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Seven months in jail for man who punched his barrister



A 23-year-old man has been sentenced to seven months in prison for punching his barrister in the face during a sitting of Galway District Court.

Sudanese national, Ahmed Adudu, c/o Great Western Hostel, Frenchville Lane, Eyre Square, appeared in custody before last week’s court where he pleaded guilty to assaulting his counsel, causing him harm in the courtroom on April 21.

His new defence counsel, Keith Concannon, told the court that Adudu had mental health difficulties but had responded well while receiving treatment and medication in the Central Mental Hospital in recent months. He said he had been released back into the general prison population last week and was placid now as he was continuing to take his prescribed medication.

Judge Marie Keane, who was presiding on the day of the assault, remanded Adudu in custody. He was already in custody serving other sentences at the time anyway.

Judge Mary Fahy remarked last week that she had heard about the barrister being assaulted in the courtroom and that he needed treatment afterwards.  She noted he did not want to make a statement of complaint in relation to the assault.

Mr Concannon said his client left West Sudan on his own when he was just 15 and ended up in Ireland in 2019.

He said Adudu was “deeply unwell” following his journey and his deteriorating mental health was the driving force behind his violent behaviour.

He said he had been in contact with psychiatrist Dr Benjamin O’Keeffe who provided a comprehensive report for the court, and he felt Adudu was now doing well because he was on medication which had improved him.

“At least he appears very placid at the moment,” counsel observed.

Sergeant Aoife Curley, prosecuting, said Adudu had 15 previous convictions, including one for violent behaviour in a garda station, refusing to give his name and address to gardaí on several occasions, and three for failing to appear in various courts.

Mr Concannon said Adudu was currently serving 13 months in prison which would expire in January.  He asked the judge to be lenient and not add to his client’s sentence.

Reading Dr O’Keeffe’s report, Judge Fahy noted Adudu had a propensity towards violence and there was a threat of violence towards gardai mentioned in the report.

She noted a nurse had been assaulted too but had chosen not to make a formal complaint against Adudu.

Mr Concannon explained there was “a cultural disconnect with figures of authority” and he described his client was being “bounced around” quite a lot on his journey through Africa and all the way to Ireland.

Judge Fahy said Adudu had assaulted the very people who were trying to help him and it was unacceptable that he assault anybody in the legal, medical or any other profession who were only trying to help him and, by so doing, had to be in close proximity to him.

She said the victim in this case was trying to help Adudu, but he had hit out violently when he was in close proximity to him.

Mr Concannon said he asked his client why he assaulted his colleague and he told him he was very unwell at the time.

He claimed he heard voices in his head sometimes which told him to do these things.

“And that would go to explain why he did this because it was so foolish to do it in front or a roomful of people,” Mr Concannon pointed out.

Judge Fahy said that professional people trying to help other people are particularly vulnerable as was the case here.

Mr Concannon again asked her to be lenient and make any sentence she would impose concurrent to the sentence he was currently serving.

“Absolutely not!  It’s too serious an assault in a court of law against a member of the legal profession.  It has to be treated seriously,” the judge said.

Mr Concannon agreed the offence was serious but that prison was not the appropriate venue for someone with mental health difficulties.

The judge said she was obliged to treat this type of offence in a serious manner, before sentencing Adudu to seven months in prison, which is to be served on the termination of the sentence he is currently serving.

Seeking leave to appeal the sentence, Mr Concannon explained his client was an asylum seeker and would not be in a position to provide an independent surety as he was dependent on homeless services.

Judge Fahy granted leave to appeal and certified for counsel under the free legal aid scheme. “It’s well warranted in this case because it’s been a complicated matter,” the judge added.


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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