A convicted rapist has been sentenced to four months in prison for exposing himself on a bus as it was travelling along the Headford Road towards Galway City on two consecutive days last summer.
61-year-old Gareth Rooney, 67 Caireal Mór, Headford Road, Galway, who has been on the Sex Offenders Register since his 1995 conviction for the rape, assault and false imprisonment of a woman in England, was also given a consecutive six-month sentence at Galway District Court for failing to notify Galway gardaí he had changed address, on a date between May 25 and June 4 last, as required under the provisions of Part 2 of the Sex Offenders Act 2001.
Rooney came to court – knowing he would be going to prison – with his rucksack packed, and pleaded guilty to breaching the terms of the Sex Offenders Register as outlined above.
He also pleaded guilty to two further charges of exposing his genitals on a Bus Éireann bus travelling along the Headford Road on May 31, and again on June 1 last, intending to cause fear, distress or alarm to another person, contrary to Section 45 (1) of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017.
Sergeant Stan O’Grady, prosecuting, said the bus driver on both occasions stopped the bus on the Headford Road and waited for gardaí to arrive following complaints from passengers that Rooney was exposing himself.
Gardaí viewed CCTV from the bus on June 1 and again from the previous morning which captured Rooney repeating the act in front of passengers of various ages.
When Rooney was brought before Galway District Court on October 3 last in relation to the exposure charges, Judge Mary Cashin who was presiding that day, asked to see the CCTV footage from both dates to help her decide on whether or not to accept jurisdiction to have the charges dealt with at District Court level.
On viewing the CCTV in open court, Judge Cashin accepted jurisdiction and remanded Rooney on bail to appear before this week’s court.
Detective Gerry Carroll gave evidence this week he was responsible for checking Rooney was complying with the terms of the Sex Offenders Register since he came to live at an address in Galway City centre in December 2013.
He said Rooney had received seven years for the rape and three years for the false imprisonment charge, along with a concurrent three years for the assault charge at Ipswich Crown Court on March 21, 2005.
He said he was detailed to monitor him in Galway since 2013 and would call on him twice a year to check in on him.
He got no reply when he called to the apartment on January 2 last. He phoned Rooney who told him he had moved in with a friend in Caireal Mór.
Det Carroll said Rooney admitted to him he had moved into the Headford Road address ten days earlier.
Det Carroll said he outlined to Rooney his obligations under the Sex Offenders Act that he should have notified the gardaí of moving address.
In reply to Judge Mary Fahy, Rooney said he and the woman had a platonic friendship.
Det Carroll confirmed to the judge the woman knew of Rooney’s obligations under the Sex Offenders Act. He said the accused had updated his address details on the register as soon as he had contacted him.
“In fairness to him, I don’t think he realised the seriousness of what he was doing at the time, but at the same time he knew well he had done wrong,” Det Carroll said.
Defence solicitor, Olivia Traynor, said Rooney had always complied with the requirements since moving to Galway in 2013.
“Having spent ten years in prison for serious offences and now we are faced with him on two occasions exposing his genitals on a bus.
“Anybody doing it would be disturbing, but when someone with serious previous convictions like he has is doing it, the court has to mark it,” Judge Fahy said.
Ms Traynor said her client first appeared before the court two weeks previously in relation to the charges and had indicated a plea to all of them then.
“He knows how serious this is and he’s under no illusion about what the court will do and has to do. He was identified at the scene on June 1 and also the day before,” she said.
A victim impact statement was provided to the court by one of the passengers. Judge Fahy read the statement but did not divulge much of its contents.
However, the judge said that while the woman was very upset that someone would do this twice on a bus packed with people, including young children, she would be even more upset to learn now if she were in court that the accused was a convicted sex offender who had served ten years in jail.
“How do you think she will feel? She will be extremely frightened. And he did it two days in a row. I’m sure there were others who saw him and didn’t want to get involved.
“This lady was on the bus on her way to work, so she has been terrified and discommoded by this man and she was upset too because there were young children on the bus,” Judge Fahy said, referring to the woman’s impact statement.
Mr Traynor asked the court to consider linking her client in with the probation service on his release from any sentence the court would be imposing.
Noting there were going to be changes made to the Sex Offenders Register legislation as it was not easy to monitor at present, Judge Fahy said Rooney should have been totally compliant, having served ten years in prison and in the circumstances, she said, she was imposing six months in prison for that offence.
She imposed a consecutive four-month prison term for the exposure offence committed on the bus on June 1. A further four-month term was imposed for the offence committed on May 31, which was suspended for two years on condition Rooney link in with the probation service for six months of his release from prison.
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.”
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).
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.