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Cocaine addict ‘feels safer in prison’ due to drug debt




The driver of a car which was found to contain a stash of stolen power tools, feels safer in prison due to his €36,000 drug debt, a court was told.

Anthony Barrett (20), 17 Fana Glas, Ballybane, became a driver and lookout for others involved in the theft of power tools from around the country, after running up the debt while feeding his cocaine habit.

Barrett pleaded guilty before a special sitting of Galway District Court to charges of handling the tools, knowing they were stolen, in the carpark of Peggy’s Bar, Corrandulla on March 20 last year.

Inspector John Maloney told the court Garda Barry Nugent and other Gardai kept a car containing the stolen power tools under surveillance and arrested Barrett after he got into the car and started the engine.  He admitted during interview he had been involved in the theft of the tools from various locations in the Midlands.

He told Gardai his role was to drive the car and act as a lookout for others.

All of the items were returned to their rightful owners thanks to Barrett’s co-operation with the Garda investigation.

Barrett also pleaded guilty to a plethora of charges relating to the theft of the tools and cash, causing criminal damage and interfering with cars at various locations near Shannon Bridge and Banagher in Co Offaly on the same date last March, which had occurred prior to the Galway handling charges.

He made full admissions to Gardai about his involvement in those offences and the court heard that without those admissions it would have been difficult for Gardai in Offaly to prosecute him.

Separately, Barrett pleaded guilty to driving without insurance in Galway on March 17 last year and again on February 26 last.

Inspector Maloney confirmed Barrett had 23 previous convictions, including several for driving without insurance, thefts, causing criminal damage, and dangerous driving.

Defence solicitor, Sean Acton, said his client had been held on remand at Castlerea Prison on a series of unrelated dangerous driving charges and he felt safer there.

“He was the driver and lookout.  He was under enormous pressure arising from his drug addiction which began in November 2017, when he started using cocaine . . . which left him with a €36,000 drug debt and because of that he got embroiled in these crimes,” Mr Acton explained.

He said Barrett was only 20 years old and was unable to deal with his addictions alone.

“He is now 18 months into his addictions and he told me he has since gone onto heroin. His life is completely out of control.

“His situation ‘on the outside’ is, perhaps, a little bit more dangerous than where he is now,” Mr Acton said.

Judge John King noted Barrett was a serial offender who repeatedly drove without insurance.

He imposed two, three-month consecutive sentences for driving without insurance on two separate dates and disqualified him from driving for four years.

He imposed a further consecutive six-month prison sentence for Garda Nugent’s charges relating to the handling of the stolen power tools.

The judge also noted that the Offaly charges could not have been brought without Barrett’s admissions and for that reason he imposed a further six-month sentence, which he suspended for two years on condition Barrett come under the supervision of the probation service on his release for 12 months.


Voice of ‘Big O’ reflects on four decades

Denise McNamara



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The daytime voice of Big O Taxis is celebrating four decades in the role – and she has no plans to hang up her headset any time soon.

Roisin Freeney decided to seek a job after staying at home to mind her three children for over a decade. It was 1981 when she saw an advert in the Connacht Sentinel for a dispatch operator.

The native of Derry recalls that the queue for the job wound its way past Monroe’s Tavern from the taxi office on Dominick Street.

“There was a great shortage of work back then. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the line of people. My then husband who was giving me a lift in never thought I’d get the job, he was driving on past and I said, let me off.

“I got it because I worked as a telephonist in the telephone exchange in Derry. But I was terrified starting off because I hadn’t been in the work system for so long.”

Back then Big O Taxis had only 25 drivers and just a single line for the public to book a cab.

“We had an old two-way radio, you had to speak to the driver and everybody could listen in. It was easy to leave the button pressed when it shouldn’t be pressed. People heard things they shouldn’t have – that’s for sure,” laughs Roisin.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of Róisín’s story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Baby boom puts strain on Galway City secondary schools

Stephen Corrigan



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A baby boom in the late 2000s has left parents of sixth class pupils in Galway City scrambling to find a secondary school place for their children next September – with over 100 children currently facing the prospect of rejection from city schools.

The Department of Education is now rushing to address the issue and confirmed to the Galway City Tribune this week that it was fully aware of increasing pressure and demand on city schools

Local councillor Martina O’Connor said there were 100 more children more than there were secondary school places for next year, and warned that this would put severe pressure on schools to increase their intake numbers.

“This will put a lot of pressure on schools because they will have been working out the number of teachers and what resources they would need in October or November last year and they could be facing a situation where they will be asked to take an additional eight or 10 students.

“There would normally be a small excess – maybe two or three – but this year, it’s over 100. There is a bigger number of children in sixth class this year and there will be the same issue for the next few years,” said the Green Party councillor.

A Department spokesperson said while there were capacity issues, factors other than numbers could be at play, adding that there were approximately 1,245 children in the city due to move onto secondary school in September.
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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GMIT warns partying students they are delaying return to campus

Enda Cunningham



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Partying students have been told their actions have impacted GMIT’s plans to re-start practical classes on campus – and Gardaí are monitoring the city’s bus and train stations to catch those breaking the 5km travel restriction by returning home for the weekend.

College authorities said the current “extremely serious outbreak” of Covid-19 among students in Galway City was caused by a small minority who are “moving and mixing between different households”.

Following a meeting with Gardaí last week, GMIT contacted all students to clarify that because there are no ‘onsite’ classes, there should be no need to travel for educational purposes.

“The Gardaí have notified us that there will be checks at the bus and train stations to implement the 5km travel rule, as well as checkpoints on the roads, and that fines will be given for any non-compliance with this rule,” students were told.

In a separate communication issued this week, the college’s Covid Officer appealed to students to abide by the rules.

“This outbreak has had an impact on our plans with regard to return to onsite practical work, with consequences for all students.

“We are appealing to all students to comply with all Covid restrictions and in doing so, to help ensure that those students who have to return to onsite practical work can do so,” the email read.

Many students from outside the city have opted to stay in their accommodation for access to better broadband.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and more coverage of Covid figures and vaccinations, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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