone number written on it.

Mason was arrested the following January in Dundalk and charged with burglary at Donovan’s house.

He denied the charge, saying he had been in Galway that night to speak to a man about providing door security.

Donovan picked Mason out of an identity parade as being one of the men who had come to his house on the night of the attack.

After the positive identification, Mason admitted his involvement. He admitted punching Donovan but denied looking for money and denied being part of an organised gang.

“It’s the Gardai’s belief that Mr Donovan was visited by an illegal organisation for the purpose of extorting money as they believed he was a person of means,” Garda McNulty said.

Donovan, he said was a married man with seven children who lived in a four-bedroomed rented house and was in receipt of social welfare. He said Donovan had a interest in horses and kept some on rented lands.

Garda McNulty said Mason has been working as a security man in a nightclub in Swords, Co Dublin at the time of this offence but was now unemployed and had since moved to live in Co Louth.

Defence barrister, Brendan Browne said Mason had disassociated himself from certain individuals he would have known at the time and had not come to the attention of the Gardai since. He said this incident had caused his client “certain difficulties” in his life since.

In reply to Judge Rory McCabe, Garda McNulty said no one else had been charged and nothing to help Garda in that regard had come out in the interviews with Mason.

He confirmed a number of other people had been arrested in the car at Briarhill that night, but no charges were brought against them.

Mr Browne said a very positive probation report on his client had been handed into court.

He said he did not want to disclose in open court the reasons given by his client in the report why he found himself in that situation at Donovan’s house, but he accepted he did participate in the attack on the injured party.

Mason, he said, had a good work record, had a partner and child and had been assessed as being at a low risk of reoffending.

He said his client was offering an unreserved apology to the injured party.

Judge McCabe said he wondered if Mason had been recruited for something more than his brain power by the others involved in the burglary.

Accepting he was of otherwise good character, the Judge said he would have him assessed for community service in lieu of a three-year prison sentence.

He adjourned the matter to October for the preparation of a community service report by the probation service to see if Mason was deemed suitable to carry out work in the community in lieu of the prison sentence.

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.

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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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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