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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

GAA club’s tournament honours stalwart who died at just 28

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Pictured at the launch of the Darragh Frain Memorial Tournament which takes place in Mervue this Saturday. Back: Kevin Curran, Kevin Barrett, Robert Fitzgerald, Aidan Brady, Alan O'Donnell, Donal Murphy, Eanna O'Connell, Eoghan Frain, David Henry. Front: Aodhain Ó Conghaile, Liam O'Donnell, Rory Murphy, Fionn Fitzgerald and Michael Barrett.

The untimely passing of a city GAA stalwart six years ago is still deeply felt by the club he represented but he remains an inspiration to young up-and-coming footballers who will be displaying their skills this weekend.

The Darragh Frain Memorial Tournament for under-age teams will take place in St James’ GAA grounds at Mervue tomorrow, Saturday, when many memories of a great young clubman will be exchanged.

Darragh, from Lurgan Park in Renmore, was just 28 years of age when he lost his battle with cancer in 2016. Since then his beloved club has been organising a tournament for young footballers that’s proving immensely popular.

For tomorrow’s event, the St James club will entertain local teams including St Michael’s, Salthill-Knocknacarra, Killanin and an Cheathrú Rua, as well as Kiltane (Bangor Erris) and Elphin-Ballinameen from North Roscommon.

It is a nine-a-side tournament, which takes place from 11am to 5pm, and will involve Under-11 teams who will compete against each other during the day.

The fact that Darragh’s late father, Tom Frain Senior, hailed from Roscommon means that GAA support for the event is coming from both counties – this makes it extra special, as well as adding to the profile of the tournament.

Best friend and one of the event’s main organisers, another St James stalwart David Henry explained that this was the sixth year of the tournament and that Darragh would be very pleased that his name was being associated with the development of under-age football.

Get the full story in this week’s Galway City Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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CITY TRIBUNE

‘Too many cafés’ as city retail continues to decline

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Barber Tom Nally outside his premises.

The changing face of Galway city centre is a source of concern to those who say it reflects a decline for people in terms of retail choices.

Those who regret the loss of several long-standing family-run operations in the city in recent years don’t believe that what has replaced them has enhanced the appearance of Shop Street, in particular.

“We are looking at a proliferation of coffee shops, bookies and mobile phone outlets in their place,” observed long-standing city centre businessman Tom Nally.

Cllr Niall McNelis agreed there were far too many coffee shops in the city centre and believed that anything that has been zoned retail by the Council should remain retail.

The Labour Councillor said a proper retail strategy needed to be adopted and some of the ‘big-name brands’ needed to be encouraged into the centre of Galway to lure shoppers into town.

Meanwhile, popular barber Tom Nally regretted the number of family operations that have ceased trading in the recent past.

“It is sad to see the long-established family businesses in the city centre going and it would be great to say that what is replacing them will enhance our streets . . . but unfortunately this is not the case,” he added.

Mr Nally who has been operating out of his High Street premises for almost 50 years, said the number of unoccupied premises in an around the city centre was a new phenomenon.

Get the full story in this week’s Galway City Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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CITY TRIBUNE

State cracks down on quick-buck landlords

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New measures to clamp down on illegal short-term lets in the city will kick in next month, in an attempt to tackle mounting pressure on the rental market.

From September 1, sites such as Airbnb and Booking.com will no longer be allowed to advertise short-term rentals if the correct planning permission is not in place.

The measure seeks to strengthen laws introduced in 2019 which state that the use of a property for short-term letting for longer than 90 days in a rent-pressure zone requires permission from the local authority.

City Councillor Niall Murphy (Green) said the move follows on from an objection he lodged with the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI).

“The ASAI said it couldn’t be expected to police these ads so the websites like Airbnb were off the hook. But after September, they will have to ensure that those advertising on their sites have planning permission,” he said.

The proliferation of short-term lets in the city has been a contentious issue for a number of years, with scores of holiday leases available at the same time as city residents are battling it out for an extremely limited number of rental properties.

This week, almost 400 short-term lets were available on the leading website, Airbnb, while just 19 homes were up for rent on Daft.ie.

Get the full story in this week’s Galway City Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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