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Gardaí discover €3,000 of heroin in young mum’s bedroom



A young mother who was using a bag of heroin a day and was found with €3,000 of the drug stashed in her bedroom would have been dead soon if Gardai had not found her, a court has heard.

Judge Marie Keane said this was “last chance saloon” for Sarah Howlett (27), of 323 Castle Park, Ballybane, when she pleaded guilty at Galway District Court to a plethora of shoplifting, handling stolen goods and drug-dealing charges, committed across the city since succumbing to the highly addictive drug.

Howlett pleaded guilty to stealing expensive, new release DVDs from Zhivago on Shop Street on July 4 last year.

She pleaded guilty to stealing more popular console games from Cex, Williamsgate Street, and handling the games from the store, knowing they were stolen on six different dates in June and July of this year.

Howlett also pleaded guilty to having €3,000 worth of heroin in her bedroom on January 21 last and having the drug for sale or supply.

She further pleaded guilty to stealing perfume and headphones from TX Maxx which were recovered, and a €400 Dyson vacuum cleaner from Curry’s in Terryland last month which was not recovered.

She finally pleaded guilty to stealing groceries and kids’ toys from Tesco at Galway Shopping Centre and to stealing other items from Homestore and More in Wellpark.

Handing letters from the HSE into court, defence solicitor, Olivia Traynor said her client has a very serious heroin addiction which she has been battling for some time.

She said Howlett’s situation was “absolutely dire” when Gardai raided her home in January and found the heroin.  Howlett’s children are already in care and their father died in tragic circumstances, Ms Traynor added.

“She was using a bag of heroin a day and Gardai feel she will be dead in a very short period of time if she does not get help,” Mr Traynor said.

She said Howlett had been discharged from the Beaumont Stabilisation Unit on April 5 last and was making every effort to get herself ‘clean’ before these offences were committed.

Ms Traynor said Howlett committed the offence to get money “to get her next fix”.

“When I saw her back in January she was in a very bad place. She looks a lot better now,” Ms Traynor said.

She asked Judge Marie Keane to adjourn sentence and give Howlett a chance to link in with the support services and see if she would engage with the probation service and get more help for her addiction.

Judge Keane said Howlett was quite a menace to Cex.

“She is repeatedly going in there to steal the most up-to-date box sets, including the Love/Hate one,” she observed.

Mr Traynor said Howlett had brought items into Cex to sell, and that was how she was caught and charged with handling stolen property.

Those offences, she pointed out, occurred between June 30 and July 8 last and were all committed to feed the heroin addiction.

Noting Howlett’s drug charges were serious, Judge Keane said she was faced with a dilemma.

“If I send her to jail – where she should go to protect the retailers of Galway – I’m concerned that her drug addiction is likely to get worse rather than better,” she said.

Judge Keane said it was with great reluctance she would order a probation report on Howlett prior to sentence.

She adjourned the matter to October for a probation report and told Howlett it was “last chance saloon” for her. “I’m sure you have the Gardai tormented,” the judge added.

Howlett, who looked pale and gaunt and who hugged her handbag to her chest during the hearing, promised Judge Keane she would co-operate with the probation service.

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.

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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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