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Getaway driver for armed robbery avoids jail



The post office in Woodlawn, which has since closed down.

A city cocaine addict who agreed to be the getaway driver in the armed robbery of a rural post office in order to pay off his drug debt, received a suspended four-year sentence, along with a community service order.

Mark Dowd (24), 22 Fionn Uisce, Doughiska, took a cousin’s car without permission on January 18, 2018, and drove an accomplice to Woodlawn Post Office where the armed robbery had to be aborted because the safe would not open.

Dowd pleaded guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court last November to attempted robbery and to the theft of the car. He did not plead guilty to a third charge of having cocaine in his possession at the time of his arrest.

The prosecution accepted the plea to the first two charges providing facts in the third drugs charge were accepted.

Sentence was adjourned for the preparation of a probation report and a victim impact statement.

Detective Sergeant Paul Duane gave evidence at the sentence hearing that at 8.45am on the morning in question, a man carrying what looked like a firearm entered the private house attached to the Post Office.

Post mistress Chris Doherty had just brought some turf in to light a fire and as she turned to lock the back door behind her, she was confronted by the man.

His face was covered and he appeared to have a handgun. He pointed the gun at her and demanded money.

She went into the Post Office but was unable to open the safe because it had a time lock. The man threatened to shoot her dogs if she didn’t give him the money. She again tried to open the safe but to no avail.

The man then ran out of the post office empty handed, running in the direction of Ballymacward. He was never caught.

Det Duane said that as this was going on, a silver car was observed parked 300 metres away on a nearby side road.

“The accused was in the car. He was the getaway driver but he left without his accomplice – the gunman,” Det Duane said.

The post mistress’s husband, Des Doherty, and postman Daniel Atwood, spoke to Dowd who was sitting in the driver’s seat and he agreed to follow them back to the Post Office.

However, when he got out onto the main road he went in the other direction towards Ballymacward. They followed him as he drove dangerously for 14km until he was stopped by Gardaí in Menlough village.

He was arrested and was found in possession of €70 worth of cocaine.

Det Duane said Dowd came from Ahascragh originally but had lived in Galway City for some time where he worked in a factory earning €450 a week. He lost his job following his arrest for these offences.

He said Dowd had built up a €2,000 drugs debt while feeding a €600-a-week cocaine habit and he had agreed to drive the getaway car to pay off the debt.

Mrs Doherty read her own victim impact statement into evidence, saying Dowd had used his local knowledge to bring the other man to rob her.

Mrs Doherty said she had been a very confident person who loved to get up early and open all the windows and doors to let in the fresh air before opening the post office.

She said that although she ran a post office, she never felt threatened or afraid.

She said everything changed since that day.  The Post Office is now closed, she said, and it had been her decision to close it as she felt she couldn’t cope if anything like this happened again.

“You might think that because it was not you who came into my home and held a gun to my face that you’re not to blame. You used your local knowledge to bring that thief to my home.

“Just look at you Mum and think how you would feel if someone came into her home and held a gun to her face,” Mrs Doherty said to Dowd, who hung his head as she read her statement from the witness box.

Defence barrister Conal McCarthy told Mrs Doherty his client wished to apologise to her and her family for all the upset he caused.

Mr McCarthy said his client was now drug-free and taken steps to completely rehabilitate himself with the help of a very supportive family.

Det Duane agreed with counsel that Dowd’s physical appearance had dramatically improved since he first saw him in January 2018, adding he believed Dowd had taken the right steps to ‘sort himself out’.

A very positive probation report also stated Dowd now posed a low risk of reoffending and would be a suitable candidate for community service in lieu of a prison sentence.

Judge Rory McCabe said Dowd’s account was that he had been threatened by people he owed money to for a debt he had accumulated, but that was no excuse for his behaviour as he had taken drugs and accumulated the debt by choice.

He placed the headline sentence for the attempted robbery – before mitigating circumstances were taken into account – at six years, and at 18 months for taking the car.

In mitigation, he said Dowd had pleaded guilty, co-operated with Gardai, and had taken steps to deal with his addiction.

The judge noted the very positive probation report before the court before sentencing Dowd to four years in prison for the attempted robbery, which he suspended for five years on condition Dowd be of good behaviour during that time.

He also directed he carry out 200 hours’ community service in lieu of a 12-month sentence for taking the car.

Judge McCabe explained there was sufficient evidence before the court that Dowd had successfully rehabilitated – which was of benefit to society – to allow him to suspend the four-year sentence.

The prosecution then entered a nolle prosequi – a decision not to proceed with the prosecution – on the drugs charge.


Mercury hit 30°C for Galway City’s hottest day in 45 years



From this week’s Galway City Tribune –

Wednesday was the hottest day in the city over the past 45 years when with a high of 30.1 Celsius being recorded at the NUI Galway Weather Station.

The highest temperature ever recorded in the city dates back to June 30, 1976, when the late Frank Gaffney had a reading of 30.5° Celsius at his weather station in Newcastle.

Pharmacists and doctors have reported a surge in people seeking treatment for sunburn.

A Status Yellow ‘high temperature warning’ from Met Éireann – issued on Tuesday – remains in place for Galway and the rest of the country until 9am on Saturday morning.

It will be even hotter in the North Midlands, where a Status Orange temperature warning is in place.

One of the more uncomfortable aspects of our current heatwave has been the above average night-time temperatures and the high humidity levels – presenting sleeping difficulties for a lot of people.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Property Tax hike voted down in Galway City



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A proposal to boost Galway City Council coffers by half a million euro every year by increasing Local Property Tax (LPT) did not receive the support of city councillors.

Councillor Peter Keane (FF) failed to get a seconder at this week’s local authority meeting for his motion to increase the LPT payable on Galway City houses by 5%.

Cllr Keane said that the increase would net the Council €500,000 every year, which could be spent evenly on services across all three electoral wards.

It would be used to fund services and projects city councillors are always looking for, including a proposal by his colleague Cllr Imelda Byrne for the local authority to hire additional staff for city parks.

The cost to the taxpayer – or property owner – would be minimal, he insisted.

“It would mean that 90% of households would pay 37 cent extra per week,” he said.

Not one of the 17 other elected members, including four party colleagues, would second his motion and so it fell.

Another motion recommending no change in the current rate of LPT in 2022 was passed by a majority.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Galway City Council needs 40 more workers to help deliver on projects



From this week’s Galway City Tribune –  Forty more workers are needed at City Hall ‘right away’, the Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said.

Brendan McGrath has warned city councillors that the local authority is understaffed and it needs to hire more staff immediately to deliver its plans and projects.

The total cost of the extra 40 workers, including salary, would be between €1.75 million and €1.95 million.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council had a workforce now that was below what it had in 2007, but the city’s population has grown and so too had the services the Council provides.

The population of Galway City grew by almost 11% in the 10 years to 2016, he said, and total staff numbers in the Council fell by 13.6% during that period.

Though more staff were hired in recent years, Mr McGrath said that the Council was at 2007 and 2008 staffing levels, even though the Census will record further increases in population since 2016.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council now provides 1,000 services across a range of departments, far more than during the 2000s.

He said that currently, 524 staff are employed at the City Council. This equated to 493 Whole Time Equivalents when part-time workers such as school wardens and Town Hall workers are included.

Mr McGrath said that 12% of all staff are in acting up positions, with many more in short-term or fixed-term contracts. There was a highly competitive jobs market and the Council was finding recruitment and retention of specialist staff difficult.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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