A 31-year-old mugger has been sentenced to eight years in prison with the final 18 months suspended for slashing a couple across their necks with a pizza knife while attempting to rob them.
Imposing the sentence at Galway Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Rory McCabe likened the slash wounds to the horrific machete attacks inflicted on people during the genocide in Rwanda some years ago.
The judge said the couple were lucky to be alive, especially the man, who had suffered a deep, 13cm life-threatening laceration to his neck.
Father-of-two, Frank McDonagh (31), of 31 Tulach Ard, Rahoon, initially appeared before Galway Circuit Criminal Court in February where he pleaded guilty, moments before his trial was due to begin, to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to a 28-year-old man at the Spanish Arch on March 30 last year.
He also pleaded guilty to assaulting a 22-year-old woman, causing her harm on the same occasion and to producing a knife, capable of inflicting serious injuries, during the course of the attempted robberies.
Garda Pat Foley told the sentence hearing this week that a couple were sitting on a bench at 1.15am on March 30 last year near the water’s edge at the Spanish Arch when McDonagh approached them.
He took out a pizza knife which had a curved four-inch blade and demanded the girl hand over her handbag and that both of them hand over their phones and all of their cash.
The couple refused and a struggle ensued, during which McDonagh sliced across the man’s neck, inflicting a deep 13 cm laceration from just below his left earlobe to the middle of his neck at the front.
The young woman went to the man’s aid and McDonagh sliced the knife downwards through her left ear from the top, right down to the lobe.
He then sliced the knife again across the left-hand side of her neck.
She fell to the ground, bleeding heavily.
A passerby saw what was happening and tackled McDonagh to the ground. He disarmed him and threw the knife into the river to stop any further assault taking place. He managed to restrain McDonagh on the ground until Gardai arrived at the scene.
McDonagh was arrested and taken to the Garda station while the couple, who were both bleeding heavily, were removed to hospital by ambulance.
CCTV in the area captured the assault. The footage was shown to McDonagh but he denied at all times that he had been carrying a knife.
Garda Foley said he went to McDonagh’s sister’s house, where McDonagh had been staying at the time, and noticed that a pizza knife was missing from a block of knives in her kitchen. It matched a description of the knife used in the assaults.
The couple showed their respective injuries to Judge McCabe in court. Both have been left with permanent scars.
Garda Foley read their victim impact statements into evidence.
Both expressed fear at being alone while walking around Galway since the attack. Both said the scars reminded them of what happened that night.
Garda Foley said McDonagh had 90 previous convictions and had been out on bail for other offences when he committed these crimes.
McDonagh went into the witness box and said he had begun to seek help for his addictions for the first time in his life since being in prison for these offences. He said he was very sorry for the injuries he caused.
“I didn’t set out to hurt anyone. I know I done it,” he said.
Judge McCabe dismissed this out of hand and said the possession of the pizza knife showed “clear premeditation.”
Reading medical reports which were handed into court, the Judge said the couple were lucky to be alive, particularly the man, who had sustained the most serious injury which was deemed life-threatening by the surgeon who treated him.
Viewing graphic photos of the injuries, particularly the man’s neck injury which were taken on the night by Garda Denis Sweeney, the judge said it reminded him of the horrific injuries inflicted on people during the genocide in Rwanda some years ago, when people were hacked to death with machetes.
The judge sentenced McDonagh to eight years in prison for the serious assault on the man, and suspended the final 18 months.
He imposed a concurrent four-year sentence for the assault on the woman and a further concurrent four-year sentence for the possession of the knife.
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.