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Gardaí discover €3,000 of heroin in young mum’s bedroom

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A young mother who was using a bag of heroin a day and was found with €3,000 of the drug stashed in her bedroom would have been dead soon if Gardai had not found her, a court has heard.

Judge Marie Keane said this was “last chance saloon” for Sarah Howlett (27), of 323 Castle Park, Ballybane, when she pleaded guilty at Galway District Court to a plethora of shoplifting, handling stolen goods and drug-dealing charges, committed across the city since succumbing to the highly addictive drug.

Howlett pleaded guilty to stealing expensive, new release DVDs from Zhivago on Shop Street on July 4 last year.

She pleaded guilty to stealing more popular console games from Cex, Williamsgate Street, and handling the games from the store, knowing they were stolen on six different dates in June and July of this year.

Howlett also pleaded guilty to having €3,000 worth of heroin in her bedroom on January 21 last and having the drug for sale or supply.

She further pleaded guilty to stealing perfume and headphones from TX Maxx which were recovered, and a €400 Dyson vacuum cleaner from Curry’s in Terryland last month which was not recovered.

She finally pleaded guilty to stealing groceries and kids’ toys from Tesco at Galway Shopping Centre and to stealing other items from Homestore and More in Wellpark.

Handing letters from the HSE into court, defence solicitor, Olivia Traynor said her client has a very serious heroin addiction which she has been battling for some time.

She said Howlett’s situation was “absolutely dire” when Gardai raided her home in January and found the heroin.  Howlett’s children are already in care and their father died in tragic circumstances, Ms Traynor added.

“She was using a bag of heroin a day and Gardai feel she will be dead in a very short period of time if she does not get help,” Mr Traynor said.

She said Howlett had been discharged from the Beaumont Stabilisation Unit on April 5 last and was making every effort to get herself ‘clean’ before these offences were committed.

Ms Traynor said Howlett committed the offence to get money “to get her next fix”.

“When I saw her back in January she was in a very bad place. She looks a lot better now,” Ms Traynor said.

She asked Judge Marie Keane to adjourn sentence and give Howlett a chance to link in with the support services and see if she would engage with the probation service and get more help for her addiction.

Judge Keane said Howlett was quite a menace to Cex.

“She is repeatedly going in there to steal the most up-to-date box sets, including the Love/Hate one,” she observed.

Mr Traynor said Howlett had brought items into Cex to sell, and that was how she was caught and charged with handling stolen property.

Those offences, she pointed out, occurred between June 30 and July 8 last and were all committed to feed the heroin addiction.

Noting Howlett’s drug charges were serious, Judge Keane said she was faced with a dilemma.

“If I send her to jail – where she should go to protect the retailers of Galway – I’m concerned that her drug addiction is likely to get worse rather than better,” she said.

Judge Keane said it was with great reluctance she would order a probation report on Howlett prior to sentence.

She adjourned the matter to October for a probation report and told Howlett it was “last chance saloon” for her. “I’m sure you have the Gardai tormented,” the judge added.

Howlett, who looked pale and gaunt and who hugged her handbag to her chest during the hearing, promised Judge Keane she would co-operate with the probation service.

CITY TRIBUNE

GAA club’s tournament honours stalwart who died at just 28

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Pictured at the launch of the Darragh Frain Memorial Tournament which takes place in Mervue this Saturday. Back: Kevin Curran, Kevin Barrett, Robert Fitzgerald, Aidan Brady, Alan O'Donnell, Donal Murphy, Eanna O'Connell, Eoghan Frain, David Henry. Front: Aodhain Ó Conghaile, Liam O'Donnell, Rory Murphy, Fionn Fitzgerald and Michael Barrett.

The untimely passing of a city GAA stalwart six years ago is still deeply felt by the club he represented but he remains an inspiration to young up-and-coming footballers who will be displaying their skills this weekend.

The Darragh Frain Memorial Tournament for under-age teams will take place in St James’ GAA grounds at Mervue tomorrow, Saturday, when many memories of a great young clubman will be exchanged.

Darragh, from Lurgan Park in Renmore, was just 28 years of age when he lost his battle with cancer in 2016. Since then his beloved club has been organising a tournament for young footballers that’s proving immensely popular.

For tomorrow’s event, the St James club will entertain local teams including St Michael’s, Salthill-Knocknacarra, Killanin and an Cheathrú Rua, as well as Kiltane (Bangor Erris) and Elphin-Ballinameen from North Roscommon.

It is a nine-a-side tournament, which takes place from 11am to 5pm, and will involve Under-11 teams who will compete against each other during the day.

The fact that Darragh’s late father, Tom Frain Senior, hailed from Roscommon means that GAA support for the event is coming from both counties – this makes it extra special, as well as adding to the profile of the tournament.

Best friend and one of the event’s main organisers, another St James stalwart David Henry explained that this was the sixth year of the tournament and that Darragh would be very pleased that his name was being associated with the development of under-age football.

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

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CITY TRIBUNE

‘Too many cafés’ as city retail continues to decline

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Barber Tom Nally outside his premises.

The changing face of Galway city centre is a source of concern to those who say it reflects a decline for people in terms of retail choices.

Those who regret the loss of several long-standing family-run operations in the city in recent years don’t believe that what has replaced them has enhanced the appearance of Shop Street, in particular.

“We are looking at a proliferation of coffee shops, bookies and mobile phone outlets in their place,” observed long-standing city centre businessman Tom Nally.

Cllr Niall McNelis agreed there were far too many coffee shops in the city centre and believed that anything that has been zoned retail by the Council should remain retail.

The Labour Councillor said a proper retail strategy needed to be adopted and some of the ‘big-name brands’ needed to be encouraged into the centre of Galway to lure shoppers into town.

Meanwhile, popular barber Tom Nally regretted the number of family operations that have ceased trading in the recent past.

“It is sad to see the long-established family businesses in the city centre going and it would be great to say that what is replacing them will enhance our streets . . . but unfortunately this is not the case,” he added.

Mr Nally who has been operating out of his High Street premises for almost 50 years, said the number of unoccupied premises in an around the city centre was a new phenomenon.

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

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CITY TRIBUNE

State cracks down on quick-buck landlords

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New measures to clamp down on illegal short-term lets in the city will kick in next month, in an attempt to tackle mounting pressure on the rental market.

From September 1, sites such as Airbnb and Booking.com will no longer be allowed to advertise short-term rentals if the correct planning permission is not in place.

The measure seeks to strengthen laws introduced in 2019 which state that the use of a property for short-term letting for longer than 90 days in a rent-pressure zone requires permission from the local authority.

City Councillor Niall Murphy (Green) said the move follows on from an objection he lodged with the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI).

“The ASAI said it couldn’t be expected to police these ads so the websites like Airbnb were off the hook. But after September, they will have to ensure that those advertising on their sites have planning permission,” he said.

The proliferation of short-term lets in the city has been a contentious issue for a number of years, with scores of holiday leases available at the same time as city residents are battling it out for an extremely limited number of rental properties.

This week, almost 400 short-term lets were available on the leading website, Airbnb, while just 19 homes were up for rent on Daft.ie.

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

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