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Family says woman ‘demonised and criminalised’ by Council

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Paddy Cummins remembers like it was yesterday the afternoon he got a phone call to say his sister, Bríd, had taken her own life.

It was December 6, 2004, and Paddy was at work at the C&C Group in Clonmel town where he was operations manager. Angela, his older sister, broke the news.

“I was stunned. I couldn’t believe what she was saying. I thought it was a joke. I rang Bríd every week. I visited her every couple of weeks. We were best buddies because we were nearest in age. I was stunned,” says Paddy, in his first ever interview about the death which sparked controversy.

With suicide there are always more questions than answers. But this was different – and the Cummins family believes her death was preventable.

Bríd, a former journalist, who had mental health issues, fought eviction by Galway City Council from the council house she was living in. The Council had secured an eviction order against her in November 2004. She appealed the decision but was willing to leave voluntarily if she could stay for Christmas. The Council refused and according to the court order she was to vacate the property on December 6, 2004.

Housing agency COPE said it was instructed by the Council not to provide crisis accommodation for the 48-year-old. On that date she was found dead in her flat in Munster Avenue when officials turned up to get back the house keys from her. The tragedy is known as the Bríd Cummins Affair and is regarded as a stain on the city.

“For someone to die in the circumstances that she did was a huge trauma and everybody knows that that type of death (suicide) is a huge tragedy on its own but to have so many avenues and negatives connected with it makes it 100 times worse,” he said.

The Cummins’ family have always felt that the local authority did not act in a professional manner in the way they dealt with Bríd. That assertion has been strengthened by details in the book ‘Abuse of Power: Because Councils Can’ by author and Council whistleblower, Julie Grace. The book published last year, which charts the story of Bríd and how she was treated by the Council, revealed new evidence of the affair that the family wasn’t aware of.

The family believes the Council fabricated an anti-social behaviour case against their sister and criminalised her. “Bríd didn’t get a fair hearing,” says Paddy. “My whole beef with the Council is they demonised her and they criminalised her. We feel she got a raw deal. They took away her name; they took away her character.”

He called on the executive of Galway City Council to ‘do the decent thing’. “What we’re looking for is an apology and the restoration of her name. The apology is for the lack of professionalism and dignity in the way she was treated. They need to recognise the fact that they could have handled it a lot more professionally with more dignity and humanity because, in effect, they criminalised a single, young woman to justify throwing her out of the house.”

The Cummins family felt they were treated “appallingly” when arriving at Galway Garda Station on the day of Bríd’s death, and by Council officials when they visited Munster Avenue. But, by and large, they are overwhelmed by, and grateful for, the support from the people of Galway, including friends of Bríd.

Paddy appeals to Galway City Councillors to play their part in bringing closure. “Leave the politics to one side. This is a humanitarian case. We are an ordinary family that never hurt anyone in our lives. All we are expecting from the elected representatives and the executive is to step back from the stubbornness and take a humanitarian look at this.”

And as for the cynics who might snipe from the sidelines and claim that the family’s motives aren’t pure, Paddy insists: “We’re absolutely not on a witch-hunt. That’s not who we are. We have made that clear. My family and I have no interest in revenge . . . If I was out to get money from the Council all I have to do is go to a solicitor and take an action. But that’s not what it’s about. That won’t bring back my sister. All we are interested in is my sister is not a criminal, was never a criminal – she didn’t have a criminal bone in her body.”

Connacht Tribune

Thousands on waiting list for student accommodation in Galway

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The student housing crisis is ‘the worst it’s ever been’ – with thousands on waiting lists for rooms; hundreds relying on hostels and friends’ sofas; and countless more facing deferral or dropping out altogether.

The President of NUI Galway’s Students’ Union, Róisín Nic Lochlainn, told the Connacht Tribune that students had been left in a desperate situation, as she called for mass protests to have the issue addressed.

According to Ms Nic Lochlainn, 3,000 students were currently on the waiting lists for NUIG’s on-campus accommodation – Corrib Village and Goldcrest Village – with around 500 in line for any bed that might come up in the Westwood.

“Gort na Coiribe and Dunaras have told us their waiting lists are well into the hundreds too. I’ve only got to contact two of the hostels around town, but Kinlay and Snoozles have almost 200 students between them already – and they’re expecting more.

“The first years haven’t even arrived yet, and on top of all that, you have people in B&Bs and staying on their friends’ sofas,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn.

Pressure on the student rental market had been building for years, she said, but it had gone off the cliff edge this year as a perfect storm was created by increased student numbers and reduced bed availability.

“[Minister for Further and Higher Education] Simon Harris created new places on courses this year and talked about maximum access to education . . . I’m not sure how that works for students who are homeless.

“Because there weren’t many students around last year, some private landlords might have moved on. There was no new purpose-built accommodation delivered, and then Simon Harris creates new places with no new beds,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn of the causes of this year’s problems.”

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Government asked to “do everything” to ensure Intel chooses Oranmore as base

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The Taoiseach and Tánaiste will be asked to do “everything in their power” to ensure technology giant Intel selects Oranmore as the location for its new microchip manufacturing plant – which could create 10,000 jobs and transform the West of Ireland economy.

The 540-acre site is owned by the Defence Forces and was selected by IDA Ireland as the preferred site for the company’s new EU ‘chip’ base.

BY STEPHEN CORRIGAN
AND DARA BRADLEY

Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany and Intel confirmed to Taoiseach Micheál Martin that the site is under consideration.

Galway East TD Ciarán Cannon said the development would be “transformative” and would be Intel’s largest microchip manufacturing plant in the world.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District this week, councillors backed a proposal from Cllr Liam Carroll to write to Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar to urge them to push forward the plan.

“This would be a game-changer, not just for Oranmore but for the whole of Connacht. Imagine 10,000 directly employed at some stage in the future, and the spinoff from that,” he said.

The Oranmore site is reported to have been selected ahead of three other locations in Ireland.

It is on Intel’s short-list for the proposed project, which would involve building eight factory modules on a single campus at the site off the M6 motorway, northeast of Oranmore, the newspaper reported.

The American multinational tech company has whittled down its short-list to 10 finalists; Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany.

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that if it proceeds, the new Oranmore ‘mega-fab’ would dwarf Intel’s existing site in Leixlip, which employs almost 5,000.

Galway East TD, Ciaran Cannon (FG) said: “It would put Galway on the map internationally as a place for high-tech investment and it would serve to rebalance the economic imbalance that exists in our country where all of the weight is on the east coast.

“The IDA has a formula where every one new job created in that industry creates about eight or nine more jobs downstream in terms of the supply chain and services. They’re saying 10,000 jobs on site – twice the population of Athenry – on one campus and then another 80-90,000 jobs off site. The figures are phenomenal, mind boggling,” said Deputy Cannon.

The demand for the facility arose during Covid-19 when the supply chain between Asia and Europe broke down.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Fraudsters ‘spoof’ Galway Garda Station’s phone number

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Fraudsters replicated the phone number of Galway Garda Station and used it to call a local woman to demand money.

Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Michael Walsh, said that the number ‘091 538000’ was somehow used by criminals who attempted to extract money – in the form of the online currency Bitcoin – from the victim.   Despite the phone call appearing to come from the Garda station at Mill Street, the woman became suspicious and reported it to Gardaí.

Sgt Walsh said it was the latest in a series of ‘spoofing’ phone calls to have occurred this year.

Spoofing is where fraudsters change the caller ID to ring unsuspecting members of the public to try to extract money or personal information off them.

He said that the number of spoofing incidents reported to Galway Gardaí has more than doubled in the past year.

“It is top of my agenda,” he said.

He pointed out that criminals can obtain a ‘ready to go’ phone and SIM card, relatively cheaply, and it was “very difficult” for Gardaí to trace the caller.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and more details on fraud figures in Galway, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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