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Student’s night of terror as knife held to throat



A mugger celebrated his 18th birthday by holding a knife to a student’s throat and threatening to carve his initials on his forehead once he had killed him.

Declan Breen, of 9 Bothar Waithman, Ballybane, stole the terrified victim’s phone wallet and runners, in what was described as a humiliating and terrifying ordeal in a letter from the victim, who refused to come to court out of fear of reprisals.

Breen received sentences totalling 13 months at Galway District Court this week for what Judge Mary Fahy described as “the lowest of the low” type of robbery and one, which she said, had become a “life changer” for the victim.

Breen had just turned 18 – on July 8 last – the night he robbed the victim of his €300 mobile phone, €20 cash and a pair of €100 runners at The Line, Renmore.

Breen pleaded guilty to that offence and to also having a knife in his possession which was produced during the course of the robbery.

Garda Sheena Gill explained the 19-year-old student was too afraid of reprisals to come to court to give evidence of his ordeal.

Garda Gill gave evidence the victim had been in town the previous evening with friends.  They had gone for a meal and he was walking along “The Line” to his house in Renmore at 12.30am on Tuesday, July 8 last, when he was attacked by Breen and a 16-year-old, who cannot be named due to his age.

The victim saw both youths pull their hoodies up over their heads before they approached him.

They asked him for a cigarette and when he told them he didn’t smoke, he was punched into the face a few times with closed fists.

He ran from them but they caught up with him, punched him again and told him to empty his pockets.

One of them held him by the arms while the other searched him.

They asked him if he had any drugs, especially “weed”, and he told them he didn’t.

They became more aggressive towards him and took his phone.  They asked him for the PIN and went through his pockets again, taking out his wallet.  They took €20 from the wallet along with his student age and bank cards.

They demanded to know the PIN for the bank card and he gave them a false number.

They demanded to know where he lived and he gave them a false address.

They warned him that if he contacted the Gardai they would burn his house down with his family inside.  They also warned him that if he had given them a wrong address, they would burn that house down anyway, and he would be to blame if there were children in that house.

Breen then told the victim he would have no problem killing him.

He told him to remove his runners which he put on himself.

Both attackers then left in the direction of Eyre Square but they returned a few seconds later and Breen took a knife from the juvenile.

“He (Breen) slid the knife across the victim’s throat and carried on with his threats to get him if he went to the Gardai.

“He then slid the knife across the victim’s left cheek.  He prodded him with the point of the knife on his cheek and also slid it over his ears, threatening to cut them off.

“Breen said he would kill him and carve his initials into his forehead, while rubbing the knife on it,” Garda Gill said.

Garda Gill said she and her colleagues caught up with Breen and the juvenile a short time later in Eyre Square.

Inspector Brendan Carroll said Breen had 18 previous convictions for robbery, burglaries, thefts, possession of articles(weapons) and criminal damage.

Breen, he said, had served prison sentences as a juvenile in the past for some of those offences and he was currently serving a eight-month sentence for theft, possession of articles, criminal damage and larceny.

Garda Gill explained the victim was too afraid to come to court but his father was present.   She said the young man had written a letter,  explaining the impact the attack had had on him and it was handed into court for Judge Fahy to read.

The judge said she was shocked that the accused would treat another young person in that manner.

She said that while listening to the evidence, the word “humiliation” had come to mind and on reading the victim’s letter, he had used that exact same word to describe how he felt during his ordeal.

“He has said that when asked to take off his shoes, he felt humiliated.

“It’s the lowest of the low and I have heard lots of stories during my time as a judge.

“It’s shocking; a young boy, having to go home in his socks, bleeding,” Judge Fahy said.

Insp Carroll said the victim’s mobile phone and runners were found in Breen’s possession.

“Who would want them back? Who would want to touch anything that had been touched in this manner?” Judge Fahy asked.

Defence solicitor, John Martin said his client had turned 18 on July 8.  He reminded Judge Fahy she was familiar with Breen from the juvenile court and knew about his background.

Breen’s mother, he said, died when he was very young, his father had minimal input in his life and his uncle was his legal guardian and was doing his best.

Mr Martin pointed out that heretofore his client’s convictions had involved property and these new offences were the first to involve aggression towards a victim.

Mr Martin said his client had taken pills and abused alcohol on the night and the way in which the crime was carried out appeared to be a lot different from before.

He said Breen apologised for his behaviour when he was picked up by the Gardai that night.

Garda Gill explained the juvenile had been dealt with under the Juvenile Liaison Scheme due to his young age.

Judge Fahy said this had been a more serious type of robbery.

“In other cases, robberies or assaults are over a phone, but I have never seen such aggression or such personal threats or humiliation as displayed in this one,” she said.

Judge Fahy said the maximum sentence she could impose in her court was 24 months and she would have to give the accused credit for the plea.

Bearing in mind he was currently serving an eight-month sentence for other offences, Judge Fahy said the appropriate sentence for the robbery in this case was seven months, to run consecutively to the sentence currently being served.

She imposed a further, consecutive six-month sentence for possession of the knife.

Judge Fahy then strenuously warned Breen that if he made any threats to the victim’s family by any means, she would not be accepting jurisdiction and he would be sent forward to a higher court where he would get five years.

He grinned back at her and shook his head.  He continued to smirk and grin.

“I’m warning you,” Judge Fahy repeated.

Referring to the victim’s letter again, Judge Fahy added:  “The reality is that for this young man, the marks on his face will fade, but the trauma he has sustained will not fade for a very long time.

“It’s a life-changer for him, due to the defendant’s actions.  I just hope he makes a complete recovery.”

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.

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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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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