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City solicitors have Free Legal Aid fees slashed

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The Free Legal Aid rate paid to solicitors by the State to represent an accused person in court in Galway has been slashed in recent years, a city meeting heard this week.

The ‘going rate’ for solicitors who represent clients on Free Legal Aid has been cut to €200 for the first day in the District Court and €50 every subsequent day the same case is before the courts. That has been cut from €260 initially and €75 per subsequent day that was paid out three years ago.

A cap has also been put on the number of cases per day that are paid at the full going rate.

The first and second cases of Free Legal Aid are paid at the normal rate but subsequent cases on the same day are paid half that – €100 if it’s the first day of the case and €25 if it is a subsequent day.

The pay-rates for Free Legal Aid solicitors in Galway was revealed at the latest meeting of the County Galway Joint Policing Committee at County Hall.

Local solicitor, John Martin, outlined the figures in a presentation to JPC members about Free Legal Aid. He said the total bill for Free Legal Aid in Ireland had been cut by €10 million over three years and now stood at about €50 million per annum.

In the past, JPC members have slammed the system of Free Legal Aid – some claimed that repeat offenders should have this ‘perk’ revoked.

The JPC also in the past claimed that the State should ‘dip into’ Dole money or wages of recidivists on Free Legal Aid so that they pay some of their legal fees.

Mr Martin explained that the right to counsel was enshrined in the constitution. People were entitled to Free Legal Aid if they did not have the means to pay for their own legal representation; and if the case was serious enough to warrant a custodial sentence should you be found guilty. He said a judge can refuse legal aid and Gardaí can object to a legal aid application if they believe the accused has means that haven’t been declared.

Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish told the meeting that it was very frustrating for prosecuting Gardaí to see accused people abusing the Free Legal Aid system. He said repeat offenders should not be given Free Legal Aid.

Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh said he would defend the principle of Free Legal Aid and said accused people before the courts were constitutionally entitled to legal representation.

Independent County Councillor Jim Cuddy said victims had rights, too, and victims felt they were paying the price of crime twice through their taxes which was supporting the perpetrators’ defence.

Connacht Tribune

Help at hand for hand-pressed families this Christmas

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SVP Galway area President Séamus McManus.

Galway people struggling to cover the cost of Christmas have been urged to seek help from the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.

The SVP Galway area’s network of 27 conferences is experiencing a surge in requests for help with food, energy and heating bills as the cost-of-living soars – but Galway area President Séamus McManus insisted help was at hand.

“There is hope out there, and there is help available for people in trouble. We might not be able to do everything but we can help, especially coming up to Christmas.

“Imagine a Christmas that is cold and hungry? That would be no Christmas at all, so we have help. We want people to at least enjoy those few days of Christmas,” Mr McManus said.

SVP said it was “deeply concerned” by new Central Statistics Office data which showed a sharp rise in households going without essentials such as nutritious food, adequate heating and clothing; up by 184,000 to 875,000 people nationally compared with 2021.

SVP nationally is getting an average of 800 calls per day, which is up about 20% on last year. This is mirrored in Galway city and county, too, Mr McManus said.

“We’ve had some heart-breaking requests where the main breadwinner had a serious diagnosis and it meant their whole life has been thrown into turmoil; they can’t pay rent, they can’t pay ordinary family living expenses.

“We’ve also had students with mental health issues who have had to pull out of college and lose their SUSI grants and they’re left high and dry. We’ve had people with relationship breakdown, where maintenance wouldn’t be forthcoming and they’re left in a precarious position,” he added.

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

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Connacht Tribune

Galway Professor on taking the reins as country’s top doc

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Chief Medical Officer, Breda Smyth.

Three weeks after Professor Breda Smyth was appointed Ireland’s interim Chief Medical Officer (CMO), the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Monkeypox outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

It proved a baptism of fire for Tony Holohan’s successor, who already had the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in her in-tray.

But the Mayo native, who lives in Galway, took it all in her stride.

“It’s a significant responsibility. I am taking it one step at a time,” said the country’s first female CMO.

And in fairness, it’s not like she’s wet round the ears when it comes to strategising for infectious diseases.

Professor Smyth may be best known outside of medical circles in Galway for her traditional Irish musical talents, but she was also the public face of the Covid-19 pandemic as HSE West Director of Public Health.

Through that HSE role, which she held for 13 years, she became a member of NPHET (the National Public Health Emergency Team) that advised Government on how to steer the country through the pandemic; as well as being a member of the Expert Advisory Group on Rapid Testing, and a founding member of the Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group.

That experience stood to her since becoming interim CMO in July, which progressed to a permanent position in October.

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

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Connacht Tribune

Former Minister slams ‘rotten and corrupt’ IFI

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Senator Sean Kyne.

By Dara Bradley

A Galway Senator has slammed Inland Fisheries Ireland as ‘rotten and corrupt’ – and Fine Gael’s Seán Kyne has threatened to use parliamentary privilege to highlight what he labelled as ‘issues of corruption’ within IFI.

Senator Kyne is a former Minister of State with responsibility for natural resources, which encompassed IFI which itself is responsible for the protection of waters, including Lough Corrib. Speaking in the Seanad last Thursday, he referenced a review that was commissioned by the Minister for the Environment, Climate Action and Communications, Eamon Ryan, into the functioning of the board of IFI.

A report by senior counsel Conleth Bradley concluded last July and was sent to the Department and to IFI before being published on November 7.

Senator Kyne said he has read the report, which used legalese to conclude: “There is not a basis, from the alleged disclosures and the information and documentation which have been reviewed, for the Minister to be satisfied that the functions of IFI are not being performed in an effective manner such as to give effect to the removal of all members of IFI from office.”

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

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