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CITY TRIBUNE

Judge bites back at ‘vampire’ taxi passenger

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A back-seat passenger bit a taxi driver on the neck before telling him she was a vampire who loved blood.

Polish national, Alexandra Kruzel (38), was living in an apartment at Cuan na Coille, Bishop O’Donnell Road, at the time of the attack five years ago before moving to Germany.

The shocked taxi driver drove to Galway Garda Station and reported the incident immediately after he had dropped Kruzel at her address on March 22, 2014.

She was subsequently charged with two counts of assaulting the man as he drove along Seamus Quirke Road in the early hours of the morning.

A bench warrant was issued for Kruzel’s arrest when she subsequently failed to show up in court to answer the charges.

The warrant was executed last month on her return to Galway when she was arrested while intoxicated at Spanish Arch.

She appeared on bail before Galway District Court this week where she pleaded guilty to one of the assault charges.

Sergeant Cathal Rodgers, prosecuting, withdrew the second assault charge following the plea to the first.

He said the taxi driver had picked up the woman outside Karma nightclub around 1.30am and while driving along, she leaned forward and bit him on the left side of his neck, holding on for 30 seconds.

He pulled over and pleaded with her to let go and not break the skin.

“Eventually, she let go after 30 seconds, sat back and started laughing,” Sergeant Rodgers told the court.

The accused, he said, told the driver: “I am a vampire and I love blood.”

A black and white photo was handed into court, faintly showing a mark on the man’s neck, just under his left ear.  The skin was not broken.

Defence solicitor, Valerie Corcoran, said Kruzel’s instructions to her were that she didn’t want to hurt or cause harm to the man.

“She had a lot of drink taken.  I don’t know why, but she thought he liked her. She says she did what she did in an affectionate manner,” Ms Corcoran submitted.

“That’s a new one. Are you saying she intended to give him a love bite?” Judge Fahy asked.

Sgt Rodgers discounted this, observing the taxi driver was a middle-aged man.

Ms Corcoran put her client’s action down to the level of her inebriation on the night.

Judge Fahy became concerned that the taxi driver’s identity might become known though the media.

“The impression is that she was giving him a love bite, but that is not accepted by this court or by the State. The fact that he was a middle-aged man doesn’t matter,” the judge said.

Ms Corcoran agreed.

“The man was giving a service and acting completely professionally. My client lunged at the man and bit his neck, completely inappropriately. I can understand why he’s not in court. The man is completely innocent.

“He dropped her home and correctly went to the Garda Station to report the incident because it was clearly inappropriate.  I do not think there was any badness intended,” the solicitor said.

Kruzel, she said, is a Polish national now living and working in Germany for the last five years.

“She can’t understand why she did this and she forgot about it after moving to Germany. It came to light when she returned here to visit a friend.”

Sgt Rodgers confirmed there had been no conversation between the taxi driver and Kruzel before the attack happened.

Judge Fahy said it was important to note that, as there had been cases before the court in the past where inappropriate conversations had taken place, that was not the case here.

Judge Fahy said she would apply a monetary penalty and the taxi driver should be contacted to see if he was interested in getting compensation from his attacker.

Ms Corcoran informed the court her client’s phone and wallet had been stolen from her on the evening she was arrested at the Spanish Arch and she had no money on her.

Kruzel said a friend would have to send her money to pay for her fare back to Germany.

She admitted she had not reported the phone or wallet stolen to Gardai.

Judge Fahy said she didn’t believe Kruzel and in light of her comments, she said she didn’t believe the taxi driver would be interested in compensation either.

Taking into account the fact Kruzel had no previous convictions, Judge Fahy sentenced her to three months in prison for the assault and suspended the sentence for 12 months on condition she be of good behaviour and remain sober in public.  Leave to appeal was granted.

Ms Corcoran assured the court her client would be going back to Germany.

CITY TRIBUNE

Murals are part of initiative to restore pride in Ballybane estate

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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.

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CITY TRIBUNE

QR codes hold the key to podcast tour of Galway City

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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.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Renters in Galway City have to fork out an extra €11,500 annually

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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.

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