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Family’s anger over flaws in investigation into London death

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The family of a Galway singer/songwriter – who famously wrote the lyrics to the Saw Doctors’ classic I Useta Love Her – have lashed out at the UK police investigation into his tragic death.

Paul Cunniffe fell to his death from an apartment rooftop in London back in 2001 – but his family in Tuam are still not happy with the subsequent investigation which they claim leaves a lot of unanswered questions.

Paul Cunniffe, who wrote the lyrics for I Useta Love Her when he was a teenager, was just 40 when he lost his life.

His family say that the police interviewed just two people and put it down to a tragic accident. And his brother believes that the fact that he was Irish meant that the police did not give it the attention it deserved.

An inquest into Paul’s death revealed that there was no drink, drugs or any other intoxicant in his system and his family say that it has still left them wondering if there was anything else involved.

Paul was visiting a disabled friend in an upstairs apartment and it was not unusual for residents in the apartment block to sit out on the flat rooftop. It is not known if there was anyone in Paul’s company at the time of the fall.

His brother Shaun Cunniffe, a member of Galway County Council, told The Connacht Tribune that the manner of the investigation was very unsatisfactory and did not provide any explanation as to how Paul had fallen to his death.

“My sister went over to the inquest and she couldn’t believe how routine the process was. Two people in the apartments were interviewed but nobody in neighbouring apartments which also had rooftop areas in which residents sat out,” he said.

“I know it is 15 years since the tragedy happened but there are still a lot of unanswered questions as to how Paul fell to his death. We believe that the police investigation was not given the urgency it deserved.

“It seemed as if they concluded that it was just an accident and moved on but it seems very strange that Paul would have simply fallen to his death when there were no other factors involved. Maybe it was just that he was Irish,” Shaun Cunniffe added.

Around six years ago another man lost his life in similar circumstances and at the same apartment block; that incident was also put down to a tragic accident.

It was a devastating time for Paul’s partner Jo Hardy and his three young children as well as for his family back in Tuam.

Paul was a member of the Tuam cult punk band, Blaze X, which also featured Davy Carton of the Saw Docs.

He continued to pursue his music career in London while also worked in building industry. Paul is buried alongside his parents in Tuam Cemetery.

Connacht Tribune

Record crowds pack Ballinasloe to celebrate Fair’s 300th anniversary

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Crowds flock to the Fairgreen at the Ballinasloe Horse Fair.

RECORD crowds packed into Ballinasloe last weekend for the return of the famous October Fair – but it turned to be a ‘dry day’ for the punters with most of the pubs in the town taking the decision to close their doors on Sunday.

Hotels in the town also adopted either a ‘food only’ or ‘residents only’ policy through Sunday but Gardaí reported a trouble-free weekend in the town.

“There were huge crowds around and especially so on Sunday, but we had no reports of any trouble – it was practically an incident free weekend,” said a Garda spokesperson.

Many visitors to the Fair on Sunday expressed disappointment at the decision of the pubs to close  – although a few establishments did open their doors with special security arrangements in place.

The last ‘official fair’ took place in October, 2019, and while there was an unofficial event last year, it was only a small gathering due to the Covid restrictions.

An estimated 3,000 people turned out for the free open-air country music concert with Mike Denver in the Square on Sunday afternoon and Fair organisers also reported a very busy sales day with many horses changing hands.

Trustee of the Ballinasloe Showgrounds, Gerry Stronge, told the Connacht Tribune, that after a three-year break, the crowds had really thronged back into the town on Sunday.

“Most people I know that have been attending the Fair for years said that it was biggest crowd they had ever seen there on the first Sunday of the event.

“It was an incredible day – the streets were absolutely jammed with people – and it was most enjoyable with no trouble whatsoever,” he said.

Get the full story with loads of photos in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Compo can keep sex abuse dad out of jail

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Galway Courthouse.

An estranged father who sexually assaulted his then-ten-year-old daughter seven years ago will escape a two-year jail term – if he pays her €12,000 within the next twelve months.

Counsel for the 51-year-old man, who cannot be identified in order to protect the identity of the victim, indicated at Galway Circuit Criminal Court this week that his client would avail of Judge Brian O’Callaghan’s offer and would sell off some of his assets to raise the €12,000.

Earlier in the sentence hearing, the now-17-year-old victim told the court the seven-year delay in bringing her father to justice had caused her and her mother untold grief and suffering.

“It’s been seven years, dealing with court dates and adjournments and only now, seven years later, have I got the closure I needed,” she said.

The judge apologised to her and everyone else involved for the delay in finalising the case.

“Even allowing for Covid, it is without question that the judicial, legal, criminal system has failed all parties in this case and it’s appropriate I should give that apology,” Judge O’Callaghan said.

Prosecuting state counsel, Conall MacCarthy, said the man maintained his innocence when arrested and interviewed in April 2016.

He had been due to stand trial on two occasions in the last few years but each time his trial was adjourned for various reasons, including Covid.

He then pleaded guilty, moments before his trial was eventually due to get underway last November, to a charge of sexually assaulting the girl on August 15, 2015, at the family home near a Co. Galway village.

Sentence was adjourned on four occasions since to await the results of a probation report before it was finalised this week.

Resd the full court report in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Hero’s welcome for king of the high seas

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Atlantic rower Damian Browne holds a flare as he enters Galway Docks to a hero’s reception. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

“I just had a deep belief I was going to complete it – and nothing was going to stop me.”

Those were the words of former Connacht rugby player and now transatlantic rower Damian Browne who returned to a hero’s welcome at Galway Docks on Tuesday, just hours after his mammoth journey came to an end on the rocks at Furbo.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, 42-year-old Browne’s vessel, the Cushlamachree, came ashore just down from Pádraicín’s – not the ending the Renmore man wanted for his epic trip from New York to Galway.

The journey was due to end at the Docks at 11am on Tuesday morning, but as it turned out, Browne had a few hours at home before being met by huge crowds who, despite the rain, came out in their hundreds to welcome the extreme adventurer back.

Children from schools across the city were among the hoards of people who lined the Harbour, including those from his alma mater, St Joseph’s (The Bish) who formed a guard of honour with oars to greet Browne.

His arrival to the Docks, escorted by Galway Harbourmaster Brian Sheridan, was met with endless cheers as drumbeat and flares signalled the end of his four months at sea.

“The winds coming from the south were blowing me up through the Aran Islands and it was great to get me through the islands, but then they kept pushing me towards the north coast of Galway and nothing I could do would stop them,” says Browne of the final hours of his journey.

“Before I knew it, I was at Pádraicín’s and heading for Barna, trying to get into Barna Pier to anchor down . . . it was very tense. I saw two rocks that I knew were there, but I thought I was further out, and then I had to whip the boat around.

“I had about two seconds to whip it around, 270 degrees, and head straight out to sea, but as I did, I got hit by a massive wave.”

The boat capsized, one of his oars broke and it was at that moment he knew it was time to get up on the rocks and call for assistance.

Get the full dramatic story – and full coverage of the welcome home – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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