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Drink driver caused ‘chronic, life-changing injuries’ in crash



A driver who was three times over the legal alcohol limit, caused chronic, life-changing injuries to another motorist while chasing her now ex-partner, whom she mistakenly believed had abducted her son from her home.

Oonagh Carter (36), from 13 Ashfield Road, Greenfields, Newcastle, received a three-year suspended sentence and was disqualified from driving for four years at Galway Circuit Criminal Court.

She pleaded guilty in January to driving dangerously at Polkeen, Castlegar, on July 10, 2016, which caused serious bodily harm to the male driver of another car.

She also pleaded guilty to a second charge of drunken driving at N17, Tuam Road, Castlegar, on the same date, which stated that a blood sample taken from her at the time gave a reading of 168mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

The reading showed she was more than three times over the maximum legal blood/alcohol limit, which is 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

Sentence was adjourned to last week’s court for the preparation of a probation report on Carter and a victim impact statement from the injured man.

Garda Dermot Hardiman said he arrived at the scene of the head-on collision, finding one of the cars over on its side. The impact had occurred on Carter’s incorrect side of the road.

Carter, he said, had been driving a BMW while the other motorist had been driving a Passat.  The injured man had to be cut from his vehicle.

Both he and Carter were removed by ambulance from the scene. A blood sample was taken from Carter in the hospital which gave the above reading.

Garda Hardiman said Carter had a few drinks in town earlier that night where she had a dispute with her partner.  She got a taxi home and went to bed.  The argument continued at home and he stormed out of the house. She presumed he had taken her son and she jumped into her car, barefoot and dressed in her night attire, and drove after him out the Tuam road.

The injured man underwent emergency lifesaving surgery that night for internal injuries he sustained in the impact.

He also suffered a fractured vertebrae in his neck and developed sepsis and a blood clot post-surgery. He spent a month in hospital recovering from his injuries.

Garda Hardiman said the man still suffers from quite severe, life-changing conditions as a result of the internal injuries he sustained that night.

His victim impact statement was read into evidence by Garda Hardiman as he did not wish to attend court.

The man said that while he felt lucky to be alive, he no longer felt safe and confident and had been unable to return to work.

He said his favourite pasttime had been driving cars but he could no longer do that.  He continues to have trouble sleeping and sees the lights of the other car coming towards him.

“My independence and confidence have been stripped away. I cannot garden and I cannot play with my grandchild.  I have pain every day.  I have a constant stream of medical check-ups and I will be under the care of the surgical team in UHG for a long time,” the man said in his victim impact statement.

Defence barrister, Conal McCarthy, said Carter wanted to publicly apologise to the man and his family.

He said it was an exceptional case in that Carter didn’t intend to drink and drive that night.

“She had done everything right by leaving her car at home and taking a taxi into town.  She drank three to four craft beers and a couple of pints and took another taxi home.

“She went to bed and fell asleep but her then boyfriend woke her up and they had a fight.”

Mr McCarthy said Carter suddenly believed the man had left her home with her son and she hopped into her car and went after him.

He said his client suffered significant injuries in the impact too.

Judge Rory McCabe said the other innocent driver had suffered “profound and serious injuries” while going about his own business that night and the fact that Carter had taken alcohol was an aggravating factor.

However, he said, Carter’s probation report could not be any more positive and sending her to jail would not bring the victim back to full health or serve the interests of justice.

The judge said she had made a bad decision that night and her barrister had painted a picture of a concerned parent who mistakenly believed her son was being abducted.

He sentenced Carter to three years in prison for the dangerous driving causing serious injury charge which he suspended for five years and imposed a four-year disqualification.  A concurrent four-year disqualification was also imposed for the drunken driving charge.


Galway City Council Chief asked to intervene after Kirwan junction ‘near misses’



From the Galway City Tribune – Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, has been urged to intervene and instigate a review of the controversial changeover of Kirwan roundabout to a traffic light junction.

A relative of the Collins’ family, who operate a B&B on Headford Road, has pleaded with Mr McGrath to act to make it safe to enter and exit this house.

Joseph Murphy, from County Galway but living in England, a relative of the owners of the B&B located on the N84 side of the Headford Road, has warned of the potential for a serious collision at that junction.  He wrote to Mr McGrath, and copied all city councillors including Mayor of Galway, Clodagh Higgins (FG), seeking a review of the junction and in particular access to the B&B. Mr Murphy said he has been driving for forty years but this junction was “one of the most difficult and complicated traffic light junctions I have ever experienced”.

The CCTV shows a van stopping in the junction to give way to pedestrians before entering the B&B.

He said he wrote the letter because he nearly had a serious accident, due to no fault of his, when leaving the residence.

An amber traffic lights system is in place at the house, since the junction changeover last year, which is supposed to help motorists exit onto the Headford Road from the B&B.

This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. A one-year digital subscription costs just €89.00. The print edition is in shops every Friday.

He said the lights are complicated and it was unreasonable and unfair on his family and any guests staying at their B&B who may be endangered trying to enter or exit the driveway.

Videos of ‘near misses’ recorded on CCTV footage, and supplied to Councillor Mike Crowe (FF), have been seen by the Galway City Tribune.

They give a flavour of how dangerous it is to exit the residence on an amber light; and indicate an apparent lack of understanding of the system on the part of other motorists.

Cllr Crowe and other elected members raised this safety issue at a Council meeting last week during a discussion on the City Development Plan. It was decided to rezone some land adjacent to Sandyvale Lawn, which would allow for a new entrance to the house to be constructed, although there is no timeframe.

Mr Murphy, in his email to officials and councillors said it was an “extremely busy junction”.

“I do not believe that enough planning or consideration was taken when the traffic lights were installed, especially those that were installed directly in front of my sister’s house.

“My relatives in Galway should not have to worry every time they leave their house nor should anyone coming from the Menlo direction have to worry about getting blocked in by other vehicles when entering my sister’s house,” he said.

Mr Murphy added: “I would urge the Galway City Council to carry out an immediate review to make this busy junction safe before somebody gets hurt in a serious accident.”

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Plan for former pub in Galway to house Ukrainian refugees



From the Galway City Tribune – The former Lantern Bar in Ballybane has been proposed to accommodate Ukrainians seeking refuge in Galway.

The Galway City Tribune has learned that works are underway on the building to advance the plans.

The Council confirmed that they had been briefed on the proposal but refused to be drawn on the details.

“Galway City Council is aware of a proposal to use the Lantern Bar at Ballybane Shopping Centre for refugees,” said a spokesperson.

“The coordination of the development of accommodation facilities such as this is the responsibility of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.”

This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. A one-year digital subscription costs just €89.00. The print edition is in shops every Friday.

The local authority spokesperson said they did not have information on the number of people who would be accommodated, nor did they know when the facility might be open.

The Lantern Bar has not operated as a pub for some time, although its licence was renewed on appeal at Galway Circuit Court in February 2020 when the court was told that it was intended to sell the premises.

The bar, which had been the location of a series of public order incidents in 2019, had previously had its licence revoked following several objections from residents.

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City centre residents’ fears over new late-night opening hours



From the Galway City Tribune – Residents in one of the city centre’s oldest residential areas fear their lives will be turned upside-down by proposed later opening hours for pubs and nightclubs.

Chairperson of the Bowling Green Residents’ Association, Jackie Uí Chionna, told a public meeting of the City’s Joint Policing Committee (JPC) that as city centre residents, anti-social behaviour was part of their daily lives.

However, they expected the situation to worsen if Government proceeded with proposals to extend nightclub opening hours to 6.30am.

“Our concern at our recent AGM was the longer pub opening hours – it will result in an increase in [anti-social behaviour],” said Ms Uí Chionna.

She said it was their belief that this policy went against the right of city centre residents to “exist and live as a community” in the middle of town.

“We oppose increasing opening hours. We won’t have any sleep – we have minimal as it is. And we won’t feel safe to walk on the streets.

“It is regrettable that there has been so little consultation with gardaí and residents,” said Ms Uí Chionna.

Chief Superintendent Gerard Roche said Gardaí were waiting to see what happened with the legislation for later opening hours.

“On one hand, not having 5,000 or 10,000 people coming out at the one time will be a benefit but the question is if they won’t [come out at one time]. And will businesses buy into it?” questioned the Chief Supt.

Meanwhile, another Bowling Green resident and former city councillor, Nuala Nolan, raised concerns about the new model of policing and said rostering, which had gardaí working three days on and four days off was making it difficult to follow up on matters with community gardaí.

“You can’t get that person when they’re off for another four days – the continuity is gone,” said Ms Nolan.

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