Gang nets thousands in city bank ATMs scam
AN East European gang is thought to have netted thousands of euro in another bank card fraud at ATM machines in the city.
Gardaí are pursuing a definite line of inquiry in their efforts to track down the culprits who had tiny ‘pinhole’ cameras inserted into a number of ATMs in the city.
Users of ATMs have again been warned by Gardaí to take every precaution in the ‘covering up’ of PIN number when using the machines.
“These tiny cameras can be inserted at the sides of machine so the covering hand needs to conceal the PIN number from the sides as well as the top,” said a Garda spokesman.
Despite new security measures being put in place by the banks at ATMs, Gardaí have warned that the machines can still be tampered with by the gangs.
“If you are using a pass machine and your money comes out, but your card is ‘gobbled up’, then this should set the alarm bells ringing straight away.
“The gangs have a means of trapping the card inside the machine and then retrieving it later on – once they have the PIN number and the card they can then take out up to €700 a day,” said the Garda spokesman.
Dozens of bank customers in Galway had their bank cards cancelled over the past week and a half or so, as the banks put in place a standard damage limitation process.
Two of the ATMs that were affected in the scam were the AIB facility close to Dunnes Stores in Terryland and the Permanent TSB ‘hole in the wall’ in Eyre Square.
“If anyone has any concerns about an ATM then they should contact the Gardaí straight away. We will have the machines checked out immediately – if possible we would also advise that people making withdrawals do so during normal working hours,” said the Garda spokesman.
He also confirmed that the Gardaí were pursuing a definite line of inquiry in their investigation of the scam, with a gang of East European origin thought to be involved.
Long wait lies ahead for elective hospital plans in Galway
Galway faces at least another five-year wait before a new elective hospital is delivered at Merlin Park.
Detailed project briefs and a business case for long-promised facility, which is due to transfer elective care from University Hospital Galway to Merlin Park, are currently being drawn up.
A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that the HSE aimed to have those steps completed by the end of this year before they go to the Department of Health for approval under the public spending code.
In response to a question from City Councillor Declan McDonnell (Ind), the HSE said the completion of these documents would provide a clearer timeline, but 2028 was their current aspiration for a completion date.
“The ambition at this stage, subject to necessary planning approval processes, is for Galway Elective Hospital to, in a sustainable manner, reach full operational capacity by the end of 2028, i.e. it is fully built, fitted out and operational,” stated the reply.
“The desire is for the elective hospital to achieve initial operational capacity, with limited capacity to provide some procedures, as soon as possible, with an ambition to open it to receive patients in 2027.”
Cllr McDonnell said he could not understand why it was taking so long to progress a project that was vital to the people of not only Galway but the wider region.
“We also haven’t received a design map of the site – is the site identified or will we have the same problems we had with the Galway Hospice site,” asked Cllr McDonnell, referring to An Bord Pleanála’s rejection of plans for a hospice on the EU protected meadows in Merlin Woods.
Assistant National Director of HSE Capital and Estates, Joe Hoare, confirmed that the site identified was within the existing “hospital core” in Merlin Park.
“As it is in the core areas, it should be achievable and should work . . . we are quite confident it is a site that can deliver a hospital and work with all hospital requirements,” he said.
Cllr McDonnell said there were currently plans, at various stages of development, for a new Emergency Department and Mother and Child Block at University Hospital Galway, and questioned if it would be more efficient to merge all plans for healthcare in Galway for swifter delivery.
CEO of Saolta Hospitals Group, Tony Canavan, said as well as the new ED and Mother and Child Block, plans were advancing for the replacement of a lab at UHG and a new cancer unit.
“That is what is required in order to address the problems we have with access to the Emergency Department and waiting lists,” he said.
Mr Hoare said it did not make sense to tie the five projects together as some were at a more advanced stage.
“We can’t hold up a project until the next one gets approval. There are a number of these projects that have been planned for several years and we need to push them on,” he said.
Projects costing more than €200 million had to be approved under the Departmental Spending Code which took time, but was a necessary process that had to be gone through.
“The CEO of the HSE was down recently and there is a lot of effort in terms of Saolta hospital management, and a new impetus to push projects on,” said Mr Hoare.
Archdiocese carries out inventory of massgoers
For the past three weeks, mass attendance numbers in the 56 parishes of the Tuam Archdiocese have been recorded as the church is considering a reduction in the number of weekend ceremonies.
And an audit of those figures will be carried out by the archdiocese over the coming months in the expectation that they will provide a Diocesan blueprint for the future.
“It will give a clear indication as to the challenges facing the archdiocese,” said Fr Pat Farragher, Administrator to the Cathedral of the Assumption in Tuam.
“It is expected that the findings will prepare us for a future that will be very different to what it is now,” Fr Farragher added.
The Archdiocese of Tuam has experienced a rapid decline in the number of clergy – due to retirements, ill health and a distinct lack of vocations.
At present, there are 41 diocesan priests under the retirement age of 75 working in the 56 parishes.
There are four diocesan priests, well over 75, who continue by choice to minister – as well as seven priests from abroad and three Irish priests, who worked with missionary congregations and who now minister at a local level.
There are currently two students from the Tuam Archdiocese who are studying for the priesthood – but the local clergy concede that the trend is downward.
Retirements and ill health, in addition to so few replacements, mean that pastoral services will have to be reimagined. In six years’ time, an additional seven diocesan clergy will be over 75.
According to Archbishop Francis Duffy, every parish will be impacted by the current trend and that was the reason why he asked that the numbers attending the weekend Masses in recent weeks be obtained.
In a recent pastoral letter, the Archbishop has asked parish pastoral councils to address the potential crisis facing the church and plan for the immediate future.
At the moment, priests may celebrate up to three Sunday Masses, including the Vigil Mass.
It is the Archbishop’s view that it will be necessary to reduce the current number of Masses so that priests may be able to attend to the pastoral needs of two or more parishes.
“As is already clear in some parishes in this diocese, it is not necessary to have a priest resident in the parish to have a flourishing community of faith,” he said.
“Certainly a priest or a small team of priests will be available for pastoral needs. It is not necessary to have a Sunday Mass in each church; already several churches have weekday Masses and no Sunday Mass.
“In some parishes, when the priest is unavoidably absent during the week, parishioners hold a prayer service in their church; this may need to be extended to weekends where necessary.”
Some parishes are already addressing issues such as engagement with youth and with older parishioners, pilgrimages, sacramental preparation, adult faith formation, safeguarding and other initiatives that benefit faith and community.
Charlotte’s Vision raises €42,000 for metastatic breast cancer in six months
A charity founded by the friends and family of a Tuam woman who’d battled so bravely against cancer have honoured her memory in the best way possible – by raising over €40,000 towards researching cures for the form of the disease that killed her just before her 42nd birthday.
Charlotte’s Vision, named after Tuam woman Charlotte Sweeney, was only set up last October, in partnership with the National Breast Cancer Research Institute is raising money for research into Metastatic Breast Cancer.
And in the six months since, it has raised €42,000 – primarily through a hugely successful New Year’s Eve Ball, but also through ongoing donations.
Charlotte Sweeney died on December 16 2021, after her metastatic breast cancer spread to her liver.
Her family and friends launched a new fundraising drive to fund research that they hope will give a longer life to other women with the disease.
Charlotte was passionate about science and a graduate of NUI Galway and the University of Coleraine – and despite her illness, she continually researched the latest treatments and looked into how best she could complement treatment she was undergoing be it with yoga, mindfulness and her diet.
Her mum Virgie admitted that they family are still coming to terms with the loss of Charlotte.
But she added: “doing something positive in her name, knowing we could be helping other families is refreshing.
“We want to say thank everyone for their very kind support since her passing and since setting up Charlotte’s Vision. Charlotte impacted so many lives when she was alive and even in her death, she is still helping people.”
Charlotte’s Vision chairperson Caroline Downey said that her friends just want to continue Charlotte’s fight in trying to find ways of curing ‘this awful disease’.
“Currently one in seven women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, some breasts cancers are curable however if you are diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer or Stage 4 the survival rate is so low, it is not good at all. “Research is key to fight this disease and we will continue to fight to save lives,” she said.
And Charlotte’s legacy is already paying dividends, according to Professor Micheal Kerin, Project Director at the Lamb Institute.
“We have research on patients with Stage 4 disease which is strongly supported now by Charlotte’s Vision and will hopefully create novel strategies for treating this group with advanced disease,” he said.
“We are also concentrating and supporting the development of a fit for purpose comprehensive cancer centre on the grounds of the University Hospital which will allow us expand our research programme in the Cancer Centre,” he added.
Charlotte’s Vision committee are asking that you consider their charity when you are undertaking your next run, walk, cycle or swim joining ‘Char’s Tribe’ in their ongoing fundraising campaigns.
The next event is the VHI Mini Marathon; if you are interested in being part of Team Charlotte’s Vision contact Caroline on 087 4482070 or email email@example.com.