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Clean bill of health from toxins for South Park



South Park, Galway

South Park has finally received a clean bill of health following a soil contamination scare there eight years ago.

Results from retests of the soil at South Park shows that there is now no risk to human health and there is actually no need to remediate the site.

Councillor Catherine Connolly, who has campaigned to have the site of the contamination retested to ensure it’s public safety, said she welcomed the results.

Eight years ago the soil at some parts of South Park was found to contaminated due to the discovery of toxic materials, mostly the highly hazardous lead.

The part was then closed off from the public and some remediation works were carried out but later reports still didn’t give Galway City Council the green light to re-open it in full. It’s use had been limited.

Since then it had been left unused as it was believed to be hazardous to public safety – that part of South Park was the site of a former landfill dating back to the seventies.

Yesterday, Cllr Connolly said it was extraordinary that it had taken the best part of eight years for the Council to carry out soil tests and that just over a year ago the Council announced a time frame for rolling out a masterplan for completion by the end of last year, which would have included remediation works.

“Over the past eight years use of the park has been limited to the public and sporting clubs because of the soil contamination identified in the consultants reports and the inherent health and safety risk posed. These reports have cost a substantial amount of tax payers money.

“More than eight years after the soil contamination was first highlighted, the public is being informed that no remediation works are necessary and that the next step in the long saga is for the City Council to apply to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a certification of authorisation for the site. This documentation is apparently currently being prepared by the relevant Council department,” she said.

And though she acknowledged that the news was positive, she found it unbelievable that a masterplan for South Park had been postponed all this time due to a soil contamination that no longer appeared to pose any danger to the public.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

Connacht Tribune

Death driver with drink and drugs in his system is sent to jail



A well-known Galway GAA man died after his car was hit by a vehicle driven by a neighbour who was three times over the drink driving limit and tested positive for cocaine.

PJ Mahoney, a grandfather, father of six and goalkeeper on the championship winning Ardrahan hurling teams in the seventies, was pronounced dead at the scene of the fatal collision, a short distance from his home in Tullira, Ardrahan, on December 7, 2021.

A farmer and contractor in south Galway and north Clare, Mr Mahoney (76) was praised by presidents, Mary McAleese and Michael D Higgins, for his support to flood-hit communities, the court heard.

PJ Mahoney was driving from his home in Ardrahan to Gort to collect a prescription when his car was struck by a car on the wrong side of the road, the court heard.

At Galway Circuit Court this week, Judge Brian O’Callaghan imposed a four-year sentence with the final twelve months suspended, on David Gough (33).

Judge O’Callaghan said Gough’s driving on the day he caused the death of PJ Mahoney “was nothing short of absolute and utter madness”.

In a victim impact statement, the family of PJ Mahoney urged the court to impose the maximum ten-year sentence for what the deceased’s son, Patrick, said was the “reckless, dangerous and mindless actions of the defendant”.

“The grief, pain and distress we feel is deep and hard to describe”, he said.

Patrick Mahoney said the family are “haunted” and have been “robbed” of their ability to grieve.

The court heard PJ Mahoney died a month after the death of his wife, Marie, and days after her month’s mind.

“The image of our father, lying dead on the road, the rain falling on him…”, Patrick Mahoney added.

Patrick Mahoney said reports their father died as a result of the storm, caused distress.

He said weather conditions were calm and his father was a “cautious man” who would not have driven if he thought it was dangerous.

Patrick Mahoney said his father had the GAA in his veins and was synonymous with Ardrahan’s hurling success in the seventies.

He said his father’s death has had a terrible impact on the family and said Gough showed a “knowing, arrogant and reckless disregard for human life”.

David Gough, a father of one and panel beater, with an address at Grannagh, Ardrahan, and originally from Kilderry, Muff, Co Donegal, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of PJ Mahoney.

He also pleaded guilty to counts of drink and drug driving in the Gort area and a separate count of dangerous driving that occurred near Gort, hours before the death of Mr Mahoney.

Garda Jason Clarke confirmed to prosecuting counsel, Geri Silke BL, that when tested after the fatal crash, Gough was three times over the drink driving limit and a blood specimen also tested positive for cocaine and traces of morphine.

Garda Clarke, who was commended for the manner in which he delivered his evidence, told the court the collision occurred near Kiltartan, on a straight stretch of the R458 road between Gort and Ardrahan, on which the speed limit was 80km/h.

Garda Clarke said a Garda investigation, including CCTV taken from “reference” points along the route driven by Gough, estimated the accused was driving at a speed of 131.5 km/h when the head-on collision occurred.

An advanced paramedic pronounced death at the scene and a local priest performed the last rites on Mr Mahoney, the court heard.

Met Eireann issued a storm warning on the day of Mr Mahoney’s death. but Patrick Mahoney said weather conditions were calm when his father left home.

Defence barrister, Bernard Madden SC, told the court he had been instructed by his client to apologise for the manner in which Gough had brought about the death of the deceased.

He said Gough was Mr Mahoney’s neighbour and offered his “deep remorse”.

Counsel said his client started to abuse alcohol and cocaine after the death of his young son.

He said his client instructs he gave up drink and drugs, without the assistance of services, but has no proof of this.

Judge O’Callaghan commended the deceased’s son, Patrick Mahoney.

“It was appropriate and right that the man who went to the scene to meet his dad and formally identify him, gave the most powerful victim impact statement to the court.”

In sentencing, Judge O’Callaghan said: “The facts of this case are quite horrendous.”

He said by way of general comment: “The court has to again ask why so many young people are not only drink driving, but mixing alcohol with cocaine.”

Judge O’Callaghan continued: “It is absolutely frightening, this toxic mixture.”

He said cases come involving drugs and alcohol regularly come before the court, “resulting in tragic and other serious consequences”.

The court heard that, hours prior to the fatal collision, Gough was involved in a separate incident of dangerous driving where he followed shop worker Lauren Deely from Labane to Gort.

Gda Clarke told the court that Ms Deely said: “I was afraid he was going to crash into me.”

Judge O’Callaghan said: “The taunting of Ms Deely in such a serious and dangerous manner and putting her in fear of her life – not once but twice – it is so hard to understand.”

He said it is of no comfort to the family that Mr Mahoney was “quite literally in the wrong place at the wrong time”.

Judge O’Callaghan set a headline sentence of six years and imposed a post mitigation sentence of four years.

Judge O’Callaghan suspended the final twelve months and imposed a concurrent four-month sentence for the other dangerous driving charge.

The judge also imposed a mandatory four-year driving ban.

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Connacht Tribune

‘Double standards’ on Covid bonus for hospital catering workers



More than half of all contracted catering workers in the country’s hospitals have yet to receive any special Covid payment for working during the pandemic.

That’s according to Galway Senator Aisling Dolan (pictured) who highlighted the plight of these essential workers, citing in particular the situation at her local Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe.

But there’s no happy ending in sight for the 55 per of them who are so far empty-handed, given the reaction to her plea in Seanad Eireann last week.

Minister of State Martin Hayden said that there were individuals or groups of workers, who worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, who were not covered by these criteria for payment.

He said that it was difficult to draw a line on the matter but that the Government based its decision on the risks faced by ‘eligible frontline health care workers’.

Senator Dolan, Fine Gael’s Seanad spokesperson on Education and Mental Health, said that contract workers – in catering and cleaning services – took the same risks as health care staff to keep patients safe during the crisis.

“They brought meals to patients in Covid-19 wards. However, almost a year and six months later, these contract employees have still not received payment,” she said.

The Ballinasloe Senator said that she was assured that once the eligible front-line HSE workers received their payments, the contract employees would also be catered for.

“These contract employees, who are mainly women, from Portiuncula Hospital have come to me again to ask where their payment is,” she said.

“I ask the Minister for Health why they and their families are left waiting. These staff on lower incomes are still waiting for this acknowledgement from Government, the Department of Health and the HSE.

“They worked alongside their colleagues employed directly by the HSE in the same roles and doing the same work, and they see how all other groups have been paid in advance of them.

“HSE employees, nurses, doctors and health and social care professionals received this payment last year and it was well deserved, but why is this group left waiting?” asked Senator Dolan.

She said that the group she spoke to at Portiuncula Hospital were proud of what they achieved, their engagement with patients and how they contributed to saving lives while working with colleagues in hospitals countrywide.

“It is important this invaluable team spirit in hospital environments across the country is not tarnished by further delays,” Senator Dolan added.

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Connacht Tribune

Funding for dedicated cancer care facility in Galway



Development of a dedicated cancer centre at University Hospital Galway “passed the first hurdle” this week as the project was included in the HSE’s Capital Plan.

The document, which sets out the health service’s annual plan for capital investment, commits to furthering the design feasibility of the project this year.

Minister of State Anne Rabbitte (FF) said its inclusion was a welcome step forward for what she believed would be a “beacon of best practice” in cancer care for the region.

“Ultimately, the Cancer Care centre would include operating theatres inpatient ward accommodation, an ambulatory day care centre and associated diagnostics.

“There’s now funding set aside for initiating the design feasibility in 2023 which I’m sure will be progressed as quickly as possible,” said the Galway East TD.

This comes following years of campaigning by health care professionals and local representatives who have highlighted inequality in access to treatment for cancer patients in the West.

As reported by the Connacht Tribune last week, cancer sufferers in the West have poorer survival rates than those elsewhere in the country, with Saolta Health Care Group CEO, Tony Canavan, stating that “infrastructural challenges” were impacting on care delivery.

“Later presentation [with symptoms], geographic dispersion, aging population and deprivation index all contribute to the cancer incidence and outcomes in the Saolta region,” he said.

Minister Rabbitte said when the cancer centre was delivered, patients in the West would have a world-class service – and she would be demanding funding was secured to not only plan the centre, but deliver it.

“Over the past twelve months, I have been working with officials in the Department of Health, the HSE at a national and local level, as well as the Saolta Group, clinicians in Galway and Cancer Care West to advance this project.

“This is a pivotal development for cancer patients in Galway and, once finally commissioned, will need hundreds of millions invested to deliver a world-class cancer centre at the hospital,” she said.

The annual HSE Capital Plan announced on Monday also included for the extension of the Emergency Department at Portiuncula Hospital.

Minister Rabbitte said the extension would ease pressure on the ED and followed significant investment already made in the Ballinasloe hospital.

“This is an issue I raised with the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during his visit to the hospital earlier this year. This comes on top of the 50-bed ward block that’s under construction, as well as the additional rooms in the outpatients’ department being delivered,” she said.

“These are two important developments for Galway and I will continue to work with the various stakeholders to ensure that progress is made to bring these projects through to construction.”

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