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Two jailed following carpark fight during Confirmation



An incident on the grounds of a North Galway church – as fifty schoolchildren were making their Confirmation – resulted in a man and a woman receiving prison sentences when their cases came before Tuam Court.

The two defendants claimed, during the course of the four hour long trial, that their constitutional rights were being denied to them; that they were being discriminated against and that the Gardaí were telling “barefaced lies”.

But the court also heard that during the incident outside St Coleman’s Church in Corofin, two Gardaí were verbally abused while one of them was struck by a woman in the back of the head.

It resulted in Martin O’Toole from Stripe, Irishtown, being sentenced to two months in prison for engaging in threatening, abusive and insulting behaviour towards Garda Martin Chalke and Garda Pat Kelly of Tuam Garda Station.

As a result of the same set of circumstances, Bernadette Dunning from Earls Park in Ballinasloe was convicted of the assault of Garda Chalke outside the church in Corofin and was sentenced to four months in prison.

Judge James Faughnan noted that the two defendants had represented themselves in court and said that he gave them plenty of latitude but he had listened carefully to the evidence and found that the State had proven their case. The incident in Corofin occurred after Martin O’Toole attended the confirmation of his daughter in the church.

His estranged wife Mary Teresa O’Toole contacted the Gardaí to ensure that no incident happened at the ceremony. There is an order in place preventing O’Toole from approaching his wife or children.

On March 6 last year around 50 children were making their confirmation at St. Coleman’s Church in Corofin – including Mary Theresa O’Toole’s daughter.

She told Inspector Brendan Carroll that her estranged husband Martin had turned up for the event and she told the court that she did not want a repeat of the previous year when another member of her family was confirmed and an incident occurred.

Garda Martin Chalke and Garda Pat Kelly arrived on the scene. Garda Kelly put on a casual jacket and went into the church where he found O’Toole sitting in one of the back rows. He asked him to come outside.

Garda Kelly told Tuam Court that he did not want O’Toole to cause any trouble for the family and that the defendant became violent and stuck his finger into his chest.

Then Garda Chalke told the court that O’Toole said: “Ye two bastards will not stand in the way of me seeing my children”. A scuffle resulted with the Gardaí trying to place handcuffs on O’Toole.

There was an incident in which O’Toole and Garda Kelly fell to the ground and Garda Chalke then said that he was assaulted by Bernadette Dunning with an open hand. She denied that this had happened and accused the Garda of assaulting her.

Garda Chalke said that Mary Theresa O’Toole told the Gardaí that the presence of her ex-husband put her in fear and that was why she contacted the station.

The defendants claimed that the church grounds were not public property and that they were owned by the Vatican so the Gardaí had no right to be present there. They also claimed that they were the victims of assaults by the Gardaí.

Sergeant Pat Hastings told the court that he made countless efforts to make contact with Bernadette Dunning over the alleged assault on Garda Chalke. He listed various dates and times he contacted her but failed to speak to her.

He even went to her house and left a message through her door with the number of Tuam Garda Station. In court, she claimed that there were five Garda Sergeants trying to contact her and she described this as harassment. Sergeant Hastings confirmed to the court that he never got talking to her in relation to the alleged assault.

Patrick McDonagh from Portumna, a friend of Martin O’Toole, said that he attended the confirmation and witnessed the defendant being dragged by the Gardaí by the hair and wrestled to the ground. He claimed to have a video of the event but he didn’t have it with him.

Defendant Martin O’Toole claimed that his family was “robbed from me by the State” and that he attended the confirmation to give his daughter a card and a €50 present. He then claimed to have been harassed by the Gardaí.

He said that he had seven children who had been taken away from him and described this as a degrading situation. “But I will go back time and time again every time one of them is involved in a ceremony”, he promised.

Neither McDonagh, O’Toole nor Bernadette Dunning would take the bible when giving evidence with the latter saying that she was being accused in the wrong.

She said that O’Toole had gone to the ceremony and had sat down quietly until the Garda came along and asked him to go outside.

O’Toole was also convicted of a number of motoring offences including having no insurance when detected by Garda Philip Carroll. He was banned from driving for two years as well as being fined €500.

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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