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Families’ grief multiplied by robberies from graves

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A 39-year-old man has been found guilty by a jury of handling statues and other religious ornaments which were stolen from graves, including children’s graves, in Lackagh and Annaghdown four years ago.

Marian Lingurar, who used to live at the time in a rented house with his family at Loughgeorge, Claregalway, pleaded not guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court last week to eleven charges of handling various religious items at Loughgeorge, knowing they were stolen, on October 4, 2011.

The items mentioned in the charges included various statues of Our Lady, an angel with a harp, a white angel with candle, a white angel with frosted globe, a statue of the Sacred Heart, and an angel holding a gold cross.

The accused, who was afforded the services of a Romanian interpreter during the arraignment, replied “No” when each charge was put to him.

A jury of eight women and four men was empanelled to hear evidence in the trial which lasted three days.

Nine people gave evidence they noticed religious ornaments had been taken from the graves of their loved ones in late August and early September, 2011.

In early October, Gardaí informed the public they had recovered items and an array of religious objects were put on display in a shed at the rear of Oranmore Garda Station for people to come and claim.

All of the witnesses said they went to the Garda Station and positively identified the objects which had been taken from their loved one’s graves.

Some of the witnesses gave heart-rending evidence of how and when they noticed items had been taken off their children’s graves.

Some lovingly handled the ornaments – which were exhibits in the trial – while in the witness box and they positively identified them for the jury by pointing out certain characteristics which set their ornaments apart from the others.

Other witnesses gave evidence of statues being “yanked” out of grotto’s erected by local communities in Oranmore and Kiltrogue.

One woman said a statue erected as part of a headstone on her parent’s grave cost €650 to replace as it had to be ordered from Spain.

The woman said she identified the statue of Our Lady with the Infant Child at Oranmore Garda Station.

It had been taken by force, she said, from her parents’ headstone in Lackagh New Cemetery, and she did not want it back.

“I helped my mother choose the headstone with the gold statue of Our Lady for my father’s grave.  It cost a lot of money.  She was subsequently buried there herself.

“Even after it was found, I didn’t want the statue back. As far as I was concerned, it was tainted.

“Someone had walked across my parents’ grave and stolen it. It was made from a marble resin with gold paint. It was very well glued into the headstone, and it would have taken some effort to take it from the grotto,” the woman said.

Sgt. John Moloney gave evidence he and other Gardaí searched Lingurar’s house after obtaining a search warrant early on the morning of October 5, 2011.

For legal reasons, the jury was not told during the trial that Gardaí had, in fact, gone to the house with a search warrant as part of an investigation into the killing of the late John Kenny from Oughterard, who was found dead in his pub on September 25, 2011.

To their surprise, they were confronted with a large array of ornaments stolen from the graves a month earlier when they entered Lingurar’s house.

Numerous religious ornaments were openly displayed on shelves and tables and around the TV in the living area of the house.

Sgt. Moloney said he got a shock to see so many religious ornaments and he felt it strange as he would normally associate such items with graveyards.

Lingurar told Gardaí he and his wife had bought the items from Claregalway and Clara flea markets.  He said they enjoyed buying such items and he would never steal items like that.

Sgt. Moloney said he had visited Claregalway market on a number of occasions and no such items were ever on sale there.

Detective Sergeant Adrian O’Neill said he arrested Lingurar at the house at 7.24am that morning and he was later interviewed at Galway Garda Station.

Lingurar, he said, told him he and his wife bought the statues at Claregalway and Clara flea markets and that they had been buying religious objects like this since 2006.

He denied stealing any of the items and said “I do not like to steal things like this.”

He said his wife, Crisa Rostas, was in the trade of statuettes.

Lingurar gave evidence he had been in Ireland since 2002 and he and his wife had bought the religious ornaments as it was the tradition of Romany gypsies to keep religious items on display in their homes.

He said they started buying items from both flea markets in 2006 and kept adding to their collection year on year. He was not aware, he said, that any of the items were stolen.

During cross-examination by prosecuting barrister, Conor Fahy, Lingurar pointed to photographs of several ornaments and claimed to have bought them between 2006 and 2010.

Mr Fahy said that could not be true as the items had only been reported missing in August and September 2011.

Lingurar told the jury he had paid for the items from money earned working as a security guard in a new building situated adjacent to Galway Garda Station and from social welfare payments.

Following legal argument in the absence of the jury, Judge Rory McCabe directed the jury on their return to enter “not guilty” verdicts on three of the charges, due to insufficient evidence.

The jury took just under two hours to find Lingurar guilty on the remaining eight charges.

Defence barrister, Gary McDonald asked for sentence to be adjourned so he could obtain a prison governor’s report on his client.

Judge McCabe directed the preparation of the report and adjourned sentence to next Friday, November 27.

Lingurar is currently serving a four-year sentence imposed on him last April for withholding evidence during a Garda investigation into the death of the late John Kenny.

CITY TRIBUNE

Party-goers in Galway hit with Covid fines

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Galway’s most senior Garda has issued a renewed appeal this week for young people to desist from organising or attending any house parties as the local Covid-19 situation worsens – last week Gardaí were called to break up a number of gatherings in different parts of the city.

A total of 15 people were found to be attending one house party in the Salthill area last weekend while Gardaí were called to two other smaller gatherings – one in the Doughiska area and the other in Rahoon.

Cautions and Fixed Payment Notices (fines) were issued to a number of those involved. This week, Chief Superintendent Tom Curley has pleaded with young people ‘to stay away at all costs’ from such gatherings.

“We have very high Covid incidence rates in the Galway area over the past week; death rates from the disease are at their highest ever level; and the last thing we need now is groups of people coming together in confined settings.

“If one person has Covid at such a gathering then, in all probability, most others there will pick it up too and spread it their contacts and family members. I am pleading for people just not to do this.

“We are entering into our most critical period in trying to contain the spread of Covid-19, with the next month or so absolutely vital in our efforts to keep everyone healthy and safe and to try and avoid further loss of life,” he said.
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

Community gives new lease of life to Merlin allotments

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – In 2018, the allotments in Merlin Woods were in danger of falling by the wayside, with declining numbers and underuse blighting a facility that had huge potential.

Since then, the community has pulled together to create a space that locals are proud of and one that its advocates are hoping could be a template for other communities across the city.

Chairperson of the Committee behind this new lease of life is Michael Tully, who says the allotments have become a focal point for area, bringing together locals from all walks of life.

“It’s all about netting the community together and the response we’re getting has been unbelievable,” says Michael, who joined the committee in 2018.

“I started off as a user of Merlin Woods, walking by the allotments and thinking to myself that it would be great to grow my own fruit and veg.

“I started talking to a few of the plot-holders like John Rabbitte, Martin Lohan, Jim McCormack and Daithí O’Brien and they told me how to apply. I applied to the City Council and got my allotment in early 2018 and there were about eight allotments in use at that stage, all of us working away on our own.”

Two years later, all 42 allotments are in use, but it took the cooperation of Galway City Council and Trojan work from the community to get it to this point, explains Michael.

“We came down here every Saturday to clear the paths, dig out the weeds and make the place better. The sense of community was unbelievable. Anyone who couldn’t dig was bringing down flasks of tea and cakes to those that were,” he laughs.
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

National Transport Authority to progress Galway’s Park and Ride

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A dedicated unit established within the National Transport Authority will look at the potential of Park and Ride to help solve Galway City’s traffic congestion problem.

Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, said that Park and Ride facilities should not be restricted to the east, and sites needed to be located to the west and north-west to take account of commuters from Connemara.

Mr McGrath said Park and Ride would be advanced this year as part of the Galway Transport Strategy. He said that the Council, in conjunction with the dedicated unit within the NTA, would investigate feasible sites for the location of Park and Ride facilities.

Mr McGrath said that site selection and acquisition of land could commence in the second quarter of this year. He said he expected that Park and Ride would be progressed well before the Galway City Ring Road was built.

Director of Services for Transport, Ruth McNally, also said that the NTA was looking at the potential of sites in the city for Park and Ride and she insisted that money – or a lack of it – was not halting progress.

“Money is not a major issue for capital projects,” she said.

They were responding at Monday’s City Council meeting to councillors who lamented the slow progress on developing Park and Ride.
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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