A ‘phishing’ scam saw thieves steal €36,000 from Galway County Council, a new audit has revealed.
In a presentation of the findings of the 2017 audit of the local authority books, committee chairperson Des Mahon told last week’s Galway County Council meeting that all but €3,500 of the stolen money had been recovered and the outstanding amount was still being pursued by Gardaí.
Oughterard Independent Councillor Tom Welby queried whether the auditors were satisfied that sufficient safeguards were in place to ensure a similar scam would not happen again.
Mr Mahon said the ‘phishing’ fraudsters had secured a “very significant figure in another council”.
“Lessons were learned. Hopefully it will never happen again. Cyber fraud is a totally different game to what it was.”
International criminals attempted to defraud Meath County Council of €4.3m in late 2016 by impersonating the CEO. The council’s bank was alerted and the theft was detected before it was completed. The funds were frozen in a Hong Kong bank account and that local authority had to initiate legal proceedings to have them returned.
The audit showed there was €5.4 million due from rates by the end of 2017 – which was a significant improvement compared to four years earlier when the debtors amounted to €10.6m.
This was due to an increase in vacant premises and write-offs.
More tenants were falling into arrears with the audit highlighting the €813,000 still outstanding for housing rents – €73,000 more than the year before.
And the arrears extend beyond rents.
“It is a concern that 55% of the housing loan accounts are in arrears for periods greater than three months. The Council apply the mortgage arrears resolution process but in some instances the loans are deemed unsustainable which could lead to repossessions.”
The Council were owed €6m from Government departments – €2.4m of it from Fáilte Ireland.
An agreement had yet to be reached with Galway City Council over the arrears due for shared services for the last seven years.
Council CEO Kevin Kelly said a recent review had modified the proportion of costs slightly in favour of the City Council and they had struck a deal on what each would have to pay until 2021.
The cost of shared services was €6.9m last year.
“We don’t have the agreed figure for arrears. For example we thought it was €95,000 in 2016, €154,000 in 2017 so it’s varying amounts but we have to get agreement with the city on the exact amount.”
Fianna Fáil Councillor Donagh Killilea asked if the audit had investigated the cost of changing the van fleet consisting of up to 20 vans which were to serve as tippers on road works.
He understood that the Council had leased 3.5 tonne vans which had to be replaced with 7.5 tonne vans as they could only carry 400 kilos.
The vans were “not fit for purpose as they cannot carry as much as a bag of sand”.
Mr Kelly said he would investigate the matter further as he too was “in the same game of trying to get value for money”.
Exploring the merits of moving into the west
Broadcaster Mary Kennedy has an abiding image of those early mornings when she’d set out from Dublin at the crack of dawn to begin work on another day’s filming down the country with Nationwide.
“I always liked to go in the morning rather than stay there the night before – so I’d be on the road early. And from the moment I’d hit Newland’s Cross, all I’d see was a line of traffic of people trying to make it from home to their workplace in Dublin,” she says.
These were people whose day began before dawn to get their bleary-eyed kids ready to drop at a childminder along the way, so they could be on time for work – and then race home to hopefully see those same kids before they went to sleep.
But if the pandemic had a positive, it was the realisation that work was something you did, not a place you went to. As a result, many people finally grasped the nettle, moving out of the city and sometimes even taking their work with them.
Which is why Mary – busier than ever since her supposed retirement from RTÉ – is presenting a new television series called Moving West, focusing on those individuals and families who have, as the title, suggests, relocated to the West.
One of the programmes comes from Galway, where Mary met with Stewart Forrest, who relocated with his family from South Africa to Oughterard, and Carol Ho, a Hong Kong native who has also settled in Galway.
The TG4 series also stops off in Sligo, Mayo, Kerry, Clare, Roscommon and Leitrim.
Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Community’s tribute to one of their own – saving final cut of turf after his passing
A local community responded in force to the death of one of their own – a man who had given so much of his life for the good of the parish – by paying one last practical tribute to him last week.
They lifted and footed his turf.
John Geraghty – or Gero as he was known – lived for Gaelic football and he’d filled every role imaginable with the St Brendan’s GAA Club since he came to live in Newbridge in 1983.
He’d cut the turf before he died last Tuesday week, but there it lay, until his old GAA friends organised a bunch of guys – made up of the football team, friends and neighbours – to meet in the bog last Wednesday evening to lift and foot/clamp John’s turf.
“Upwards of 50 fellas from the community showed up,” said St Brendan’s chairman Gerry Kilcommins.
Which was just as well, because, as Gerry acknowledged, John – himself a two-time chairman of the club in the past – had a lot of turf cut!
“It took up an area around three-quarters of the size of a standard football pitch,” he said.
Not that this proved a problem, given the enthusiasm with which they rolled up their sleeves for their old friend.
They started at 7.30pm and had it done at 7.55pm – that’s just 25 minutes from start to finish.
Read the full, heartwarming story – and the St Brendan’s GAA Club appreciation for John Geraghty – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Liver donor dad would do it all again in a heartbeat
It is nearly two years since Paddy Browne gave his daughter Sadhbh part of his liver to save her life. And just ahead of Father’s Day, he reflects on how he would do it all over again in a heartbeat, without a single moment’s hesitation.
After an initial testing time in the first six weeks when they beat a path to the intensive care unit after the operation in St King’s Hospital in London, Sadhbh has never looked back.
“She’s thrived and thrived and thrived. She skips out to school every day. She loves the normal fun and devilment in the yard. She’s now six and started football with Mountbellew Moylough GAA, she loves baking, she’s a voracious reader – she’ll read the whole time out loud while we drive up to Crumlin [Children’s Hospital].”
But it could have all been so different.
Sadhbh from Mountbellew was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia shortly after she was born. She quickly underwent major surgery to drain bile from her liver. It worked well until she reached three years old when an infection caused severe liver damage and she was placed on the liver transplant list.
She was on a long list of medication to manage the consequences of advanced liver disease. While she lived a full life, she would tire very easily.
Paddy was undergoing the rigorous process to be accepted as a living donor when one of the tests ruled him unsuitable. His brother Michael stepped forward and was deemed a good match.
Then, further tests revealed that Paddy was in fact eligible for the operation and the previous result disregarded as a false positive.
Read the full, uplifting story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Organ Donor Cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050. You can also visit the website www.ika.ie/get-a-donor-card or download a free ‘digital organ donor card’ APP to your phone.