District Court Judge Mary Fahy received a round of applause last week when she refused to renew and transfer the annual drinks licence to the owner of the Lantern Bar in Ballybane, following stringent objections from Gardaí and local residents alike.
The judge said the lack of proper management at the premises, particularly over the past year – which had resulted in Gardai having to deal with several public order incidents in the area – had led her to refuse the granting of the licence.
Eight objectors to the licence renewal clapped as the judge gave her judgement.
The owner of the Lantern Bar, Mary Lydon, 10 Blake’s Hill, Gentian Hill, Salthill, had applied to the Annual Licensing District Court for the transfer to her of the seven-day ordinary licence attached to The Lantern Bar and Snooker Hall, which had been licensed to her now former tenant, Kingu Kongu Ltd, and licensee, Danny Kenny.
Mrs Lydon had also applied to the court for the transfer of the licence, in accordance with the provisions of Section 30 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1927, “freed and discharged from any endorsements against, or records of offences committed by the former licensee”.
Sergeant Brendan Moore, who is the Licensing Sergeant for Galway City objected to the renewal of the annual licence on behalf of the Gardaí.
Mr Kenny was not present for the contested hearing.
Handing a medical report into court, his solicitor informed Judge Fahy that Mr Kenny contacted him two hours before the hearing was scheduled to begin that afternoon, stating he would be unable to attend due to a medical condition.
Judge Fahy refused the solicitor’s request to adjourn the hearing, noting the objectors had been in court all day waiting for the case to be heard.
Sgt Moore said he had given the solicitor a document, summarising the Garda objections to the granting of the licence, listing five different incidents which were alleged to have happened in or near the pub.
Benen Fahy, solicitor, explained he represented Mrs Lydon. Mr Fahy said Mr Kenny had surrendered his lease of the pub to Mrs Lydon in August and had signed the back of the licence to facilitate its transfer to her and the premises had been closed since then.
He said his client had not been aware of any problems with the management of the premises until recently and she now wanted to regularise matters.
“She has put the property up for sale and does not intend to open it again,” he added.
Sgt Moore called evidence to support the Gardaí’s application objecting to the renewal.
Five Gardaí in turn gave evidence about several public order incidents which were alleged to have occurred in the vicinity of the pub in the last year.
Garda Paul Gahan said he received a report of men fighting in the pub’s carpark on Sunday morning, June 2 last. He arrived there at 1.20am to find one man being assaulted by several members of his own family. All were intoxicated and informed him they had been drinking earlier in the pub. Closing time was 12.30a.m.
“It took at least six Gardaí arriving in three Garda cars up to 20 minutes to diffuse the situation. The injured man withdrew his complaint so no prosecutions ensued,” he said.
Garda Pat Casey gave evidence he inspected the pub at 1am on May 12 last and found a number of people, including a 16-year-old juvenile, drinking there. He confirmed a prosecution was pending for that matter.
Garda Michael Gallagher said he was called to the premises at 12.30am on May 6 last after the manager reported a large Christening party had “gone out of control” upstairs in the pub.
He said the manager remained outside the premises as he and a female colleague tried to get the forty or so intoxicated family members to leave. “It was totally out of control and we had to call for assistance. There was chaos inside. There was no staff upstairs. They left it to the Gardaí to sort it out. The manager said he had lost control,” he told the court.
Garda Gallagher said he tried to reason with the father of the baby boy who had been christened but had to arrest him when he became threatening and abusive when asked to leave the area.
He confirmed that at least 12 Gardaí had to lend assistance on the night.
Garda Cian O’Boyle said he noticed one of the men at the Christening party upstairs in the pub had blood all over his face. He said he went to speak to a juvenile who was drinking but the juvenile ran outside into the carpark where he started fighting with another male.
He said he arrested the juvenile for being drunk in public and for breaching the peace.
Garda Christine Galvin said she responded to an incident in the early hours of New Year’s Day along with several Garda units, including the armed Regional Support Unit.
She said that up to 70 patrons were engaging in verbal disputes outside the pub.
“People were pulling each other’s hair. It was unsafe to enter the premises as people were leaving it. Gardaí were trying to get control of things happening outside.
“Patrons were crossing the road in front of traffic. Some went into Lios na Rún and started arguing there. People were arrested and a file is with the DPP about what happened that night.
“The premises was open and people were exiting as Gardaí arrived. The Gardaí were there to maintain control of the situation. People were very intoxicated, aggressive and very disrespectful to the Gardaí there.
“I just felt sorry for people living in the area,” Garda Galvin said.
Sgt Moore said he had never met the licensee on the many occasions he had inspected The Lantern pub, and he said he had inspected it more often than any other premises in the city since taking charge of Garda licensing matters.
“There was no proper control of the premises by the licensee and no regard for the Licensing Act.
“This is a densely populated residential area and the number of disturbances that have emanated from that premises and that have spilled out into the surrounding housing estates, has affected people’s quality of life,” Sgt Moore added.
Mr Kenny’s solicitor said he felt the Garda’s application, objecting to the renewal of the licence, should be struck out as the evidence stated some of the incidents occurred outside the premises and the licensee could not be held accountable for those.
Mr Fahy said the premises had been taken back and the licensee (Mr Kenny) had no involvement with it any more. He noted prosecutions were pending and they should be dealt with and those responsible punished for whatever breaches of the licensing laws they were responsible for. Judge Fahy said her hands were tied because Mr Kenny was not in court to give evidence saying he was no longer involved.
Mary Lydon gave evidence she had leased the premises to Kingu Kongu Ltd for four years and nine months from April 2016. She said her son, Terry Lydon, looks after a portfolio of eight pubs which she owns.
She said her son started to have concerns over the running of the premises in recent months and spoke to the licensee who agreed to surrender the lease.
Mrs Lydon said she would be putting the premises up for sale after works were carried out to the satisfaction of the Fire Officer.
Sgt Moore put it to Mrs Lydon she was giving the impression she didn’t know what was going on at the premises or how it was being ran even though she lived in Galway.
“Should the license be renewed here today, how will we know that you won’t transfer it to another tenant?” he asked.
Mrs Lydon said she would not be leasing it again.
“I only want my licence back to get rid of the whole lot,” she replied.
Sgt Moore put to her that the licensee was aware of the Garda objections to the renewal since August, so he was aware of the objections when he surrendered the lease back to her in September.
“Don’t you know that this is merely a device to avoid objections and refusal of the licence renewal? He ran amok up there.
“You will find another tenant and in the meantime, no one is responsible for what went on,” Sgt Moore said.
“There will not be another licensee up there,” Mrs Lydon tried to assure him.
“We don’t know that,” the sergeant replied.
Terry Lydon said a YouTube video he saw last January of people arguing in the pub carpark prompted him to speak to Mr Kenny, telling him it was time for him to “move on” and hand the premises back.
Sgt Moore said there was nothing to stop witness getting another tenant in there “and continue your ‘hands-off, laissez-faire’ approach, expecting the Gardai to run your property for you”.
Mr Lydon said he took steps to get the premises back and he did get it back in September.
Judge Fahy observed it was strange that nobody was “moved on” the licensee in January, February or March and not until the licence came up for renewal in September, even though witness was aware of problems in its management since January.
Judge Fahy observed it was up to the licensee to control a premises and not the Gardaí.
She upheld the Garda objections and made an order refusing the renewal of the licence, stating the premises was not being run properly.
Mr Fahy asked about his application to have the licence transferred to his client.
“Your licence has not been renewed so you have nothing to transfer,” Judge Fahy replied.
She said she had made her order and he could appeal her decision to a higher court if he so wished.
She said that for the transfer application to proceed, the licensee would have to be in court.
“It’s unprecedented that the licensee is not in court and I’m not happy the medical letter is genuine. It covers yesterday and today I do not know, but the licensee is not in court,” the judge said.
Mr Fahy said his application was for the transfer of the current licence to his client and he asked the judge to adjourn the application to another date.
Judge Fahy again refused the application, stating the licensee had not been in control of the premises and the owner, since last January, had made absolutely no effort to remedy the situation and take it back until last month.
She reiterated she was refusing the application for transfer of the licence back to Mrs Lydon.
Mr Fahy intimated he would be appealing the court’s decision.
The residents clapped when the final order was made.
Afterwards, one woman said eight objectors had come to court to represent the people of Ballybane.
“We’re all very happy with the decision. That’s all we want to say,” she said. “No more drink late at night,” another woman added.
Delay in setting up addiction treatment services ‘will cost lives’
Any further delay in setting up an alcohol addiction treatment service in Galway City will result in more deaths, including suicides, of problem drinkers – and cause ‘total devastation’ to local families, addiction experts have warned.
Addiction Counsellors of Ireland (ACI) has demanded that the Health Service Executive (HSE) immediately establishes an alcohol treatment service in the city.
The professional body – which accredits counsellors – claims that GPs in Galway are ‘flooded’ with drink-related patients, and the Emergency Department “can’t cope” with the level of alcohol admissions. It said the long-awaited alcohol addiction treatment service planned for the city would save lives and save tens of thousands of euro on alcohol-related emergency admissions at University Hospital Galway.
Some €470,000 a year funding for the service was announced by the previous Government last December; and a commitment for the service was contained in the Programme for Government agreed by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green Party.
This week, Galway West TD Hildegarde Naughton, a Minister of State in the new administration, confirmed that some €225,000 for the service from now until Christmas is available in the 2020 HSE budget to get the service up and running.
Local addiction counsellors have now demanded that the HSE urgently hire the staff, and source a building, to roll out the alcohol addiction service, which has been absent for the past seven years.
Chairperson of ACI, Seán Harty, said there was a high price to pay for more delays in setting up an alcohol treatment service.
Mr Harty said “death, families left devastated, breakdown in families, increases in suicide and total devastation” will result if the service is not rolled-out quickly.
“Each and every day that we have this funding and the service is not open we are letting the people of Galway down,” he said.
Another leading accredited addiction counsellor based in Galway, Joe Treacy, who is also a spokesperson for ACI, warned that getting the service established was “a matter of urgency, lives are at risk”.
“We need the HSE to stop pussyfooting around, and pretending that we have a service. Without it, this city has a huge void in relation to the ongoing treatment of alcohol addiction. The impact is enormous without this service. There are families in dire circumstances. There were families in difficulties prior to Covid-19 and now more and more the void is there,” said Mr Treacy.
An addiction treatment centre at Merlin Park was gutted by fire following an arson attack in 2013.
The HSE told a County Galway Joint Policing Committee meeting in May that ‘higher priority’ than reopening the addiction treatment centre at Merlin Park, was ‘a network of community-based addiction services’.
ACI said that the statistics proved the need for the service to be replaced. They said that the Merlin Park centre was dealing with up to 900 referrals a year before it was burnt down; the new treatment centre will cater for around 70 referrals per month.
“A study of the Emergency Department in Galway found that 30% of episodes of alcohol associated with attendees were for repeat attendees. That meant they had one or more episode of care at ED within the year, and some up to 40 times per year,” said Mr Harty.
He pointed out that alcohol associated attendances to Galway ED cost approximately €700,000 per annum, which does not include costs for patients admitted to hospitals.
Ambulance call-outs for alcohol-related incidents in Galway also cost about €1m million every year.
The plan is to line the new treatment service to the ED, which will reduce costs, and provide more effective and efficient services to the people who need it, Mr Harty said.
He added that savings would not be limited to health, but right across society, and would take pressure off the Court Services, Probation Services, An Garda Síochána and more.
“This service is going to pay for itself without a shadow of a doubt. It is extremely good value for money to the Exchequer and will absolutely serve the people of Galway, hopefully with a roll-out to County Galway, Mayo and Roscommon in the coming years,” he said.
However, it was imperative the HSE act as soon as possible, he said.
“The urgency is that GPs are flooded with people presenting with alcohol related issues; ED can’t cope. It can’t cope with the numbers of repeat presentations for alcohol. It’s a huge problem. There are 2,000 beds per night in Ireland taken up with alcohol. Two thirds of suicides, there is alcohol in the system,” added Mr Harty.
Statistics show that there is very little service provided for people with a primary alcohol problem who require outpatient services in Galway – the city has one counsellor per 50,353 people, while Waterford has one per 9,346 people and Tralee has one per 3,948.
Mr Treacy said Galway is playing catch-up since the services were removed in 2013.
“What we need in Galway is a comprehensive alcohol-addiction treatment centre for a city of this size, and without that we have a huge void in services. It’s a basic commodity that we don’t have in Galway at the moment.
The impact is enormous without this service. We have an emerging problem in the city and it’s catching up faster than we can keep up,” added Mr Treacy.
The €470,000 annual funding committed by Government provides for three addiction counsellors, one family support counsellor, one project worker, one liaison nurse and one administrator. The HSE has been urged to hire the staff with the money available, and source a building, which is also budgeted for.
(Main photo: The addiction treatment centre in Merlin Park which was destroyed by fire in 2013).
Galway Fire Service seeks retention of ‘temporary’ offices
The Fire Service has sought permission to retain unauthorised ‘temporary’ offices and parking spaces at Galway Fire Station.
The existing planning permission for the offices to the rear of the building on Fairhill Road and seven parking spaces at the side expired in May 2019.
However, planning officials warned six years ago that a proposal to seek a further duration of retention of the offices may not be favourably considered. If permission is refused, the offices – which include a breathing apparatus training area – will have to be demolished.
Galway Fire Service has been struggling for more than a decade to find a suitable location for a new headquarters to serve the city.
Now, Galway County Council – which operates the Fire Service – has come back to the City Council for permission to retain temporary office accommodation at the rear and seven parking spaces at the front of the station.
The offices were given a five-year grant of permission in 2000 by the City Council. Subsequent grants of permission to retain them were given in 2005, 2007 and 2014.
A Warning Letter was served by the Council on the County Council in 2014 that because retention permission had expired, the buildings were unauthorised.
A further planning application for retention was subsequently lodged and approved, and the City Council’s Senior Planner Liam Blake said: “It is noted that on the expiration of this permission in 2019 that temporary permissions have been granted in 2000, 2005 and 2007 for this site (i.e. nearly 19 years) and in view of this, it is considered that the application should be advised that consideration of a further application for an extended period may not be considered favourable as the cumulative number of years for which temporary permissions have been granted far exceeds what would normally be considered temporary and the nature and impact of the works are such that a permanent grant of planning would not normally be considered.”
In the latest application, Chief Fire Officer Gerard O’Malley said: “When permission was previously granted for the temporary accommodation, it was envisaged that Galway Fire Service would be building a new fire station in a different location within the city.
“However, this has not yet materialised and subsequently, Galway Fire Service are not in an immediate position to vacate the existing site.
“A number of sites are undergoing feasibility studies and we would hope to expedite the relocating process in the coming years.
“We wish to apply for retention planning permission until we are in a position to construct a new HQ in the near future. The temporary offices are essential to the operation of Galway Fire Service,” said Mr O’Malley.
The building includes offices for the Chief Fire Officer (CFO); four Senior Assistant CFOs; five Assistant CFOs; administration rooms and a meeting room.
The Council previously said that while the offices had been in place for many years, they are not suitable in the long term because they are adjacent to and visible from the graveyard of St Mary’s Church, a Protected Structure.
A decision is due on the latest planning application at the beginning of September.
Work to start on Merlin Park ambulance base
Two of the contractors who were unsuccessful in tendering for the contract to build a new ambulance base at Merlin Park Hospital have queried the process with the Health Service Executive (HSE) – just as the successful bidder is due to move onsite in August.
Joe Hoare, HSE West Assistant National Director of Estates, told last week’s HSE West Regional Health Forum that the project has been tendered for, and a contractor has been selected.
“We have a contractor ready to start,” he said, adding that two of the unsuccessful contractors “did have questions” they wanted answered.
These questions, insisted Mr Hoare, would be responded to within days, and the contract will be awarded “within the next two weeks”.
He confirmed in response to queries from City Councillor John Connolly (FF) that the new ambulance base will be on the grounds of Merlin Park, and “construction will start at the end of August on site”.
Cllr Connolly welcomed the clarity in the verbal response from Mr Hoare at the Forum meeting on Zoom, but he was disappointed with the level of detail that was contained in the written response to his queries.
Cllr Connolly said it was good news that “finally there is movement on a new ambulance base”.
“The temporary facilities they’re using currently at UHG are Third World nearly. You would have to wonder how it’s two years since they got planning permission and it hasn’t started. It is good that a contractor has been selected and it will start soon,” said Cllr Connolly.
The need for a new ambulance base has been highlighted in recent years in Galway City Tribune.
In March of this year, ambulance staff lashed the conditions of the existing base which is housed at the old Fever Hospital at UHG. It was not fit-for-purpose, according to staff.
Asked by this newspaper for an update last week on the planned new ambulance base, a spokesperson said: “The National Ambulance Service have engaged with staff regarding concerns about the current accommodation. The National Ambulance Service have been working with colleagues in HSE Estates division as well as colleagues in the hospital group to address these concerns. Issues have been progressed and resolved while others are still being worked upon.
“Management within the National Ambulance Service area continue to work on the issues raised by staff and will continue to engage with staff on this matter. The plan is for a new ambulance base for staff, however this must go through the normal planning and funding channels.”
(Main photo: Inside the current ambulance base in the old Fever Hospital at UHG).