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Con men steal €367k – leave pensioner penniless



Date Published: 17-Dec-2009

Two con men described as “Angels from Heaven” by a naive, elderly Oranmore widow whom they have left penniless by extorting an estimated €400,000 from her bank accounts.

Conor Murphy (42), a native of 51, Davis Road, Shantalla, with an address at 116 Castlepark, Ballybane, Galway, who was the “brains” behind the scam pleaded guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court this week to six sample charges of inducing Mrs. Mary Ellen Walsh (71), a native of Glenascaul, Oranmore with a more recent address in Craughwell, to make 49 cheques payable to him over an 11-month period between December 2006 and October, 2007, totalling €367,100.

Conor Murphy and his brother, Jimmy Murphy (46), with an address in Mallow, Co. Cork, who pleaded guilty to extorting €28,500 from the victim, got wind from a mutual friend that Mrs. Walsh had sold her home along with five acres of land at Glenascaul, in 2006 for €4 million and they quickly moved in to con her out of her savings.

Mrs. Walsh had, in fact, received €3.3 million from the sale and she gave half of the money to her only son who lives in Cork, bought a new home for herself in Craughwell for €335,000 and put the remainder of the money in a deposit and a current account in permanent TSB in Galway city.

Conor Murphy convinced Mrs. Walsh he owned 35 acres of land in Moycullen and would sell it to her for €150,000, claiming she would make a huge profit in the transaction by selling it on to developers.

He owned no such lands, yet he extorted €9,000 from her for fake planning and architectural fees.

He quickly found out she had cancer and he told her he was suffering from cancer too to draw her into his confidence. He brought a faith healer into her house, claiming she could be cured and he claimed he was having visions of her dead brother.

“They began bringing religious objects into the house and she really believed she had met two angels from heaven,” Det. Sgt. Martin Glynn, from Gort Garda Station, who investigated the matter, told the court.

He described Mrs. Walsh as a trusting person who was very religious but who was also very naive.

“She is in financial ruin and has only her pension to survive on now. She has no other asset except her house,” he said.

Det. Glynn explained Mrs. Walsh’s father had owed a farm at Glenascaul and she returned home in the 1960’s having spent a number of years in the U.S. working as an air hostess.

She got married and lived on the family farm raising two daughters and a son. One daughter now lives in Dublin and the other in Cork.

Her husband died in the 1970’s and most of the family farm was repossessed by the banks, leaving her with just the house and five acres of land. She always felt aggrieved that she had been done out €120,000 by the banks and a local developer at the time.

Conor Murphy took advantage of this grievance. He told her he was in the IRA and would use the “services” of the Border Fox, Dessie O’Hare, to take care of the local developer (named Dooley in court), whom Mrs. Walsh felt had benefited from the repossession of most of her farm.

“She says she will never forget the day they were at the house and they told her they had shot Dooley who was a developer years ago. She was told Conor had shot Dooley. Jimmy had a revolver and she was told the gun was used to shoot Dooley,” Det. Glynn said.

The court heard Dooley had gained from the “above board” repossession of Mrs. Walsh’s land and had ended up with a portion of it which he subsequently developed. He was never shot, Det. Glynn added.

He said Mrs. Walsh was now living in fear of the brothers and felt that if they didn’t attack her they would get someone else to do so.

Judge Raymond Groarke said the whole thrust of the evidence was that the woman believed she would be getting the lands in Moycullen which Conor Murphy never owned. he was informed by two defence teams representing both accused that there was no compensation available to repay Mrs. Walsh as both men were in receipt of invalidity allowances.

Both accused walked briskly from the courtroom as Judge Groarke adjourned sentencing in the case to January 13. He remanded the brothers on continuing bail to that date and directed the preparation of probation reports.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

The true story of the saint that the church wanted to airbrush



Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

Italian saint, Francis of Assisi will get a new lease of life in Francis, the Holy Jester, a free one-man show being performed at Muscailt Arts Festival on February 5.

The play about the renowned saint, who died in 1226 was written by Italian Nobel prize-winner Dario Fo, and this performance is by Mario Pirovano, a long-time collaborator with Fo, who translated the piece into English.

It embraces papal history, biblical stories, and controversial Italian politics while exploring the life of one of the Catholic Church’s most famous saints. It also shows how the medieval Church was so afraid of Francis and his relationship with ordinary people that it set about sanitising his legacy and elevating him above the reach of his followers.

Mario, who lives near to St Francis’s home of Assisi, speaks eloquently and passionately about the saint and the way that Dario Fo has brought the Francis’s message to modern audiences in a timeless, dramatic way, while casting new light on the famous Italian Franciscan monk.

But first, he explains why this was necessary.

Francis was born at the end of the 12th century and died at the age of 46. By then, he had created great embarrassment for the Church, simply because of the way he lived his life, explains Mario. He treated people in a genuinely Christian way and wanted to tell the Gospels in people’s own language rather than in Latin.

The Church hierarchy – what an awful word, he says – decided to rewrite the story of his life and, 50 years after his death, only one official account of his life was permitted by the authorities. That was written by a fellow Franciscan, St Bonaventure, who had been ordered to destroy many of Francis’s papers and write a sanitised biography. All other books on him were deemed heretical.

The Church was afraid of him, stresses Mario, and so decided to distance him from the ordinary people, by canonising him shortly after he died. Francis was the fastest saint ever produced in the history of the Church, being canonised within three years of passing on, says Mario. That took him away from ordinary people, as they felt they couldn’t aspire to such greatness.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Moycullen come up short against favourites in U-18 Boys National Cup Final



Date Published: 31-Jan-2013

Belfast Star 68

Moycullen 57

Moycullen came up short in the club’s first ever appearance in the U-18 National Cup Final, losing to a classy Belfast Star team that completed a club double, having won the U-19 title earlier in the day.


Moycullen entered the game as slight underdogs, and Belfast lived up to their status as favourites early on as they raced into an early 8-0 lead as Conor Quinn had the hot hand, connecting on two 3-point shots to start the game.

As the quarter wore on Moycullen began to settle into the game as Paddy Lyons and Stephen O’Brien in particular found their scoring touch as they combined for 13 points in the first quarter which Moycullen trailed 23-19.

The second quarter was another close affair as both teams really stepped up their defensive intensity with Sean Candon and Stephen O’Brien doing an excellent job defending Belfast two 6-8 inside players, while Darragh Mulkerrins, Mark Rohan and Paddy Lyons shared the responsibility of guarding Belfast’s Aidan and Conor Quinn.

Belfast held the slight lead at the end of the first half 35-32 with Conor Quinn leading the way for Belfast with a total of 17 first half points while Stephen O’Brien continued where he left off in the first quarter by scoring 16 first half points for the Galway team.

Belfast went on a scoring run in the third quarter, giving themselves a 10-point lead midway through the period. Belfast were doing an excellent job switching their defences as Moycullen’s usually free flowing offence really struggled to gain any sort of momentum in the 3rd period.

The introduction of Joseph Tummon off the bench seemed to settle Moycullen back into the game as he scored six straight points towards the end of the third period.


For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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