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Connacht Tribune

Booze and coke drives up assaults across the county

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Sergeant Michael Walsh

Garda Crime Watch with Sergeant Michael Walsh

GALWAY’S active and vibrant social scene has undoubtedly led to its international success in winning the bid to host the European Capital of Culture 2020, as well as been recently acclaimed by the Lonely Planet website as the fourth best city in the world to visit. This is all brilliant news for the Galway tourist sector, and will bring a welcomed economic boost to all businesses.

However, international research has shown that the level of assaults can be associated with the vibrancy of the night time economy. Galway’s booming night life is not just limited to hen and stag parties at weekends, or the influx of tourists for the races or arts festival and other summer events.

The city for example accommodates over 25,000 third level students who add to this night-time economy on week nights. So, a city with such a contentious large-scale social scene is prone to having anti-social problems and assaults. The rate of assaults nationally has increased by about 50% over the past few years, but what’s more alarming is their unprovoked randomness and vicious nature.

So, why is this happening you might ask? Increased alcohol and drug abuse are a large factor in many of these night-time assaults. Cocaine and other related drugs are known to cause unpredictable behaviours in users, and coupled with copious amounts of alcohol create a recipe for disaster. Gardai witness this behaviour first hand any night of the week in our city and towns around the county.

Individuals or even groups of predominantly young males engage in pack-like behaviours and try to pick fights on other males or groups. I have personally stood outside nightclubs and fast food outlets in the early hours of the morning breaking up fights, and like many of my Garda colleagues, got assaulted in the process.

The presence of uniformed Gardai often does not deter such assaults, as some of these drug induced thugs will start a fight while under the watchful eye of Gardai. According to Alcohol Action Ireland, alcohol consumption in Ireland almost trebled over the past four decades, with 54% of Irish drinkers classified as harmful drinkers. It would seem that drinking to excess has become normalised and an acceptable practice, and the resulting anti-social behaviour is now almost become part of our culture.

An Garda Síochána recently launched its new Assaults in Public Reduction Strategy 2019 – 2021 in conjunction with our mission which is ‘Keeping People Safe’.  The five goals of this strategy are: (1) Protecting People and Communities; (2) Awareness and Education as a Crime Prevention Technique; (3) Policing Operational Efficiency; (4) Location Management by Working in Partnership; and (5) Offender Management.

As the Crime Prevention Officer my function is to create awareness and provide education around assaults. Our current national crime prevention campaign uses the tagline “Use Your Brain Not Your Fists” and I think we can all play a part in educating our younger generations to think about the repercussions, because after all one punch can kill. Education begins at home and alcohol awareness needs to be echoed through all facets of our society.

Galway is very fortunate to have been awarded the Purple Flag, which is an international accreditation awarded to cities and towns that meet a standard of excellence in managing the evening and night-time economy. I am delighted to work hand-in-hand with the city council and all the other stakeholders in trying to keep our streets and our people safe, but everyone can play their part.

My advice to any person out socialising is to remain streetwise. Crime can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere, and while not every culprit will get caught, every victim will suffer. The extent of your suffering or loss will depend on three things: namely your vulnerability; your environment; and your individual behaviour. You can reduce your vulnerability by limiting your alcohol intake and never, ever take illegal drugs.

Young people need to look out for one another and make sure they get home safely. Avoid walking alone; plan your route home; and make sure someone is tasked with checking you have arrived safely. Consider sharing your location on WhatsApp for example with a trusted friend who can monitor your position. When walking in public remain observant and walk in a confident and prompt manner, while keeping your phone and other valuable possessions out of sight.

Choose well lit locations and don’t engage with strangers and avoid confrontation. Trust your instincts: if something is not quite right, go to a safe place straight away. If you are the victim of crime or violence, report the matter to the Gardaí immediately: do not take it upon yourself to deal with the assailants.

For more information visit the Garda website at www.garda.ie or phone the free Garda confidential line on 1800 666 111.

Connacht Tribune

Passers-by save church from burning down

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The quick reaction of passers-by saved a Connemara church from being razed to the ground by fire.

Hill walkers who stopped off at St Joseph’s Church in Letterfrack on their way to climb Diamond Hill noticed a fire and smoke billowing from inside the building.

They immediately raised the alarm and alerted workers from Connemara National Park. They in turn rang Clifden Fire Brigade, who attended the scene and quenched the blaze.

Parish priest, Fr Anthaiah Pudota told the Connacht Tribune that the fire was started accidentally, possibly by a fallen candle in the church which was built in 1922.

He praised the people who raised the alarm quickly and thanked the workers for their bravery during efforts to bring the fire under control.

“My information was people who visited Connemara National Park raised the alarm. They were on the way to climb Diamond Hill and parked their cars to visit the church.

“I think it was a family who were visiting the area. It was an accidental fire. There is definitely significant damage. Wood was burned, and there was significant smoke damage, but it could have been worse.

“According to the CCTV footage, it happened around 1pm. Clifden Fire Brigade and workers from the National Park were very brave. The smoke inside was like a huge thick fog.

“It took them a while before they could enter. They had to break one of the doors, because the main door was closed. It was definitely very brave of them,” Fr Anathaiah said.

The fire was discovered quite quickly, he said, and so while the church was significantly damaged most of it centred on the candelabra area.

Ballinakill Parish Secretary in Letterfrack, Ann Cooke, thanked the local community and neighbouring parishes for good wishes and support.

“A very special note of thanks to the kind passer-by who raised the alarm, the National Park workers, and the emergency services, for their fast action and bravery, without all of whom the unfortunate event could have been much worse,” she said.

“Thank you all again for your support. Please God we will be able to come together in Letterfrack Church before long,” Ms Cooke added.

Fr Anathaiah, from India, will be two years in the rural Connemara parish of Ballinakill next month. He said that his parishioners have strong faith and are looking forward to the church reopening, but he could not confirm a date as yet.

Mass was said twice weekly, Sunday and Wednesday, at St Joseph’s up until the fire caused the damage at around 1pm on Friday July 22.

Fr Anathaiah said that services would now be said at Tullycross Church, about five kilometres away, for the foreseeable future.

“We are not quite sure at the moment (when it will reopen); we are waiting to see the extent of the damage. I can’t give an exact date, but we will definitely come back in the coming months,” Fr Anthaiah Pudota said.

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Connacht Tribune

State to look at plan to protect historic monastic ruins

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Officials from the Office of Public Works have confirmed that they will visit what is widely regarded as the most complete Franciscan monastic ruins in Ireland to see what works are required to save it.

And a local public representative has said that he does not want to be part of a generation that allowed Ross Errilly Franciscan Friary to fall into worse disrepair.

Correspondence sent this week to those who diligently look after the friary has suggested that the OPW’s Head of Historic Properties will come down to establish what emergency works are required.

This follows the recent visit by the Minister for the Office of Public Works Patrick O’Donovan to Ross Errilly Franciscan Friary which dates well back before the 1400s and requires urgent works to be carried out.

Cllr Andrew Reddington (FG) said: “It would be an absolute disgrace if we were the generation that allowed this friary to deteriorate even further.”

It was explained to the Minister while visiting the Abbey that it is in desperate need of emergency works and it was essential that the Minister brought this back to his department.

He was informed that it was around the late 1980s when there was any major works carried out on the abbey by the OPW.

“The abbey needs remedial work urgently as it is falling into disrepair and the main area of concern is the tower.

“There has never been any serious remedial work done on the tower and there has never been scaffolding put up around the outside of it to deal with the exterior of the tower,” Cllr Reddington told The Connacht Tribune.

A local group who met with the Minister explained that there is no electricity at the abbey or any toilet facilities for visiting tourists.

He was informed that the nearest electrical pole is only 200m away, so it wouldn’t be difficult to get electricity to the abbey.

The abbey, he was told, needs electricity which would then mean there would be options in terms of security lighting and closed-circuit television to prevent any vandalism taking place.

Those who look after the Franciscan Friary – including Glen Corbett and former Galway footballer Seamus McHugh – gave a detailed run down of emergency works that need to happen at the abbey.

They said that it was critical that emergency works start as soon as possible to protect the abbey for future generations.

The Minister committed to working with the group on this. The delegation than joined OPW officials and Finna Construction who gave them a tour of the OPW offices in Headford which benefited from a €5 million investment.

This week came the commitment that the OPW would visit the friary to establish the emergency works that need to prioritisation.

(Photo:  Seamus McHugh, Minister Patrick O’Donovan, Glen Corbett and Cllr Andrew Reddington at Ross Errilly Franciscian Friary in Headford)

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Connacht Tribune

Gardaí issue alert over fuel thefts

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Householders, farmers and truckers in the West of Ireland have been advised to put security measures in place to protect their fuel tanks, following a number of thefts over the past month.

While the thefts aren’t an everyday occurrence, Gardaí have advised that with fuel prices likely to remain high over the coming months, basic security precautions should be put in place.

Galway is one of a number of counties where fuel thefts have occurred over recent weeks with home heating oil, trucks and farm diesel in different parts of the country targeted by the thieves.

Sergeant Michael Walsh, Galway Garda Crime Prevention Officer, said that while the number of thefts reported in Galway had been quite small, fuel thievery was still an ongoing problem.

He said that some of the precautions recommended included a secure fencing off, of outdoor fuel tanks with good quality perimeter fencing.

“Fuel tanks that are located away from houses or offices are most at risk and in these situations, robust perimeter fencing, and gates need to be properly secured.

“We are also recommending that people and businesses consider installing alarms, anti-siphoning devices, security lighting and CCTV cameras,” said Sergeant Walsh.

He added that fuel thieves often used small drill and syphoning pump to steal the fuel with the whole operation completed in a matter of minutes.

Last month in Limerick, thieves stole an estimated €500 worth of diesel from trucks parked overnight in a business park – large trucks and artics can have a fuel capacity of over 100 gallons.

“As with a lot of robberies, fuel thieves will tend to pick out the opportunist targets. Fuel is a valuable commodity and basic security measures need to be put in place,” said Sergeant Walsh.

Where businesses have multiple users of their fuel tanks, the Gardaí also advise that a fuel management system should be put in place to record the users as well as the dates and times when they access the supply.

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