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440 Galway people released from jail within hours

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More than 440 Galway people brought to prison last year were released within hours – the vast majority of them were taken there in the first place after they failed to pay fines imposed on them by the courts.

The figures from the Irish Prison Service were obtained by Galway West Independent TD Noel Grealish.

He said they showed how overdue were measures to end what he called this ’ridiculous merry-go-round’.

“These figures clearly suggest that some people have been just laughing in the face of the criminal justice system, refusing to pay fines in the knowledge that as soon as they arrive in prison they will be let out again immediately.

“More than two out of three Galway people brought to prison end up there because they haven’t paid fines — with almost all of them released within hours and sent home,” said Deputy Grealish.

New legislation which came into force last week means that people who fail to pay fines will no longer be sent to prison, except as a last resort.

The Fines (Payment and Recovery) Act 2014 allows courts to have unpaid fines deducted from earnings or appoint a receiver to recover the money, with those who still default required to undertake community service.

Deputy Grealish had tabled a Parliamentary Question seeking information on the number of people from Galway who were released after being processed the same day they were brought to prison, or the next day.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said that while figures were not available for 2015, the total number of people with Galway addresses sentenced to jail in 2014 was 592 — and 441 of them were released within hours.

“It should be noted that 437 or 99.1% of those released were serving a Fines sentence.

“Each committal on a fine is considered for temporary release by the Irish Prison Service on a case by case basis. In the majority of cases temporary release is granted within a number of hours.

“However, for serial offenders or for certain offences, ie Income tax, those prisoners may remain in custody to serve all or a portion of the sentence,” said Minister Fitzgerald.

Deputy Grealish said that it was clearly a waste of time and resources bringing most people to prison for non-payment of fines and he was glad this was about to end.

“These people are usually brought to prison by two Gardaí, who have their whole day taken up by this ridiculous merry-go-round, when most of those they are transporting to jail are likely to be released the same day.

“Some of these people treat the whole process as a joke — they are being fined in court for theft, assault, drugs offences or whatever, and then refusing to pay because they know they will never serve time. So they get off scot free.

“I’m glad that they will now pay a real penalty — and the new legislation removes the awful trauma of being brought to jail for some genuine people who for one reason or another have not paid their fines,” added Deputy Grealish.

Of the 441 Galway residents released within hours of being brought to prison, most (328) had been brought to Castlerea Prison, 82 were processed at Mountjoy Female, with the remainder processed at Limerick Male (12), Cork (5), Midlands (5) Mountjoy Male (4), Limerick Female (3) and Wheatfield (2).

Connacht Tribune

Covid boosts college coffers

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NUI Galway

NUI Galway reported an operating surplus of almost €19 million during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic when its campus was closed for months.

The healthy finances reported by NUIG has prompted its student body to call for it to waive repeat exams’ fees and student levies, and to invest in mental health services.

Consolidated financial statements for NUIG for the year ended September 30 2020 show the university reported an operating surplus of €18.9 million. This was up by €16 million on the surplus generated in 2019.

The financial statement said that while Covid-19 was ‘extremely challenging’, the ‘extraordinary dedication and work ethic of its staff have mitigated against the financial impact’ of the year.

The report said a surplus of €18.9 million was a ‘commendable performance’ given that 95%  of staff and students withdrew from campus in March 2020 to study and work remotely in line with Government regulations.

It noted that core income fell by a net €4 million compared with the previous year.

“Drops in research income of €9m and a Covid-related decline in commercial and student accommodation income of some €5m were offset by increased fee income of €4m, a €3m increase in the fair value of investments, and other increases of €3m relating to Government grants and other income,” the report said.

It said that the increase in Government grants includes Covid Support grant funding from the Higher Education Authority to cover additional specific Covid-19 related costs of €2.2m.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Workers leave hospitality sector to seek job security

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Pearse Doherty...morale has never been lower.

The severe restrictions for hospitality and entertainment are widely expected to be lifted next month – but already workers in the sector are reportedly leaving in their droves to source more stable employment.

And that could spell disaster for Galway’s vibrant arts industry which is a crucial cog in the wheel of local tourism.

When Covid regulations are eased for those staging events – thought to be announced this week – one of their biggest challenges is to secure staff for operations, according to prominent Galway event organiser Pearse Doherty.

Morale has never been lower in the industry, with even loyal customers getting fed up having to book and reschedule constantly when the goalposts shift so many times for shows.

“I really think it’s going to be very difficult for any venue going back or festival being staged. I don’t think things are ever going to go back to normal. Any event over 5,000 people will likely have to have fewer tents, a bigger space – all these things have to be taken into consideration for people who invest in the business,” he reflects.

“Having 50 per cent capacity and closing time at 8pm does nothing to make things financially viable. A lot of business models are built on having a bar and selling to 100 per cent capacity so I’m just not sure how many will survive the pandemic, even with all the very welcome Government supports for the industry.”

He knows of many in the industry who are changing careers or moving abroad in search of work in a location where restrictions nowhere as strict.

The head of production for the doomed Galway Capital of Culture 2020, head of production for Aiken Promotions which is behind the biggest gigs in the country and the site manager for the Electric Picnic, Pearse has himself pivoted in his career, taking up the role of producer with Fíbín Theatre at An Taibhdhearc.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway author dedicates children’s book to brave young nephew battling DMD

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Dedication....Fionn Brogan – new book aims to help in his fight.

A flying mouse with a skill for hurling is the subject of a book a Galway man has dedicated to his cousin’s son – six-year-old Fionn Brogan who, like Lumo the mouse, must overcome a myriad of challenges in his everyday life.

Ballinderreen man Tom Costelloe tells the Connacht Tribune he wrote the book to raise funds for his cousin Michael’s son, inspired by the strength and resilience Fionn has shown since his diagnosis of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) when he was just three years old.  A disease which attacks the muscles, DMD will leave Fionn unable to play football or do many of the things he loves to do as time goes on.

As a result, his family wants to raise enough funds to make the next few years the best possible for Fionn – and aim to adapt their house so he can freely use a power wheelchair among other alterations that will be required.

For Tom, who works as a speech and language therapist, the Covid lockdowns presented an opportunity to put pen to paper and create this story of Lumo, a mouse with wings.

“With a positive message of self-acceptance, the story is brought to life with wonderful colourful illustrations by Thomas Quinn from Kinvara.

“Like Lumo the flying mouse, Fionn and his family have no shortage of strength, resilience and sprit – and thanks to our printing costs being generously sponsored, every euro raised from the sales goes directly to the Fionn Brogan trust,” he says.

Tom, who lives in Galway City, says the family had a series of fundraisers over the past year and he hopes this will add to the momentum of achieving what’s necessary to support Fionn as he continues to defy all odds.

And through his work, he’s had a good research group to test-run Lumo – getting very positive feedback.

“I work with kids so they became my research team, and they were very useful in making sure the book was of interest,” he laughs.

‘Could a Flying Mouse Play Hurling?’ is available in in Clarke’s Pharmacy Kilcolgan, Burke’s Eurospar Kinvara, Circle-K Kinvara, Poppyseed Café Clarinbridge and First Chapter in Gort.  For more information on the Fionn Brogan Trust, visit fionnbrogantrust.ie where donations can also be made.

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