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Family says woman ‘demonised and criminalised’ by Council

Dara Bradley

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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.”

CITY TRIBUNE

€46,000 Lotto winner comes forward as deadline looms

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Galway Bay fm newsroom – The Knocknacarra winner of the Lotto Match 5 + Bonus from the 12th of December has come forward to claim their prize, just two weeks before the claim deadline.

The winning ticket, which is worth €46,234, was sold at Clybaun Stores on the Clybaun Road on the day of the draw, one of two winners of the Lotto Match 5 + Bonus prize of €92,000.

A spokesperson for the National Lottery say we are now making arrangements for the lucky winner to make their claim in the coming days.

Meanwhile, the Lotto jackpot for tomorrow night (27th February) will roll to an estimated €5.5 million.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Voice of ‘Big O’ reflects on four decades

Denise McNamara

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The daytime voice of Big O Taxis is celebrating four decades in the role – and she has no plans to hang up her headset any time soon.

Roisin Freeney decided to seek a job after staying at home to mind her three children for over a decade. It was 1981 when she saw an advert in the Connacht Sentinel for a dispatch operator.

The native of Derry recalls that the queue for the job wound its way past Monroe’s Tavern from the taxi office on Dominick Street.

“There was a great shortage of work back then. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the line of people. My then husband who was giving me a lift in never thought I’d get the job, he was driving on past and I said, let me off.

“I got it because I worked as a telephonist in the telephone exchange in Derry. But I was terrified starting off because I hadn’t been in the work system for so long.”

Back then Big O Taxis had only 25 drivers and just a single line for the public to book a cab.

“We had an old two-way radio, you had to speak to the driver and everybody could listen in. It was easy to leave the button pressed when it shouldn’t be pressed. People heard things they shouldn’t have – that’s for sure,” laughs Roisin.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of Róisín’s story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Baby boom puts strain on Galway City secondary schools

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A baby boom in the late 2000s has left parents of sixth class pupils in Galway City scrambling to find a secondary school place for their children next September – with over 100 children currently facing the prospect of rejection from city schools.

The Department of Education is now rushing to address the issue and confirmed to the Galway City Tribune this week that it was fully aware of increasing pressure and demand on city schools

Local councillor Martina O’Connor said there were 100 more children more than there were secondary school places for next year, and warned that this would put severe pressure on schools to increase their intake numbers.

“This will put a lot of pressure on schools because they will have been working out the number of teachers and what resources they would need in October or November last year and they could be facing a situation where they will be asked to take an additional eight or 10 students.

“There would normally be a small excess – maybe two or three – but this year, it’s over 100. There is a bigger number of children in sixth class this year and there will be the same issue for the next few years,” said the Green Party councillor.

A Department spokesperson said while there were capacity issues, factors other than numbers could be at play, adding that there were approximately 1,245 children in the city due to move onto secondary school in September.
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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