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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.


Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.

Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.

To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.

He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.

In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.

And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.

“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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