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Judge locks up violent criminal for nine years

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A man who claims he turned to a life of crime because he had the same name as his uncle, has received sentences totalling nine years in prison with the final eighteen months suspended.

Gerard Barry (23), from 15 Glenbaun, Ballybane, received the sentences at Galway Circuit Criminal Court for a spate of sometimes violent offences committed across the city in recent years while he was out on bail.

Barry was already serving a seven-month sentence, imposed at Galway District Court in February, for stealing a tourist’s luggage from a bus.

He appeared before the Circuit Court in March where he pleaded guilty to burglary at a house in Slieve Rua, Ballybane and to stealing a car from outside the house on October 4 last year  – a month after the theft from the bus.

He also pleaded guilty to the robbery of €50 cash from a man at Newcastle Road on the same date.

Barry further pleaded guilty to the attempted robbery of another man at Doughiska Road on October 8 last and to producing a blade during the course of that attempted robbery.

Garda Jason Kelly said the first set of charges before the court related to the attempted robbery at Fearann Rí, Doughiska on September 8 last year.

He said a young man was sitting in his car with three of his friends when Barry and another youth approached.

Barry asked the driver for a light and then asked him if he had any weapons or knives in the car. The young man said he didn’t carry any weapons.

Barry said he should because people like him could be around.  He then pulled a Stanley blade on the driver and ordered him to hand over his money and mobile phone. The driver refused and Barry tried to force open the driver’s door.

Barry lunged in the driver’s window with the blade and tried to hit the driver’s arm but the young man managed to fend Barry off while starting the engine.  Barry tried to pull the keys out of the ignition but the young man succeeded in driving off.

The driver made a complaint to Gardaí and identified Barry for them, but he managed to evade arrest until October 4 last year, when he was arrested for another offence.

He admitted during a second interview that he had tried to rob the driver at knifepoint.

Prosecuting barrister, Conor Fahy, said the driver was a foreign national.  He didn’t want to make a victim impact statement and had told Gardaí he just wanted to put the encounter behind him.

Garda Kelly confirmed Barry had 38 previous convictions for thefts, burglaries, blackmail and extortion, dangerous driving, stealing cars, damaging property, robbery, hit and run and various other road traffic offences.

Defence barrister, Geri Silke said all of Barry’s offences started when a member of his family was arrested for a serious criminal offence.

“He has the same name.  It’s been following him around all the time,” she said.

Garda David Foley gave evidence that on October 4 last year, Barry forced the rear door of a house in Slieve Rua with a crowbar while the occupants were asleep upstairs. He stole a set of car keys and stole a car parked outside on the driveway.

Garda Foley said a lot of damage was done to the car and it’s owner was very upset.

The Garda read the young man’s victim impact statement to the court.

“Everything I worked for and saved for was taken that night by someone who never worked a day in his life.

“My mode of transport which I used to earn my living was taken away from me.

“We got a dog and fitted new locks in our home.

“When someone breaks into your home, suddenly it’s not your home any more,” he said.

The young man went on to explain the economic cost he had to endure as a result of Barry’s actions.

He said he had to get taxis to work and his car, which he had worked so hard for, was destroyed.

“It’s difficult to pick up the pieces of this mess, but at least my mother can sleep at night now, knowing he can’t break in again for a few years, thank God,” he added.

Garda Emmet Rock gave evidence in relation to a robbery which took place outside the Londis shop in Newcastle on October 4 last year – a short time after Barry stole the car from outside the house in Slieve Rua.

He said a van driver stopped to get a coffee and parked across the road from the shop.

As he was leaving the shop a youth in a silver car called him over and told him he had just been stopped for drunken driving and he then demanded the man give him all his money.

The man became frightened and ran to his van but Barry followed him, kicking him in the legs.

The man managed to get into the van but Barry punched him three times in the jaw.

Barry tried to get into the driver’s seat and tried to take the keys out of the ignition, but something spooked him and he stopped and ran over to the car.

It was the car he had stolen earlier that night from outside the house in Slieve Rua.

Garda Rock read the man’s victim impact statement to the court.

“Not in a million years did I think this would happen.  I was on the was on the way to work that night when I stopped to get a coffee.

“I no longer like driving at night. I frighten very easily now and I get nervous if strangers approach me,” he said.

The man said he had to tell his young children what had happened when they quizzed him about the cuts on his face.

“They worry all the time now when I leave the house and that is something they should not have to go through,” he said in his statement.

Prosecuting barrister, Conor Fahy said Barry pleaded guilty in   November 2014 to a spate of burglaries and criminal damage charges.  He had subsequently failed to keep any appointments with the probation service.

The service deemed Barry to be at a very high risk of re-offending in February 2015.

Mr Fahy reminded Judge Rory McCabe that he let Barry out on bail that February on condition he attend Hyde Park treatment centre and remain there until his course of treatment was complete.

However, Barry left that treatment centre shortly after going there and went drinking and taking drugs.

He has been in custody since his arrest on October 4 last year for the theft of the car and the subsequent attack on the van driver that night.

Ms Silke confirmed Barry had gone to Hyde Park treatment centre last July but left it when he was asked to confront issues from his childhood.

She said his criminal behaviour began in 2009 after his uncle who has the same name, committed “a serious offence.”

She said he turned to drink and drugs, but since going into prison (for the District Court offences) he had managed to avoid drugs and now had a cleaning job.

“He’s a gorgeous young man, a lovely young man when he’s not drinking,” Ms Silke observed.

Judge McCabe pointed out all of these serious offences were committed while Barry was out on bail for the 2014 burglary and criminal damage offences.

He said Barry had been given many opportunities by courts in the past to take hold of his life but had chosen not to do so.

Reading reports handed into court, the judge said Barry’s psychological profile showed he had no psychiatric disorder.

Given the significant criminal history, the Judge said there was no getting away from a custodial sentence.

He then imposed various sentences totalling nine years.

He suspended the final 18 months of the sentence giving Barry further credit for time already spent inside.

CITY TRIBUNE

Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.

Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.

To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.

He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.

In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.

And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.

“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
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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CITY TRIBUNE

Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
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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