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Man turned his life around after assault on gardaí



A man who punched a male garda to the head and body and assaulted another with her own pepper spray, was given a nine-month suspended sentence at Galway District Court.

Judge Mary Fahy issued a stern warning to the defendant, whom she was told had turned his life around in the nine years since the incident, warning him that he would serve the time if he caused trouble in the future.

Patrick Clarke (33) of 9 St Brigid’s Place, Prospect Hill, had absconded to the UK in the aftermath of the assaults which occurred in Eyre Square on October 7, 2013.

Sgt Christy Browne told the court that the defendant had approached a licenced premises at 3.15am that morning trying to get more drink, but was turned away by a doorman.

“He was very drunk, very persistent and aggressive,” he said of Clarke.

“He came up very close to the man working on security and hit him to the face, he fell to the ground with the punch.”

Gardaí were called to the scene and put the assault allegation to the father of two, who then proceeded to act aggressively towards them.

“He violently resisted arrest and pepper spray had to be used, but he turned the pepper spray on Garda Stephanie Moylan. Garda Fergal O’Grady was punched to the head and body and dragged along the ground.”

The latter managed to break free of Clarke thanks to the intervention of other gardaí and members of the public. The whole incident occurred in the space of about 20 minutes, Sgt Browne added.

Before Clarke could be brought to justice, however, he had left the country and went to the UK where he lived and worked in the years since the incident.

“That was the best thing he could have done,” his solicitor, Sean Acton, said, adding that his client was 24 years old at the time and was a different human being to the one standing beside him in court.

“There was an accumulation of factors which led to him becoming homeless and dependent on alcohol and drugs. He is now nine years sober, he is attending AA meetings in Galway, and has received excellent references from his former employer in England. He has very strong support from his wife and has not put a foot wrong since.”

Judge Fahy noted from the documents handed into court that Clarke’s former employer had helped him get similar work here.

“That speaks for itself, but the only difficulty is that if he were to engage with drugs and alcohol again his level of offending could commence all over again,” she said.

“He was on a spiral and would have been incarcerated if that had continued.”

A very positive probation report stated that Clarke was very remorseful and that he accepted the three assaults were unprovoked; Sgt Browne added that he had written letters of apology to the injured parties.

Mr Acton offered €7,000 in compensation, which was divided according to the severity of the injuries – €3,000 each to Garda O’Grady and the doorman, and €1,000 to Garda Stephanie Moylan.

“An assault on anyone is very serious, but on a garda is even more serious as they are carrying out their duties and protecting the public,” Judge Fahy said.

She proceeded to imposing a total of nine months’ imprisonment on Clarke for the assaults, which was suspended for two years on the condition that he is of good behaviour during that period. He received a two-month suspended sentence, to run concurrently, for resisting Garda O’Grady acting in the execution of his duty. Other matters under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act were taken into account on the tendering of his guilty plea.


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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