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Woman sexually assaulted by man posing as masseur



A kitchen porter who sexually assaulted a woman in her home while posing as a masseur, has been sentenced to three years in prison with the final 18 months suspended.

Gheorge Popa (66), a Moldovan national, had been working as a kitchen porter in a Galway City restaurant for eight years prior to the offence taking place at the woman’s home in Galway City on April 7, 2016.

A friend had recommended Popa to the woman, who is in her 30s and suffers from work-related back pain.

Popa pleaded guilty to the sexual assault moments before his trial was due to begin at Galway Circuit Criminal Court.

Sergeant Patricia Grady gave evidence that the victim’s friend had recommended Popa as a masseur and she arranged for him to call to her house to give her a back massage.

Her children were in bed when he called and the woman brought him upstairs to her bedroom.

She lay on the bed, face down wearing a bra, leggings and pyjama bottoms.

Popa opened the woman’s bra and began to massage her back.

He then told her to turn over onto her back.  She became extremely embarrassed when the bra slipped and her breasts were exposed.

Popa pulled down her bottom clothing and lay on top of the woman, trying to kiss her. Seconds before this happened the woman had noticed his trousers were undone. He sexually assaulted her and then immediately apologised.

She was extremely afraid he might harm her and her children so she said nothing to him but went to her en suite. He followed her and cleaned himself and dressed.

He followed her downstairs and told her not to tell their mutual friend. He said he normally charged €20 for a massage but said he would not charge her under the circumstances.

In her victim impact statement, which Sgt Grady read into evidence, the woman said she had been extremely frightened that Popa might return to her home.

She contacted the Gardai two days later and samples taken from her clothing and body at the Sexual Assault Unit, were sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory.

Meanwhile, Popa returned home to Moldova, but was brought back to this jurisdiction in custody on foot of a European arrest warrant last May and was charged with sexual assault.

Samples taken from him matched semen samples taken from the victim’s body.

The woman, who was present in court, said in her impact statement that she felt “shocked, ashamed and upset” at what had happened. She said she had been left feeling violated and scared that Popa might come back.

She said she no longer felt safe and no longer trusted people.

“I feel angry and sad all the time. I will never trust anyone again,” she said.

Defence barrister, Conal McCarthy, offered an apology in court on behalf of his client.

He said Popa had worked for many years in Ireland and regularly sent money home to his family in Moldova. He had no previous convictions in either jurisdiction.

Judge Rory McCabe noted the maximum sentence for this offence was ten years and he placed the headline sentence at six years.

Taking Popa’s guilty plea, which spared the victim from having to endure a trial, his age and his previous good record into account, the judge said the appropriate sentence was three years with the final 18 months suspended.

The suspended part of the sentence is conditional on Popa leaving the country as soon as he has served the balance of the sentence, which was backdated to when he went into custody last May.

He was also placed on the Sex Offender’s Register.


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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