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Serial arsonist gets six years in prison



A serial arsonist who, according to his probation officer, has “a pathological desire to start fires”, has been sentenced to six years in prison for setting fire to two cars in the city last year.

Karl McCarthy (35), with a former address at Abbey House, Newcastle, pleaded guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court to two counts of criminal damage involving the burning of two cars on consecutive nights last October.

Garda Paul McNulty told the court he and Garda Evelyn Barrett were on patrol on October 4 last year in the Newcastle area following reports of a spate of house fires in the area over the previous number of days.

At around 10.30pm they received a report of a car on fire at Upper Newcastle Road.

When they arrived at the scene, Garda McNulty said he observed McCarthy, who was known to him, standing nearby looking at the burning car.  He was intoxicated.

Garda McNulty said the 2001 Ford Fiesta was completely engulfed in flames.

He noted McCarthy was in possession of a cigarette lighter and a scissors.

On the previous night around the same time, a 1997 Opel Corsa had been set on fire at the same location.

McCarthy was arrested and taken to Galway Garda Station where he was detained for questioning.  He denied any involvement but eventually admitted setting fire to both cars.

“He couldn’t not give any reason why he did it.  He used the scissors to cut the upholstery to make it easier to set the cars on fire,” Garda McNulty added.

McCarthy received a four-year sentence in December 2013 for several counts of arson committed in the Ballybane/Renmore areas in September 2012.

Houses, cars and wheelie bins were set on fire during those incidents.

Following his release from prison in late 2015, McCarthy stayed at the Fairgreen Hostel before being accepted to stay at  113 Abbey House, Upper Newcastle Road, which is run by the Simon Community, Garda McNulty said.

He said the house is located a short distance from where the fires occurred.

The court was told McCarthy is currently serving a 10-month sentence imposed on him at Galway District Court last October for road traffic matters.

Garda McNulty pointed out McCarthy was out on bail when he committed the arson offences.

In reply to prosecuting barrister, Conor Fahy, Garda McNulty said McCarthy had 70 previous convictions, 59 for road traffic offences; three for theft; three for arson, and the remainder for criminal damage and burglary.

Defence barrister, Geri Silke said her client still does not know why he set both cars alight.

She said he had never been psychologically assessed and she asked that it be done now while he was in prison.

Judge McCabe said McCarthy used a scissors to facilitate the burning of these cars which showed an alarming level of premeditation. The only mitigating factor, he said, was the early plea to the charges.

Judge McCabe said he had been furnished with a very helpful and comprehensive probation report. It stated McCarthy’s risk of reoffending was “very high”.

“He has a propensity for arson for no apparent reason and his offending behaviour is increasing at an alarming rate.

“He is a serious risk of harm to others. He’s a serial arsonist and he can give no reason for arson. His risk of reoffending is very high.

“The probation report states:  ‘He has a pathological desire to start fires’,” Judge McCabe noted.

He said the probation service had stated it saw no role for itself in any possible rehabilitation process.

Judge McCabe said the appropriate sentence was six years for each offence, the sentences to run concurrently.  He recommended McCarthy undergo psychological assessment while in 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.”

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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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