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CITY TRIBUNE

Getaway driver for armed robbery avoids jail

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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.

CITY TRIBUNE

Council to consider new pedestrian ‘plaza’ for Galway City

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Councillors will be asked next month to consider a sweeping overhaul of traffic flow in the city centre as the local authority seeks to create a more pedestrian-friendly core in the wake of Covid-19.

Currently under proposal in City Hall are major alterations to traffic flow which will allow for restricted car access to Middle Street – creating additional outdoor seating space for businesses in the area struggling to cope amid social distancing requirements.

Senior Engineer at City Hall, Uinsinn Finn, said they are currently considering three different proposals to alter traffic flow on Merchants Road, Augustine Street and Flood Street to reduce the need for car access to Middle Street, while still maintaining access for residents.

“We already pedestrianised Cross Street and we will be maintaining that, and there will be a proposal for Middle Street and Augustine Street.

“Businesses in the area are very much in favour of pedestrianisation – one business has objections but the others are supportive. Another consideration is that there are residents there with parking spaces and we are trying to encourage people to live in the city centre,” said Mr Finn.

The Latin Quarter business group submitted proposals for the temporary pedestrianisation of Middle Street and Abbeygate Street Lower but Mr Finn said the proposals the Council were considering were more in the line of creating adequate space for pedestrians while still allowing residents vehicular access.

This would involve creating a circuit for car traffic moving through Merchants Road around onto Augustine Street and exiting at Flood Street.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Residents want laneway closed following pipe bomb scare

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Residents in part of Knocknacarra are calling for the closure of a laneway and for more Community Gardaí to be put on the beat following the discovery of a ‘viable’ pipe-bomb type device in the area last weekend.

Up to 13 homes in the Cimín Mór and Manor Court estates had to be evacuated on Friday evening last when the incendiary device was discovered by Gardaí concealed in an unlit laneway, leading to the emergency services being notified.

An Army EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) unit was called to the scene and removed the device – according to local residents and councillors, the Gardaí have confirmed that the device was viable.

Gardaí have declined to comment on the detail of the case but have confirmed that the matter is being ‘actively and vigorously investigated’.

Chairman of the Cimín Mór Residents’ Association, Pat McCarthy, told the Galway City Tribune that the discovery of the viable device on the narrow laneway that links their estate to Manor Court was extremely frightening for all concerned.

“For the best part of the past 20 years, we have been seeking action to be taken on this laneway which has been used for dumping and unsociable behaviour on a repeated basis.

“But what happened last Friday evening was really the last straw for us. This could have resulted in serious injury to innocent people and what is also of concern to us is how close this was to the two schools in the area,” said Mr McCarthy.

He said that over the coming days, the residents’ association would be petitioning all residents in the three estates concerned – the other two being Manor Court and Garraí Dhónaill – for action to be taken on the laneway.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway designer’s necklace is fit for a princess!

Denise McNamara

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Kate Middleton wearing the necklace designed by Aisling O'Brien

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A Galway jewellery designer is the latest to experience the ‘Kate effect’ after fans tracked down the woman who created a necklace for the Duchess of Cambridge which she has worn several times since it was gifted to her during her trip to the city last March.

Aisling O’Brien’s website crashed on Wednesday night when orders poured in for the piece from around the world. The necklace costs €109 with initials, while the earrings retail for €49.

“I’d never sold more than two things outside of Ireland before. I only had three of Kate’s necklaces in stock – and now I have orders for at least 50. I’ll have to start recruiting some elves,” laughs Aisling, who only set up her website during lockdown.

The 14-carat gold necklace and earrings set was designed by Aisling specially for Kate after examining her style – “understated, elegant, simplicity” is how the Tuam native describes it.

She was contacted about the commission by physiotherapist Thérèse Tully, who wanted to give the future queen a gift as she was using her room to change at Árus Bóthar na Trá beside Pearse Stadium when the royal couple were meeting with GAA teams.

(Photo: Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton wearing the necklace)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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