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Addict burglar threatens to cut children’s throats



Galway Courthouse

A heroin-addicted burglar threatened to cut a man’s throat after he was caught red-handed trying to rob the man’s business premises in Liosban Industrial Estate.

Patrick ‘Pa’ Sweeney (27), of 173 Castlepark, Ballybane, pleaded guilty to entering John Butler’s Sports Injury Clinic at Unit 7, Kilkerrin Park, Liosban, as a trespasser on February 11 last, but he denied producing a scissors with intent to intimidate or cause serious injury during the course of the burglary on the same occasion.

Mr Butler told Galway District Court that he was treating a client in his clinic at 5.20pm when he noticed a shadow moving around in the reception area.  He knew the receptionist had finished for the day and he could see the shadow go in behind the reception desk.

He went to check and found Sweeney down on his knees inside reception.

When asked what he was doing there, Sweeney claimed he had come in to get a rub.

He went to run for the door and kept insisting Mr Butler was assaulting him and would not let him leave.

Sweeney eventually went out and Mr Butler said he followed him.  A tussle ensued outside.  Mr Butler said Sweeney fell back against the wall and then pulled a scissors from his belt.

“He took to screaming and roaring and said he would cut my throat and my children’s throats,” Mr Butler said.

Defence solicitor, Louise Gallagher said that when Mr Butler disturbed her client that evening, he had told him to sit down on a chair while he called the Gardai and that he had shouted at someone else to call the Gardai for him.

Mr Butler confirmed he had asked the client in the clinic, who was too afraid, he said, to come out of the room and who had not returned to his premises since, to call the Gardai.

“When I came out he had a scissors left on the counter.  He put it back into the belt on his trousers and he told me he would cut my throat and the throats of everybody I knew. He took his scissors away with him,” Mr Butler explained during cross-examination.

Mr Keith Forde told the court he ran a business next-door to Mr Butler’s.  He said he came out of his premises when he heard roaring and shouting outside.

By the time he came around the side of his van to render assistance to Mr Butler, Sweeney, he said, was cycling away.  He said Sweeney was shouting back that he would come back and get Mr Butler and slit his throat.

Sweeney told the court he was sick from heroin at the time and admitted he had gone into the premises to steal whatever he could to feed his habit.

“I was in fear of my life of this man,” he said, pointing at Mr Butler.

“I went in there to steal whatever I could,” he added.

“Anything that wasn’t nailed down,” Judge Fahy said.

Sweeney denied having a scissors on him.

He said he had to force his way out of the premises and pulled his zip down to get away from Mr Butler.  He said he never carried a weapon in his life and would never carry one.

“I was in his premises to steal but I never threatened him with a scissors,” Sweeney persisted.

Judge Fahy said she believed Mr Butler’s evidence and she convicted Sweeney.

She said he had been before the courts time and time again over the years and his offending was getting more and more serious.

Inspector Derek Gannon said Sweeney had 64 previous convictions and was currently serving an 11-month sentence, for handling stolen property.

Judge Fahy said Sweeney had thought there was no one around when he went in to burgle the premises and then he turned nasty when he was confronted by the owner and issued serious threats.

She sentenced him to six months for the burglary and a further six months for producing the scissors to intimidate Mr Butler, both sentences to run consecutively to each other and to the 11-month sentence Sweeney is currently serving.  Leave to appeal the sentences was granted.


Murals are part of initiative to restore pride in Ballybane estate



From the Galway City Tribune – A poem about litter forms part of a vibrant colourful new mural painted on the walls of a City Council estate in Ballybane.

The poetry and artwork by local artist Irene Naughton is part of an initiative to restore pride in Sliabh Rua.

The final two lines of Ms Naughton’s poem, called The Dragon’s Foot, read: “The land, the sea and the river all get hurt when we leave a littered footprint on the earth.”

The full poem was painted onto boundary walls as part of a large colourful mural that was created by Ms Naughton.

The street art includes handprints from children living in the estate on the city’s east side.

It also depicts an enchanted forest, a dragon sitting atop Merlin Castle, a view of the Burren, a wolf, butterflies, insects and foliage, as well as a man playing the guitar, a former resident who died.

Ms Naughton, who was commissioned by the City Council’s Environment Department, said it took about five days to complete.

“The residents were very, very helpful and kind,” she said.

Councillor Noel Larkin (Ind) explained that the mural was part of a wider, ‘Ballybane Matters’ project, which stemmed from Galway City Joint Policing Committee (JPC).

“We were doing a lot of talking at the JPC about anti-social behaviour, and it seemed to be more prevalent in the Ballybane area. When we boiled it down, it was in the Sliabh Rua and Fána Glas areas.

“Month after month it was just talking. So Níall McNelis [chair of the JPC] said we should set up a small group to hone in on exactly what was going on,” he said.

A group was formed to focus on improving the Council estate of about 40 houses.

As well as Cllr Larkin, it included: Sergeant Mick Walsh, Galway Garda Crime Prevention Officer and community Gardaí Maria Freeley, Nicola Browne, Kenneth Boyle and Darragh Browne; Fr Martin Glynn; Imelda Gormley of Ballybane Taskforce; Councillor Alan Cheevers; Donal Lynch, chairperson Merlin Neighbourhood Residents’ Association; and two members of Galway Traveller Movement, Katie Donoghue and Kate Ward.

Ms Gormley carried out a survey to get feedback from residents.

“A lot of the problems people had were horses on the green, people being harassed going in and out of estates, trailers full of rubbish left around the place, the City Council not cutting the grass, and anti-social behaviour,” explained Cllr Larkin.

Small improvements, with community buy in, has helped to revitalise the estate.

Cllr Larkin praised Edward Conlon, community warden with the City Council, who has been “absolutely brilliant”.

“He looked funding that was available to get trees or shrubs and to get the grass cut more regularly,” he said.

“Fr Martin got a residents committee set up because he knew people through the church, and that means there is community buy-in, people are actually taking an interest now.

“When we started originally, Sergeant Mick Walsh mentioned ‘the closed curtain syndrome’. You go into your home in the evening close your curtain and don’t want to see what’s going on outside. Whereas now, with community pride restored to the area, if somebody is acting the maggot outside, people are keeping an eye on it and that curbs anti-social behaviour,” said Cllr Larkin.

Covid-19 delayed the project but it “came together very quickly” once work started.

Cllr Larkin said that the project will move to other estates in Ballybane, including Fána Glas and Castlepark, but they also plan to maintain the progress made in on Sliabh Rua.

“We decided to concentrate on Sliabh Rua, because if we could crack Sliabh Rua we could crack the rest of them. Pride has been restored in the community,” added Cllr Larkin.

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QR codes hold the key to podcast tour of Galway City



From the Galway City Tribune – From singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran’s teenage days busking on the corner of William Street, to the rich past of the 14th century Lynch’s Castle on Shop Street, a new interactive tour of Galway City covers modern and ancient history.

Regional tour guide Jim Ward has created a series of podcasts detailing the history of eight places of interest in Galway City.

The Salthill native has created two-dimensional QR codes that are located at each of the eight locations, which allow visitors to download the podcasts to their smart phones.

Each podcast gives a flavour of the tours that Jim gives in ‘real-time’ when he leads hordes of tourists around the city’s famous sites.

The podcasts range from five to ten minutes and are located on or near buildings at the following locations: Eyre Square, William Street, Lynch’s Castle, the King’s Head, St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church, the Latin Quarter, Spanish Arch and Galway Cathedral.

During the Covid-19 Lockdowns, Jim gave virtual tours by video through sustainable tourism website, Flockeo.

He has also brought Ukrainian refugees on tours through the city streets to allow them to become familiar with Galway’s rich history.

The podcasts are hosted on his website, and are accessed on mobile devices through via QR codes scanned onto posters.

Jim said he was grateful to the businesses of Galway, who have allowed his to put up posters on their premises near the sites of interest.

“I propose to ask Galway City Council for permission to place some on public benches and poles at a later date.”

He said the idea was to “enhance interactive tourism in Galway and bring connectivity to the city”.

He also has other plans in the pipeline, including rolling-out an interactive oral history of certain areas such as Woodquay.

This would involve interviewing local people of interest in certain historic parts of the city, which could be accessed through podcasts. The stories would be their own, or that of local organisations.

“The recordings would be accessed through QR codes on lamp posts or park benches and would provide a level of interactivity and connectedness with our historic town,” Jim added.

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Renters in Galway City have to fork out an extra €11,500 annually



From the Galway City Tribune – Renters in private accommodation in Galway City are paying, on average, around €11,500 more per annum than they were at the bottom of the market ten years ago.

According to figures published by property website this week, the average monthly rent in the city now stands at €1,663 – that’s up a whopping 138% since the market trough in early 2012, when it stood at around €700.

At the end of June this year, the average monthly rent had risen 16.4% – one of the biggest jumps in the country.

Nationally rents in the second quarter of 2022 were an average of 12.6% higher than the same period a year earlier, as availability of rental homes reached an all-time low.

County Galway has seen a similar pattern of increases – average rents stood at €1,184 per month, up 12.4% on the previous year. The averages have also more than doubled – up 132% – since the bottom of the market.

At the moment, there are fewer than 60 properties available for for rent in Galway city and county – the lowest figure recorded since the rental reports began in 2006.

A breakdown of the figures shows that a single bedroom in Galway city centre is renting for an average of €588 per month, up 19.5% on June 2021, while in the suburbs, a similar room is commanding €503 per month, up 15.9% on a year earlier. A double room is generating €633 (up 16.4%) in the city centre and €577 (up 19.2%) in the suburbs.

In the city, an average one-bed apartment is currently ‘asking’ €1,110 per month (up 17.3% year on year); a €1,297 for a two-bed house (up 15.6%); €1,542 for a three-bed house (up 16.9%); €1,923 for a four-bed house (up 21.8%) and €2,016 for a five-bed house, which is up 10.6%.

Ronan Lyons, Associate Professor of Economics at Trinity College Dublin and author of the Daft report, pointed to a resurgent economy which has accentuated the chronic shortage of rental housing in Ireland.

“The shortage of rental accommodation translates directly into higher market rents and this can only be addressed by significantly increased supply.

“While there are almost 115,000 proposed rental homes in the pipeline, these are concentrated in the Dublin area. Further, while nearly 23,000 are under construction, the remainder are earlier in the process and the growth of legal challenges to new developments presents a threat to addressing the rental scarcity,” he said.

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