Gardaí in Galway are urging all road users to embrace the ‘SAFE’ message this Christmas – ‘Slow’ down, ‘Abstain’ from alcohol and drugs, ‘Fasten’ seatbelts at all times, and ‘Ensure’ that mobiles are never used while driving.
Supt Noel Kelly – Head of the Garda Regional Roads in the North-West region – said that the goal of the campaign was to get everyone home safely over the holiday season.
“What we want to ensure is that no family has to deal with the grief of having a loved one killed or seriously injured on the roads this Christmas/New-Year period.
“We ask everyone to remember to ensure that any action they might take while using the road network does not result in the loss of life or serious injury to anyone over the coming days and weeks,” said Supt. Kelly.
He also pointed out, that in addition to the death-toll figures on Irish roads, what was sometimes overlooked was the extent of serious injuries suffered by people as a result of collisions.
“Since the recording of serious injuries began in 1977, over 80,000 people have been seriously injured on Irish roads – the devastation caused to these individuals and their families is heart-breaking,” said Supt Kelly.
He also made a special appeal to ‘vulnerable road-users’ – such as cyclists and pedestrians – to ensure that they always wear high-vis clothing but especially so during the hours of darkness.
“Pedestrians need to understand that if they are socialising that they need to make arrangements to get home safely as research shows that alcohol could be in a factor in almost one third of pedestrian deaths.
“Cyclists should also ensure that they have correct lights in good working order – they are obliged at all times to adhere to the rules of the road. But I am asking motorists to always be conscious of pedestrian and cyclist road-users,” said Noel Kelly.
He added that for all drivers, a series of key principles would make a huge contribution to keeping everyone safe on the roads during the holiday season. These are:
■ If undertaking a longer journey, ensure that you are well rested and not feeling tired.
■ Always abide by the speed limits but also slow down when the need arises due to weather/road conditions.
■ Never forget to wear your seat-belts – even on the shortest of journeys – and the same goes for all passengers.
■ ‘Distraction driving’ can have catastrophic consequences – never, ever, be tempted to use a mobile or other device while at the wheel.
■ Never take a chance with driving decisions such as reckless overtaking and be aware of children on the road.
■ Get into the habit of carrying out routine checks on tyres/lighting and always be aware of pedestrians/cyclists.
Gardaí have advised motorists that they will be actively patrolling through the North West region over the holiday period – that includes Galway, Mayo and Roscommon – in both marked and unmarked vehicles.
The Garda operation will consist of Mandatory Intoxicating Testing Checkpoints (for both drugs and alcohol) – both during daylight hours and at night – as well as the use of all speed enforcement technologies.
They have also warned drivers that they will be facing ‘early-morning’ mandatory intoxicant checkpoints on the basis that one in ten alcohol-related fatal collisions occur in the morning after the consumption of alcohol.
“There is no safe level of alcohol you can consume before driving and you take a serious gamble in trying to guess how much would still keep you under the limit for driving,” said Supt Kelly.
Send us your hugs!
Now that family visits are allowed again, this is the week that grandparents have longed for – to see and hug their grandchildren again after over a year apart.
We’ve all endured a tough year – but this has been the hardest penance of all.
So if you’re meeting the grandkids this week for the first time in a long time, be sure to send us your happy photographs to firstname.lastname@example.org – so we can publish them online and in the pages of the Connacht Tribune or Galway City Tribune. And happy reunions!
Coroner calls for shared resource for unidentified human remains
The Coroner for West Galway has recommended establishing a shared database for unidentified human remains after the body of a Limerick man found off Inis Mór 25 years ago lay unidentified in Galway City despite his family’s tireless efforts to find him.
At an Inquest last week, Coroner Ciarán MacLoughlin said the family of Denis Walsh had their grief ‘compounded’ by this delay and said while his identification in January of this year had been as a result of advances in DNA technology, there had been at a ‘missed opportunity’.
Denis Walsh Jnr (23) disappeared from his home in Caherdavin on the outskirts of Limerick City on March 9, 1996.
In a deposition to inquiry into his death, his father, Denis Walsh Snr, described his son as having ‘never caused any trouble growing up’. He said he had ‘started to hang around with the wrong group’ at around 18 years old, which led to drug taking, and detailed how Denis Jnr been ‘in and out’ of psychiatric care before he went missing.
In the period directly before his disappearance, his father said he had been ‘getting on reasonably well’.
After he failed to return home on March 9, a missing person’s report was lodged with Henry St Garda Station in Limerick City.
The inquest at City Hall heard that Sheila Ní Shúilleabháin, Caherciveen, Co Kerry, had been holidaying in Kilronan in April 1996, and while walking on the beach on the morning of April 7, she and a friend discovered the partial remains of a body.
The remains were removed to University Hospital Galway for post mortem examination.
Mr Walsh Snr, who was in attendance at the inquest, questioned why nobody had contacted him or his wife, Mary Walsh after the body was found.
Reading from newspaper clippings at the time, he said it had been reported in the Tuam Herald on April 13, 1996, that the body was of a male with ‘neatly-cut brown hair’ – a description fitting that of his son.
Dr MacLoughlin, explained that the remains found were badly damaged. He said the part of the skull which would have enabled identification using dental records ‘was not present’.
Mr Walsh Jnr’s body remained at the mortuary in UHG for 18 years and was removed to a plot owned by the hospital at New Cemetery, Bohermore, in 2014.
Bereavement Liaison Officer Ann McKeown told the inquiry that a decision was taken to bury a number of unidentified remains, including that of Mr Walsh Jnr, in ‘individual coffins with unique identification numbers’ that could be used in the event of a positive identification.
Ms McKeown said she had accompanied Mr Walsh Jnr’s body to the cemetery, and that prayers had been offered by the hospital chaplain.
Reading a report from Forensic Science Ireland, Dr MacLoughlin said that efforts to match the DNA of the body found of Inis Mór in 1996 had failed in July 2008, March 2011 and June 2018.
DNA swabs were taken from the parents of Mr Walsh Jnr in February 2011 which were also stored with Forensic Science Ireland.
However, Dr MacLoughlin said these swabs had been used to search an Interpol database and that they had not been used to seek a match from the records of unidentified bodies found within the State.
“There was no requirement to look at the profiles in the lab. What happened was this was all done in Limerick, independent of us in Galway. I’m not sure they’d have known in Limerick what we were doing in Galway,” said Dr MacLoughlin.
A database for 20 unidentified remains was established in 2015 but it didn’t take into account existing ‘living profiles’ such as those provided by Mary and Denis Walsh.
“You were missed,” said the Coroner.
Mr Walsh Snr said at one point, Gardaí in Mayorstone, their local Garda Station in Limerick, had been contacted by police in Cornwall about a body discovered there.
“If police in Cornwall could contact Mayorstone, why in the name of God could Gardaí in Galway not contact Gardaí in Mayorstone.
“As far as I’m concerned, there is no contact between [Gardaí in] Galway and Limerick,” he said.
Dr MacLoughlin gave an open verdict, stating that it was impossible to determine a cause of death.
He recommended that a database of unidentified remains, to be stored at Forensic Science Ireland based at Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park, should be established and shared between every Coroner’s Office and Garda Station in the State.
He said advances in technology had allowed the laboratory in Dublin to identify Mr Walsh in 2021 using methods not available in 1996.
“But it took 25 years to get to that. I know for me, life goes on, but for you, it wasn’t like that,” Dr MacLoughlin told Mr Walsh Snr.
“For 25 years, you have thought of him; you’ve missed him at Christmas and at family celebrations. For 18 years, he was in the mortuary in Galway and for the next seven years, he was interred in Galway only 60 or 70 miles away.”
Dr MacLoughlin said he recognised that Mr Walsh Jnr’s family had gone to huge lengths to find their missing son and brother, and expressed his deepest sympathy to them for their loss.
Mr Walsh Jnr’s body was recently exhumed from New Cemetery and moved to the family’s plot in Limerick.
Preparing Connemara for influx of tourists
Facilities near beaches and popular tourist spots in Connemara need to be looked at as a matter of urgency before the tourist season gets into full swing, local councillors urged at their Area Meeting last week.
Councillors outlined some of the problems that had arisen during the ‘good weather weekend’ of April 24/25, relating to signage, parking, traffic control, litter issues and toilet facilities.
Fine Gael councillor, Eileen Mannion, said that given the ongoing situation with Covid, Connemara was going to be a very busy place during the upcoming summer tourist season.
“People do want to come out here; they make a big difference to the local economy; we want them to have a good experience; but we do need them to respect the local communities.
“When people go into Galway city, they cannot park where they like, so why should it be any different in Connemara,” said Cllr. Mannion.
Cllr. Tom Welby (Ind.) said that one of the first things to provide was basic signage as regards parking and traffic control. “There is going to be a lot of internal tourism this year,” he said.
According to Cllr. Pádraig Mac an Iomaire (FG), there were a lot of problems across beaches in the Connemara area relating to litter, toilets and signage during the fine weekend last month.
“In Spiddal for example, at busy times, there is a real difficulty with access issues and especially so in relation to the emergency services. Would it be possible to keep one side of the roadway here [Spiddal] free of parking?” asked Cllr. Mac an Iomaire.
Cllr. Tomás Ó Curraoin (Rep. SF) said that there were a lot of problems with camper vans in the Carna area leaving litter and rubbish behind them.
Council Engineer, Paraic Breathnach, said that the Council had the capacity to provide more signage, bins and portaloos, if the need arose, but added that parking and traffic issues were a different matter.
“We as a Council don’t have the teeth to deal with the issue of parking, camper vans and traffic control. That is very much a Garda matter,” he said.