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Jury ordered to find knife attack duo ‘not guilty’ on technicality



A judge has directed a jury to find two city youths not guilty of a knife attack on another youth two years ago, following a three-day trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court.

Marcus MacComascaigh (20), with addresses in Fana Glas, Ballybane, and Cur na Lus, Circular Road, and a now 18-year-old youth – who cannot be named because he was 16 at the time of the alleged offence – had both denied a charge of assaulting Dominic Downes, then aged 18, causing him harm, at Church Alley, Ballymoneen Road, Knocknacarra, in the early hours of Saturday morning September 27, 2014, when they appeared for trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court.

A jury was sworn in to hear evidence in the trial which was expected to take two to three days.

Outlining the State’s case, prosecuting barrister, Conor Fahy told the jury Mr Downes had sustained a number of stab wounds to his back and shoulder and had been hit with a bicycle lock.

He said Mr Downes had been in a number of pubs in the city on the Friday night celebrating a friend’s 18th birthday.

He went home in the early hours of the morning and his brother and a female friend were in the house. They continued drinking and the girl decided to make a prank call to the juvenile.

The juvenile figured out the phone call came from Mr Downes’ phone and he rang him, arranging to meet him in the alleyway beside Knocknacarra Church.

Before he left to meet the juvenile, Mr Downes took a butterfly knife with him for his own protection.

When he arrived at the alley, he was confronted by the two accused.

The juvenile pulled out a knife and swung it at Mr Downes, cutting him over his right eye.

Mr Downes pulled out the butterfly knife but dropped it.

The juvenile then swung his knife again, cutting Mr Downes’ arm.

Mr Downes kicked the juvenile, knocking him to the ground.  He then walked away, but the juvenile came after him.

Mr Fahy said MacComascaigh then joined in the assault and held Downes in a headlock, while the juvenile stabbed him a number of times in the back.

The juvenile then took out a bicycle lock and hit Downes.

He eventually managed to free himself and make his way home. He was later treated in hospital for his injuries.

Mr Downes had refused to come to court to give evidence in the trial and in the absence of the jury, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.

Detective Fergal Kilbane executed the warrant and brought Mr Downes to court in custody the next day. Jurors were unaware he was in Garda custody at all times during the trial.

Mr Downes was called as a witness for the prosecution on and was questioned by Mr Fahy. He told the jury he didn’t remember what happened that night.

In reply to Mr Fahy, he said he remembered he had been drinking in town but said he could not remember anything after that.

Following further questioning, Mr Downes said he remembered drinking later when he got home, but could not remember anything after that.

Legal submissions were made to the court in the absence of the jury by two barristers who represented both accused under the Free Legal Aid scheme, regarding Mr Downes’ unwillingness to give evidence.

Following their submissions, Judge Rory McCabe ruled Mr Downes’ statement, which he had made to Gardai, was inadmissible in the trial as he could not be cross-examined by both defence teams if it was allowed into evidence.

Mr Fahy informed the court that the State was not offering any further evidence in the case and the trial could not proceed.

Judge McCabe then directed the jury foreman to enter a verdict of “not guilty by direction of the trial judge” in relation to both accused.

Judge McCabe said to MacComascaigh and to the juvenile, who is serving sentences for other offences: “You’re both discharged for the present, but I’m sure we will be seeing you again.”

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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