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Casino ‘shebeen’ operator given suspended sentence

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A director of a city-based casino was given a six month suspended prison sentence at Galway District Court on Wednesday for flaunting the licencing laws, by operating a shebeen which he tried to justify by claiming that it was a private members club.

Daniel Kenny (45), with an address at La Paradiso, Dominick Street, strongly contested the State’s contention that he had wines, beer, spirits, and cider for sale without a licence at nearby Four Aces Casino on February 28 last, contrary to Section 7 of the Intoxicating Liquor (General) Act 1924.

The father of two claimed that those who paid €30 to gain entry per night to the Dominick Street premises were among the 10,000 members of this private club, and that the venue was therefore not subject to the usual restrictions on serving alcohol.

“The most salubrious clubs in Stephen’s Green don’t charge that amount,” remarked Judge Mary Fahy. And, it was ultimately the lack of proof that such a club even existed that convinced her that the defendant’s actions were indeed unlawful.

The alcohol seized by Gardaí at the shebeen

The alcohol seized by Gardaí at the shebeen

“What type of club is your client running that he doesn’t have to register or renew his licence every year?” she put to his legal counsel.

“If it were a genuine casino, it would have that type of licence, and not be allowed to have intoxicating liquor on the premises.

“It is outrageous that this man could run a place like this – a shebeen – and expect the court, or any court, to accept that he was running a bone-fide club.”

Gardaí removed three van loads of alcohol following a sting operation carried out between February 28 and into the early hours of March 1 last.

Sgt Brendan Moore told the court that he had been watching the premises for the previous few months, and had spoken to patrons who told him that a fee was charged at the door in exchange for free drink.

He said that suspicion also arose due to the long lines of taxis often seen gathering outside the premises at 7am waiting for patrons to emerge.

He had obtained a search warrant, but did not wish to execute it until he was satisfied that there were breaches inside.

He dispatched two young male undercover Gardaí, Evan McKenna and Bernard McLoughlin. They entered at about 12.30am on March 1. They were asked to produce identification at the door, and then asked to pay €30 each.

Garda McKenna filled in a form, and his colleague signed his name on the back of it, as a guest.

“At no stage did the receptionist mention that we were joining a club, she just said that I should fill out the form to get into the premises,” Garda McKenna said, although he acknowledged that this was clearly marked as an application form for membership.

“We were told we could drink all night until 6am, but that the only rule was that we could only have one bottle or drink at a time.”

Once they had obtained their second drink, they alerted Sgt Moore. He had the assistance of a dozen Gardaí in closing off Upper Dominick Street and entering the premises. There were about 10 patrons inside at the time.

Sgt Moore told the court that the list of alcohol seized took over six handwritten pages – and filled three Garda vans full of beer, wine, brandy, whiskey, and spirits.

He subsequently made enquiries with the District Court office and the Companies Office, but found that there were no registered clubs at that address.

However, a company called Midnight Entertainment Ltd was registered at the same address, and Kenny was listed as a director and secretary.

“It is not a registered club – there is no record of it anywhere… it is merely a device for distributing alcohol,” Sgt Moore said.

Alan Toal, barrister for Kenny, asked if there had been any forensic assessment of the haul, to prove that it was indeed alcohol.

“The pictures speak for themselves,” Sgt Moore replied.

However, Mr Toal disagreed, and said that there was no evidence that the alcohol was sold to the Garda witnesses. He said that the 24-hour membership fee of €30 entitled a person to “free refreshments.”

“It does not constitute a sale,” he claimed.

He referred to case law, and argued that his client was not required to register the club in the usual way. He added that if there was any doubt that the matter should be struck out.

However, Judge Fahy, and the State, disagreed. Other case law was mentioned, which seemed to contradict Mr Toal’s argument.

The Judge then went on to sentence Kenny to six months imprisonment, to which Mr Toal said he was “gobsmacked at the disproportionality of the sentence handed down for a first offence.”

Judge Fahy replied that it was a very serious matter to have had such a large amount of alcohol on the premises, without the proper licence.

Mr Toal, who had earlier been threatened with Contempt of Court, told the Judge that she had not listened to a word he had said during the lengthy hearing. And, he suggested that she was punishing his client due to his actions.

“If there is any sense that you’re punishing my client because of the way I’ve represented him, it makes it even more disproportionate,” he added.

Judge Fahy again told him that it was the scale of the operation that she had considered so serious. However, she agreed to suspend the sentence for two years.

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City publican in heroic River Corrib rescue

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A city publican who last week helped save the life of a woman who had entered the waters of the Corrib off Wolfe Tone Bridge has made an appeal for young people to ‘look out for each other’.

Fergus McGinn, proprietor of McGinn’s Hop House in Woodquay, had been walking close to Jury’s Inn when he saw the young woman enter the river.

He then rushed to the riverbank on the Long Walk side of the bridge, jumped into the water, spoke to the woman and stayed with her until the emergency services arrived.

The incident occurred at about 3.45pm on Friday last, and a short time later the emergency services were on the scene to safely rescue the woman.

“She was lucky in that the river level was very low and she didn’t injure herself on the rocks and stones just under the water.”

He also appealed to the public to support in whatever they could the work being done by groups like the Claddagh Watch volunteers.
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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CITY TRIBUNE

Pubs face court – for serving booze on their doorsteps!

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Gardaí have warned city publicans that alcohol cannot be served outside their own premises – even in newly-created on-street spaces designated by Galway City Council as suitable for outdoor dining.

Councillor Mike Crowe (FF) said three Gardaí visited a number of city centre pubs on Thursday afternoon informing them that drinking outdoors was not allowed under licensing laws.

“They warned publicans and restaurants that the area outside their premises is not covered by the licence, and therefore under national legislation, they are breaking the law, because they are not entitled to sell alcohol in non-licensed areas.

“The operators were told that this was an official warning, and they will be back again in a few days and if it persisted, they [Gardaí] would have no option but to issue a charge and forward files to the Director of Public Prosecution. You could not make this up.

“All of the big operators were visited, and received an official warning, and they will be charged if they persist. According to the guards, they’re getting instructions from [Garda headquarters in] Phoenix Park,” he said.

The matter will be raised at a meeting of the Galway City Joint Policing Committee on Monday.
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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CITY TRIBUNE

Call for 50% affordable homes in new Galway City Council estates

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The next Galway City Development Plan should include a greater provision for affordable housing than that recommended by Government, a meeting of the City Council has heard.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) told the meeting that while it was the Government’s intention to introduce a stipulation that new estates should have 10% affordable housing, Galway should go further – building anything up to 50% affordable in developments that are led by the local authority.

The Affordable Housing Bill, which is currently working its way through the Oireachtas, proposes that all developments should have 10% affordable and 10% social housing as a condition of their approval.

Affordable housing schemes help lower-income households buy their own houses or apartments in new developments at significantly less than their open market value, while social housing is provided by local authorities and housing agencies to those who cannot afford their own accommodation.

The Council meeting, part of the pre-draft stage of forming the Development Plan to run from 2023 to 2029, was to examine the overarching strategies that will inform the draft plan to come before councillors by the end of the year and Cllr McDonnell said a more ambitious target for affordable housing was absolutely necessary.

“It must be included that at least 50% of housing must be affordable [in social housing developments],” he said.

This sentiment was echoed by Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) who questioned if the City Council was ‘tied down’ by national guidelines, or if it could increase the minimum percentage of affordable housing required locally.
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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