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Mystery still surrounds death of siblings



The deaths of a brother and sister in a city house seven months ago may have been a tragic accident – but with carbon monoxide poisoning ruled out, they will always remain unexplained.

At the Inquest in Galway Courthouse, Coroner for West Galway, Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin, was unable to answer the questions posed by the family of Gavin Ridgard (50) and Patricia Kerr (58) who died at 27 Coogan Park, Newcastle, on February 9 last.

“There is nothing here to say that it was intentional – there was no note, and they didn’t tell anyone – it could have been something that went tragically wrong,” he said.

“The combination of tablets that they took stopped their breathing; it shut off part of the brain that makes us breathe, and they fell asleep. Their central nervous systems shut down.”

Gavin had moved in with his sister to the City Council-owned house three years earlier, and they were getting on well, the Inquest was told. They were last seen after the anniversary Mass for their mother, which was held in Westside Church on the evening of February 7.

Three days later, their sister, Joan, rang Patricia’s phone, but got no answer, which she said was unusual; Gavin’s phone was dead.

“I was surprised, but not overly worried,” she recalled.

However, she knew something was wrong when she got a call the following day, February 11, to say that Patricia had not turned up for an appointment.

She and her daughter went to their house, but there was no answer at the door. A Galway City Council worker managed to climb in an unlocked upstairs window and opened the front door. Gavin was found lying on the ground, and Patricia was sitting in a nearby chair. They were pronounced dead at 2.37pm.

Joan Ridgard told the Inquest that Patricia was making plans to move to the UK and live with her son in Kent, and had already started packing, and was due to book her flights that week.

She said that Gavin was upset about this, adding that the tenancy was in Patricia’s name, and that he would have to move out when she left.

Consultant pathologist, Dr Mary Casey, carried out a post mortem examination on the bodies. While she had initially suspected carbon monoxide poisoning – due to the presence of a gas heater in the room – the toxicology reports found that the presence of the poisonous gas in their systems was not at an excessive level.

There was also no alcohol detected, but there were different types of prescribed medication that would have had a depressive effect on their central nervous systems (CNS).

Both had consumed similar medications, although Patricia had a total of nine types – three more than her brother.

Dr Casey could not say for certain when they had died, as this was virtually impossible to detect after three days. However, she said it was reasonable to estimate that death had occurred 48 hours earlier, on February 9.

She concluded that the cause of death was cardio respiratory arrest, due to use of more than two therapeutic drugs that are CNS depressants.

“They interfere with the vital centres of the brain stem that control breathing and the nerves that stimulate the heart,” she explained.

Family members questioned whether or not this was suicide, as both had died in such similar circumstances. Neither Dr Casey nor the Coroner could say if their actions were accidental or intentional.

Inspector Mick O’Dwyer acknowledged that the family had been visited by a lot of tragedy recently, with the death of Gavin’s daughter, Gemma, in the same house nearly a year previously, in April 2014.

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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