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Hijacker threatened to break driver’s jaw if he didn’t get him vodka



A man hijacked a car outside his local shop in broad daylight and held its driver hostage, threatening to break his jaw if he didn’t drive him to a supermarket to purchase vodka for him.

A jury took just 27 minutes to unanimously find 24-year-old Michael Barrett, from 46 Béal Srutha, Ballybane, guilty of falsely imprisoning the young driver of an Audi A4 and to unlawfully seizing his car, by using the threat of force to take control of the vehicle, outside the Gala shop at 2/3 Beal Srutha on May 3 last year.

Barrett’s defence team claimed during his two-day trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court last week that he asked the driver outside Gala to take him to Joyce’s in Ballybane, and that the driver had agreed to do so.

Paul Flannery SC, defending, said Barrett denied using the threat of violence to get the driver to take him to Joyce’s and he also denied demanding the driver come into Joyce’s with him to buy him vodka.

CCTV footage downloaded from cameras outside both supermarkets was shown to the jury of eight women and four men.

The footage from Gala showed the victim getting back into his car parked right outside the store after purchasing drinks while on his lunch break.

Barrett was seen approaching the car carrying a paper coffee cup and opening the front passenger’s door. He got in and a minute later the car drove off.

CCTV from Joyce’s picked up the car entering the carpark at speed a few minutes later.  The car parked in a space directly across from the front door.  The driver got out momentarily.  Just as Barrett got out of the car on the passenger’s side, the driver is seen getting back into the car and driving off at speed. Barrett walked across the carpark in the direction of Béal Srutha.

Garda Lena Fregne told the jury she received a report of the alleged hijacking of a black Audi A4 and took photos of items seized inside the car. They included two empty paper coffee cups which were sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory for DNA analysis.

The driver told the jury he knew Barrett to see as he had grown up in the general area himself, but no longer lived there.

He said he asked Barrett to get out of the car as he was anxious to get back to work after his lunch break but Barrett locked the door and told him to drive or he would break his jaw and he would take the car off him anyway.

“He told me to bring him for a spin or he was going to hurt me.  I felt extremely shook and threatened and I felt the smart thing to do would be to follow his orders until I got a chance to get away,” witness told the jury.

He said Barrett told him to drive around for a bit and he did what he was told.

As they approached Joyce’s, Barrett told him to pull into the carpark and said he wanted him to buy him vodka in the store.

The witness said he parked as close to the front door as he could as he felt that was his best option to get help because he knew there would be people and also CCTV cameras concentrated in that area.

He told Barrett he had no cash on him, only his cards, but he got out of the car and pretended to go in with him, before getting his chance to jump back in the car and lock the doors when Barrett got out on the passenger’s side.

Mr Flannery put it to him that Joyce’s was just a three to four minute drive from Gala and that he had voluntarily driven his client there.

“What he wanted from you was to get a lift up to Joyce’s so he could get some vodka and you shook hands with him when he got into the car. I suggest he didn’t threaten you,” Mr Flannery put to the witness.

“He threatened to break my jaw and said he didn’t care if I called the Gardai. I went along with things when the threats started.

“I was in such a state of shock, I don’t remember shaking his hand.  I told him I was on my lunch break and couldn’t go anywhere,” he said.

Mr Flannery said the man had also refused to take a picture as requested by Barrett on Barrett’s phone and contended that he was not as scared as he was making out to the jury because he had refused to take the photo and had also refused to go into Joyce’s with his client to buy him drink.

“I have no recollection of being asked to take a photo.  I was so shook I didn’t know what to do.  I was trying to flee the situation but I wasn’t able to,” the man replied.

Garda Sean O’Connor said the driver of a black Audi flagged down his Garda van at Ard Alainn and told him what had just happened.

He and Garda Brendan Dooher searched the area and found Barrett back in Béal Srutha.

Prosecuting barrister, Geri Silke, said Barrett was arrested and questioned about the unlawful seizure or hijacking of the car. He provided a DNA sample which was sent for forensic analysis.

Mr Flannery said it was accepted Barrett’s DNA was found on the coffee cups and said his client would not be giving evidence in the trial.

Following closing submissions from both prosecuting and defence counsel, the jury deliberated for 27 minutes before reaching its unanimous verdict of guilty to both charges.

Barrett was remanded in custody to await sentence on July 22.  The court heard he was already in custody awaiting sentence on that date for other matters. His free legal aid certificate was extended to cover the cost of obtaining a psychiatric report on him for that date along with an up-to-date probation report.


Council officials branded ‘ignorant’ after reneging on circus agreement



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A circus branded City Hall in Galway ‘ignorant and arrogant’ after a spat over access to public space.

Circus Gerbola criticised Galway City Council for limiting the days its big top was permitted in Claude Toft carpark in Salthill and for reneging on an agreement.

The touring troupe said that last January, it provisionally booked the carpark from August 4-21. In early July, the Council emailed the circus and said it would be limited to seven days only.

Event Producer Jane Murray said she then secured a verbal compromise to rent the carpark for 10 days, including two weekends. But then the Council contacted the circus again and insisted that the site could be used for seven days only.

“I wouldn’t call them clowns because I think it would be an insult to clowns and generations of clowning. They were just extremely ignorant and arrogant. They were so unempathetic,” fumed Ms Murray.

They then scrambled to find alternative accommodation, in Kinvara, for performances today, Saturday and Sunday.

The third planned week has been moved to Conamara. From next Monday, the big top moves to Fíbín theatre company grounds in An Tulach, Cois Fharraige, for a series of events.

A Council statement said the matter was discussed at length internally.

“The carpark in question is relied upon by locals and tourists alike for parking, particularly during the busy tourist season. The best compromise in this situation was to permit the circus to take over full use of the car park for seven days. We do envisage complaints/representations from locals at being prevented from using this car park for a full week,” it said.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see the August 12 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Residents call on Galway City Council to tackle burning of rubbish



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Local residents have called on the authorities to tackle the problem of an ongoing illegal dump in the Castlegar area with the rubbish being burnt off on a regular basis.

A particularly intense fire was set off in the Bruckey area on Tuesday afternoon last with black smoke billowing from the blaze – forcing local people to close their windows and doors.

According to one local resident, even the Fire Brigade couldn’t access the blaze which eventually burnt itself out over the following days.

“This has been going on for the past four years and we have made several overtures to the City Council on the issue as well as contacting the Gardaí, but nothing is being done about this.”

He said that the land being used as dump and fire site was rented and added that those burning waste were ‘a complete law onto themselves who did whatever they liked’.

(Photo: the fire burning on Tuesday)

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see the August 12 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Councillors ignore Transport Authority recommendation on estate access



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A submission by the National Transport Authority (NTA) – seeking to restrict new access points along the Western Distributor Road to ‘cyclists and pedestrians’ only – has been defeated at a City Council meeting.

Councillors voted 12-4 to reject the NTA submission presented in the draft Galway City Development Plan (2023-29) which sought to prevent new access points being provided for vehicular traffic.

The NTA in their submission said that their proposal was aimed at ‘protecting investment in public transport’ and in ‘facilitating sustainable travel’.

In his response to the submission, City Council Chief Executive, Brendan McGrath, said that the Council did not want any further restrictions to be put in place.

Councillors Niall Murphy (Green Party) and Colette Connolly (Ind) had proposed the acceptance of the NTA submission in order to improve access for cyclists and pedestrians.

Senior Planner with the Council, Caroline Phelan, said that there was a substantial bank of land in this area (off the Western Distributor Road) and the objective was to be able to access zoned land.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) said that if land in such areas was prevented from being developed by a lack of access, it would have major implications for industry, jobs, housing and schools. “We have to allow access,” he said.

(Photo: The ‘Kingston Cross’ lands on the Western Distributor Road which were earmarked for a commercial and residential development anchored by Tesco and Decathlon: An Bord Pleanála previously ruled access points would be a traffic hazard, particularly when it came to cycling infrastructure and a bus corridor on the road).

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see the August 12 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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