The inquiry into the death of a 15 year old pedestrian, who received fatal head injuries in an accident two years ago, could not be concluded as her family asked for Garda evidence that the driver was not using his mobile phone at the time.
Leah Feeney, of Clynagh, Carraroe, died almost instantly after being struck by a car near Rossaveal Pier on May 1 2013. She had been walking along the road with a friend at twilight.
Coroner for West Galway, Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin, opened the Inquest by acknowledging that this would be a difficult process for the family, but pointed out to all parties that it was not an adversarial process, but rather one of inquiry.
“There is no prosecution; there is no defence – we just try to establish the facts as to what happened,” he said.
Three drivers recalled seeing Leah and her school friend, Alan McDonagh, minutes before the crash, which occurred at about 9.40pm near An Chéibh pub, on the R372, which links the harbour and the main Galway/Carraroe road (R336).
They all said it was getting dark at the time, and had to use their headlights, but two of them managed to recognise Alan, and one remembered that Leah was wearing white runners.
Mr McDonagh said that he and Leah were chatting when she was suddenly hit from behind by a car.
The driver, Colm Seoige (22), was going to visit his girlfriend in Carraroe, and told the inquiry that he had not seen the pedestrians as a car coming towards him had blinded him with its headlights.
He said that he had slowed down, as his visibility was impaired, but that he had not been blinded altogether until the car was right in front of him. By this stage, however, Leah was at his bonnet. He attempted to swerve right to avoid her, but failed, and she was thrown forward along the ditch.
Two ambulances attended the scene, but she was in cardiac arrest when she arrived in UHG, and was pronounced dead at 11.23pm.
Consultant pathologist, Dr Grace Callaghy, said that Ms Feeney has sustained serious head injuries, and had died from intracranial haemorrhage.
She agreed with the Coroner that injuries of this severity would have resulted in instantaneous death.
Accident investigator, Sgt Seamus O’Regan, said that the road was bound by a ditch and grass verge on the left, where Leah had been walking, while the other side was made up of loose chippings. There were no footpaths, nor were there street lamps, and the speed limit was 80 km/h.
Leah’s mobile phone was found 10.1m from her body, and he believed that this likely marked the point of impact; the Toyota Corolla driven by Mr Seoige was found 30.7m away from the phone.
Using data collected from the scene, he estimated that the car was being driven at an average speed of 37km/h when Leah was struck.
Barrister for the Feeney family, Deirdre Browne, questioned the absence of one Garda witness – whose statement she had received – who had tested Mr Seoige’s mobile phone, and downloaded the records.
The driver had told the Inquest that he had not been using it at the time of the crash, and that Gardaí had seized it at the scene, and had held on to it since.
Ms Browne said that her clients had continuously sought these records, but that Gardaí would only release them on receipt of a court order.
“They would like to see the activity on the phone at the time of the incident, and we understood that these would be available today,” she said.
“This is to see that they stack up with the account (given by Mr Seoige). We would ask you not to conclude the Inquest until the Garda witness is here.”
However, Dr MacLoughlin said that Ms Browne was trespassing on Section 30 of the Coroner’s Act 1962, which deals with questions of civil or criminal liability being entered into.
“Phone records are a matter of privacy… you can’t use the Coroner’s Court to do that,” he replied.
“There is a very high level of protection and right to privacy of telephone records.”
However, he did say that the Garda could confirm that he had looked at the telephone records, and divulge that there was or was not any activity on the phone at the time of the accident.
Ms Browne said that this would be acceptable to her clients.
The Inquest was then adjourned until October 16.
Murals are part of initiative to restore pride in Ballybane estate
From the Galway City Tribune – A poem about litter forms part of a vibrant colourful new mural painted on the walls of a City Council estate in Ballybane.
The poetry and artwork by local artist Irene Naughton is part of an initiative to restore pride in Sliabh Rua.
The final two lines of Ms Naughton’s poem, called The Dragon’s Foot, read: “The land, the sea and the river all get hurt when we leave a littered footprint on the earth.”
The full poem was painted onto boundary walls as part of a large colourful mural that was created by Ms Naughton.
The street art includes handprints from children living in the estate on the city’s east side.
It also depicts an enchanted forest, a dragon sitting atop Merlin Castle, a view of the Burren, a wolf, butterflies, insects and foliage, as well as a man playing the guitar, a former resident who died.
Ms Naughton, who was commissioned by the City Council’s Environment Department, said it took about five days to complete.
“The residents were very, very helpful and kind,” she said.
Councillor Noel Larkin (Ind) explained that the mural was part of a wider, ‘Ballybane Matters’ project, which stemmed from Galway City Joint Policing Committee (JPC).
“We were doing a lot of talking at the JPC about anti-social behaviour, and it seemed to be more prevalent in the Ballybane area. When we boiled it down, it was in the Sliabh Rua and Fána Glas areas.
“Month after month it was just talking. So Níall McNelis [chair of the JPC] said we should set up a small group to hone in on exactly what was going on,” he said.
A group was formed to focus on improving the Council estate of about 40 houses.
As well as Cllr Larkin, it included: Sergeant Mick Walsh, Galway Garda Crime Prevention Officer and community Gardaí Maria Freeley, Nicola Browne, Kenneth Boyle and Darragh Browne; Fr Martin Glynn; Imelda Gormley of Ballybane Taskforce; Councillor Alan Cheevers; Donal Lynch, chairperson Merlin Neighbourhood Residents’ Association; and two members of Galway Traveller Movement, Katie Donoghue and Kate Ward.
Ms Gormley carried out a survey to get feedback from residents.
“A lot of the problems people had were horses on the green, people being harassed going in and out of estates, trailers full of rubbish left around the place, the City Council not cutting the grass, and anti-social behaviour,” explained Cllr Larkin.
Small improvements, with community buy in, has helped to revitalise the estate.
Cllr Larkin praised Edward Conlon, community warden with the City Council, who has been “absolutely brilliant”.
“He looked funding that was available to get trees or shrubs and to get the grass cut more regularly,” he said.
“Fr Martin got a residents committee set up because he knew people through the church, and that means there is community buy-in, people are actually taking an interest now.
“When we started originally, Sergeant Mick Walsh mentioned ‘the closed curtain syndrome’. You go into your home in the evening close your curtain and don’t want to see what’s going on outside. Whereas now, with community pride restored to the area, if somebody is acting the maggot outside, people are keeping an eye on it and that curbs anti-social behaviour,” said Cllr Larkin.
Covid-19 delayed the project but it “came together very quickly” once work started.
Cllr Larkin said that the project will move to other estates in Ballybane, including Fána Glas and Castlepark, but they also plan to maintain the progress made in on Sliabh Rua.
“We decided to concentrate on Sliabh Rua, because if we could crack Sliabh Rua we could crack the rest of them. Pride has been restored in the community,” added Cllr Larkin.
QR codes hold the key to podcast tour of Galway City
From the Galway City Tribune – From singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran’s teenage days busking on the corner of William Street, to the rich past of the 14th century Lynch’s Castle on Shop Street, a new interactive tour of Galway City covers modern and ancient history.
Regional tour guide Jim Ward has created a series of podcasts detailing the history of eight places of interest in Galway City.
The Salthill native has created two-dimensional QR codes that are located at each of the eight locations, which allow visitors to download the podcasts to their smart phones.
Each podcast gives a flavour of the tours that Jim gives in ‘real-time’ when he leads hordes of tourists around the city’s famous sites.
The podcasts range from five to ten minutes and are located on or near buildings at the following locations: Eyre Square, William Street, Lynch’s Castle, the King’s Head, St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church, the Latin Quarter, Spanish Arch and Galway Cathedral.
During the Covid-19 Lockdowns, Jim gave virtual tours by video through sustainable tourism website, Flockeo.
He has also brought Ukrainian refugees on tours through the city streets to allow them to become familiar with Galway’s rich history.
The podcasts are hosted on his website, galwaytrails.ie and are accessed on mobile devices through via QR codes scanned onto posters.
Jim said he was grateful to the businesses of Galway, who have allowed his to put up posters on their premises near the sites of interest.
“I propose to ask Galway City Council for permission to place some on public benches and poles at a later date.”
He said the idea was to “enhance interactive tourism in Galway and bring connectivity to the city”.
He also has other plans in the pipeline, including rolling-out an interactive oral history of certain areas such as Woodquay.
This would involve interviewing local people of interest in certain historic parts of the city, which could be accessed through podcasts. The stories would be their own, or that of local organisations.
“The recordings would be accessed through QR codes on lamp posts or park benches and would provide a level of interactivity and connectedness with our historic town,” Jim added.
Renters in Galway City have to fork out an extra €11,500 annually
From the Galway City Tribune – Renters in private accommodation in Galway City are paying, on average, around €11,500 more per annum than they were at the bottom of the market ten years ago.
According to figures published by property website Daft.ie this week, the average monthly rent in the city now stands at €1,663 – that’s up a whopping 138% since the market trough in early 2012, when it stood at around €700.
At the end of June this year, the average monthly rent had risen 16.4% – one of the biggest jumps in the country.
Nationally rents in the second quarter of 2022 were an average of 12.6% higher than the same period a year earlier, as availability of rental homes reached an all-time low.
County Galway has seen a similar pattern of increases – average rents stood at €1,184 per month, up 12.4% on the previous year. The averages have also more than doubled – up 132% – since the bottom of the market.
At the moment, there are fewer than 60 properties available for for rent in Galway city and county – the lowest figure recorded since the Daft.ie rental reports began in 2006.
A breakdown of the figures shows that a single bedroom in Galway city centre is renting for an average of €588 per month, up 19.5% on June 2021, while in the suburbs, a similar room is commanding €503 per month, up 15.9% on a year earlier. A double room is generating €633 (up 16.4%) in the city centre and €577 (up 19.2%) in the suburbs.
In the city, an average one-bed apartment is currently ‘asking’ €1,110 per month (up 17.3% year on year); a €1,297 for a two-bed house (up 15.6%); €1,542 for a three-bed house (up 16.9%); €1,923 for a four-bed house (up 21.8%) and €2,016 for a five-bed house, which is up 10.6%.
Ronan Lyons, Associate Professor of Economics at Trinity College Dublin and author of the Daft report, pointed to a resurgent economy which has accentuated the chronic shortage of rental housing in Ireland.
“The shortage of rental accommodation translates directly into higher market rents and this can only be addressed by significantly increased supply.
“While there are almost 115,000 proposed rental homes in the pipeline, these are concentrated in the Dublin area. Further, while nearly 23,000 are under construction, the remainder are earlier in the process and the growth of legal challenges to new developments presents a threat to addressing the rental scarcity,” he said.