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Galway’s Garda chief makes war on drugs his top focus for year ahead

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War on drugs...Chief Supt Tom Curley.

MORE Garda resources will be directed to the growing problem of illegal drugs sales and movements across Galway city and county, according to Garda Chief Superintendent, Tom Curley.

Chief Supt. Curley told the Connacht Tribune that given the scale of drugs seizures across the county – and the increasing number of ‘drugs driving’ cases – the extent of the problem should not be under-estimated.

“We work very closely with our national units and other state agencies, but I do believe that we [An Garda Siochána] will need to put even more resources into this aspect of policing.

“Of course, this is not just a Garda issue – it’s a far bigger problem for society at large. Only for the demand is there for illegal drugs, then the criminal gangs simply wouldn’t have the ready market available to them for the sale of those substances,” said Tom Curley.

He also pointed out that there were increasing concerns about the numbers of drivers who were testing positive for drugs – mostly cannabis and cocaine – which obviously had major implications for safety on the roads.

“We’ve had a lot of successes in terms of drugs seizures and also in relation in operation conducted with CAB (Criminal Assets Bureau) with our Divisional Drugs Unit very active over the past year, but it’s an ongoing battle,” he added.

Chief Supt Curley said that while the drugs market was being driven by younger people there was also now a demand for cocaine across a broader spectrum of people including usage in private settings where detection would be far more difficult.

As well as the issue with drugs driving, Gardaí he said also had major concerns over the ‘hardy annuals’ in relation to road safety such as drink driving, speeding, mobile phone use and the non-wearing of seatbelts.

“At the end of the day, almost every accident that occurs on our roads is preventable, but yet day-on-day, we see people who drink and drive; who speed excessively; who take risks with dangerous overtaking manoeuvres; who don’t wear their seatbelts and who are on their mobiles while at the wheel.

“These are all in breach of what I would describe as the absolute basics for safety on the road. We have come across drivers with iPads or tablets on their steering wheels as they drive along – it really does defy all logic and common-sense,” said Tom Curley.

He warned that road accidents with horrendous consequences can happen in the blink of an eye with a driver’s full attention needing to be on the road at all times.

For almost two years, the work of Gardaí has been pretty much dominated by Covid with members of the force involved in a lot of frontline work.

“We had very serious concerns about maintaining personnel levels if a lot of our members had gone down with Covid but thankfully this hasn’t happened – however, the pandemic has presented a lot of practical difficulties for us,” he said.

The Chief Superintendent said that in terms of property crimes such as thefts and burglaries there had been a notable decrease in those during Covid, with more people working from home, meaning that there were less opportunities for thieves to strike at unoccupied locations.

“On the other side of that coin though, there has been an increase in the incidence rate of domestic violence since the start of Covid.

“We have a specialist protective services unit in place while all members of the Gardaí are also acutely aware of the importance of responding to domestic violence situations.

“If you are the victim of domestic violence – or if you have worries about someone who could be in a vulnerable situation – my advice is to make that call to the Gardaí who will check out such reports thoroughly,” he said.

Another major concern, he said, for Gardaí was the number of people who were duped out of money in cybercrime operations where victims ended up giving their private banking details to gangs who had given the impression that they were from legitimate financial institutions.

“I cannot emphasise this enough: never, ever give out your private banking details in reply to a text message. Your bank will never look for that kind of information from you but unfortunately people are still being scammed on a regular basis,” he said.

Another area of concern, he added, for Gardaí was in relation to public order issues and especially in the larger urban settings where members were reporting increasing instances of abusive behaviour from people on the street – often alcohol fuelled and late at night.

“We know that we have to earn the respect of people with our actions and responses but there definitely have been more incidences of abuse being directed towards Gardaí in recent times.

“Having said that, I would also like to put on record, that the vast majority of the general public have been most supportive of Gardaí – their co-operation and positivity towards us, has been very encouraging.

“Like everyone else, we in the Gardaí are looking forward – hopefully – to a better year in 2022 in terms of issues with Covid-19, and we must all be guided by the public health advice.

“It is also encouraging to see that a very active campaign for new Garda recruits will get underway in 2022, and like any organisation, we need younger people and fresh blood coming into our ranks,” said Chief Supt. Curley.

 

Connacht Tribune

Social media ban for revenge porn accused

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A 26-year-old man has been barred from using all social media platforms since being charged with harassing his former girlfriend by allegedly posting sexually explicit photos of her online along with links to her Snapchat account.

It is the first prosecution of its type relating to image-based abuse, more commonly referred to as ‘revenge porn’ to come before the courts in Galway.

Judge Mary Fahy imposed restrictions, prohibiting the publication of the man’s identity when he was first brought in custody before Galway District Court last October.

This week, she asked Sergeant Christy Burke, prosecuting, why had she imposed the restrictions at the time. He reminded her she had imposed the restrictions then as the case involved sexually explicit material.

Garda Paraic Moran gave evidence in October of having arrested and charged the man with harassing his former girlfriend on a date unknown between August 1, 2015 and July 10, 2019, contrary to Section 10 (1) and (6) of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997.

The accused made no reply when the charge was put to him at the time.

The Director of Public Prosecutions directed the charge could only be dealt with at District Court level if the man entered a guilty plea.

Judge Fahy asked Garda Moran for an outline of the allegations made against the accused so she could decide on whether or not to deal with the case in her court should he plead guilty.

Garda Moran said the man had been in a relationship with the complainant and it was alleged that sometime after they broke up, she was contacted by a couple whom she didn’t know, inviting her to meet them for sex.

As a result of this encounter, the woman discovered intimate photographs of her were circulating on the internet.

She had sent the photos to the accused when they were together and it was alleged, Garda Moran said, that after the relationship ended the accused uploaded the photos to the internet on several occasions with links to the complainant’s Facebook Snapchat account.

Judge Fahy accepted jurisdiction in October to hear the case in her court and she made an order for prosecution statements to be sent to defence solicitor, Brian Gilmartin’s office and for the accused to come to court this week and elect to either plead guilty or not guilty to the charge.

Sgt Browne informed the court this week the statements had inadvertently not yet been sent to Mr Gilmartin but they would be now.

Judge Fahy remanded the accused on continuing bail to appear back before the court in March and elect then whether he wanted to plead guilty or not guilty.

Bail was granted in October subject to conditions sought by Gardai that he have no contact with the complainant or any witnesses, by any means to include social media; continue to reside at his rental address in the city and notify Gardai of any change of address within 48 hours; sign on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Garda HQ at Murrough, Renmore; observe a nightly curfew between 10p.m. and 6a.m.; be of good behaviour and remain of sober habits; and provide a mobile phone number to Gardai and answer his phone to them at all times.

Judge Fahy added a further condition at  the time prohibiting the man from accessing Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok and all other social media platforms, pending completion of the case.

She awarded him free legal aid and also advised him that if he broke any of the bail conditions it was likely he would end up in custody, due to the seriousness of the charge he was facing.

 

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Connacht Tribune

Help at hand for smokers with resolve!

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The HSE has launched their annual free programme to help smokers at the start of the new year to try to kick the habit as research shows that 70% of smokers want to give up for good.

With packets of cigarettes now retailing at €15 a pop, there has never been a better time to quit – even if health reasons are not a consideration.

But the impact on health should help make that decision even more urgent, according to the Irish Cancer Society.

The HSE has found that half of all smokers die from smoking-related diseases. In 2015 records show that 5,950 people died as a direct result of smoking, with an additional 100 deaths thought to be the result of exposure to second-hand smoke.

The benefits of become a non-smoker quickly become apparent. The US Surgeon General’s Office insists that after 72 hours of quitting, breathing becomes easier as the bronchial tubes relax and energy levels increase.

After a fortnight circulation improves, making walking and exercise easier. After three to nine months: coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing are reduced dramatically. After five years the risk of heart attack falls to that of a non-smoker while after a decade the risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a smoker.

“The first thing is to realise that quitting smoking is a process, and it is important to understand where you fit in the process or ‘cycle’ of change,” said a spokesperson for the Irish Cancer Society.

“You need to plan when and how you’re going to quit. If you can get through the first 30 days without cigarettes, you’ll have gone a long way towards kicking the habit.”

The Quit Smoking West Service offers six free sessions with a HSE Stop Smoking Advisor. This therapist will explore habits and any concerns you have about stopping smoking. They will assess your level of smoking addiction, provide support to deal with challenges and discuss stop smoking medications.

“We know that quitting can be extremely difficult. But by working with us, we will support you to develop a plan to help you to cope with withdrawal symptoms and cravings, and provide you with motivational tips to help keep you on track,” a spokesperson for the service explained.

Call Quit Smoking West on (091) 737262 or email quitsmoking.west@hse.ie for the free, confidential support and advice.

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Connacht Tribune

Gort set for transformation under regeneration plans

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Gort...set for major revitalisation.

The revitalisation of the town of Gort received another major shot in the arm last week when it was one of 27 landmark projects to share in the latest €21.5 million Rural Regeneration Development Fund.

The Gort Inse Guaire project received €798,000 towards the re-design of the Market Square and town centre streets, as well as reinvigorating the Canon Quinn Park greenspace in the town centre.

The Gorgeous Gort Forum – the representative body for all local community groups, clubs and organisations which drove this application – welcomed ‘the wonderful news’.

“We thank the Minister for approving funding for our town, and all the team in Galway County Council who we supported in developing and submitting this application and the local representatives who supported this application.

“We also thank the over 40 organisations, clubs and groups in our community, who we represent, that provided invaluable letters of support’, said Gorgeous Gort Forum chairperson Justin McDermott.

The Forum supported Galway County Council in the development and submission of this application.  This included organising letters of support from over 40 various clubs, organisations, and groups in Gort which they represent.

The group also facilitated meetings between Galway County Council and key community stakeholders, and worked with local elected representatives, including Minister Anne Rabbitte, Sean Canny TD, Ciaran Cannon TD and local councillors including Joe Byrne, PJ Murphy, and Geraldine Donoghue, to lobby the minister on behalf of the community.

The news was warmly welcomed from all fronts, with local TD Ciaran Cannon describing it as an ambitious investment in Gort, building on a very strong community spirit in the town.

And his fellow Galway East TD Sean Canney particularly welcomed the work on Canon Quinn Park, which he described as ‘an underutilised yet vital greenspace within the centre of the town’.

“In order to capitalise on this invaluable resource, the park requires diversification and redesign to improve usages, discourage anti-social behaviour and provide a green lung for the town centre,” he said.

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