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Drunk driver’s victim was tossed 30 metres from car

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A young woman walking home from a party died instantly when she was thrown nearly 30 metres after being struck by a car, a Galway Inquest heard.

Tracey Melia (24) of Tumnahulla, Corrandulla suffered ‘catastrophic head injuries’ when she was hit by a drink driver who left the scene in the early hours of May 10 last year.

Tracey and her boyfriend, John McDonagh, had attended the after-party of a wedding in Peggy’s Bar at Aughclogheen, Corrandulla and had decided to walk the half mile home to her parents’ house.

They had been with Tracey’s parents earlier in the evening at the party and had enjoyed a night among friends and neighbours before heading home shortly after midnight.

The Coroner’s Court heard that there was no footpaths or public lighting and that John had used the torch on his mobile phone to assist them and alert motorists too of their presence.

They had just crossed the road as there was a wider road margin when they heard the noise of a car revving and then coming at high speed.

They jumped up onto the high verge but the car kept coming at them. John told the Inquest he kept waving his torch but he knew they were going to be hit.

Next he knew he woke up on the road and called Tracey’s name but he got no response. Then he saw her lying motionless on the road and he thought she had lost her leg so he ran for help as his phone was dead.

He ran the wrong way and got to Tracey’s home where he found a phone in her dad’s van which he used to call the emergency services.

Meanwhile, passing motorists had also called the emergency services and the road was closed to passing traffic.

A statement given by the drink driver – also a neighbour of Tracey’s – Stephen Flaherty was read at the Inquest.

He admitted to having drunk about 15 pints that evening in Peggy’s Bar and had driven home. However, he had no memory of the accident and was found unconscious in his car in his own driveway by Gardaí. He later cried in the hospital when he was told what had happened.

Flaherty has since been convicted of drunk driving and received a five year prison sentence and has been disqualified from driving for twenty years. He had a blood alcohol reading of 261mg/100mls.

Garda Ollie White, a road traffic accident forensic specialist, said he had concluded that the driver mounted the raised ditch before hitting the pedestrians and that there had been no evidence of him braking.

He estimated that the driver was doing between 59km and 72km per hour at the point of impact and judged this on how far Tracey had been thrown after the impact.

Dr Michael Curtis, pathologist, in his statement, concluded that the cause of death had been from catastrophic head injuries as a result of being struck by a car and thrown almost 30 metres. Her injuries would have caused instant death.

A jury of six returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence.

The Coroner, Ciaran McLoughlin, said it had been an extremely difficult and tragic case saying his heart went out to the whole family on the loss of a young vibrant woman.

CITY TRIBUNE

Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.

Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.

To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.

He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.

In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.

And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.

“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
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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CITY TRIBUNE

Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
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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