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CITY TRIBUNE

Judge refuses to renew drinks licence for ‘out of control’ pub

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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.

CITY TRIBUNE

Well-known Galwayman becomes charity ambassador

Denise McNamara

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One of Galway’s true characters has become an ambassador for the homeless charity which helped him turn his life around.

Dennis Connolly spent more than three decades on the streets of Galway battling alcoholism, which led to countless spells behind bars.

He was a regular in Judge John Garavan’s court, often for abusing passersby and breaking into shops. He previously told the Galway City Tribune he must have smashed the window at McCambridge’s around 10 times.

“There were times there that I used to have to break it to get locked up, because it was too cold. I would go in, and get the winter over.”

Dennis had known very little comfort in his younger life. Originally from Fursey Road, Shantalla, his mother died in 1959, when he was six.

Two weeks after he made his First Holy Communion, Dennis was sent to St Joseph’s Industrial School in Salthill because his father could not care for him. He remained there for nine years.

He then went to live with his aunt in the city in 1966 but was unable to settle. Despite short spells in work, he ran away to England where he first slept on the streets while still only a teenager.

He was returned home when UK authorities realised he had been reported missing. At one point he ended up being sent to St Brigid’s Psychiatric Hospital in Ballinasloe because there was nowhere else for him to go.

A brief spell with his brother Gerald in Dublin was soon followed by a pattern that would haunt his life – living rough on park benches and in doorways, in and out of hostels, while drinking himself to oblivion.

It was only after near death that he got to grips with his addiction.

On January 5, 1991, he was one of five homeless men sleeping in an abandoned van on Merchant’s Road near the Spanish Arch when a nearby 10ft wall collapsed during a storm. Minutes before he had scrambled out, pulling two of the men out behind him.

He was unable to arouse two others, Patrick “Pa” Dodd (27) and John Mongan (20), and they were crushed to death by the falling stone.

During the tragedy he had sustained broken toes which were left untreated. Eventually he was unable to get out of bed with threatened gangrene. Doctors told Dennis he would need several operations to save his legs and they would not operate unless he quit alcohol.

Faced with the prospect of losing both legs, Dennis gave up drinking on the anniversary of his mother’s death in 2004. He moved into supported accommodation run by the Galway Simon Community. Apart from some brief lapses, he has stayed sober since.

He first came into contact with Galway Simon in 1979 when some of the charity’s original volunteers visited him on their soup run.

“They were my only friends at that time. I’ll never forget how it felt to be treated like a human being, like I was worth something. At the beginning they used to come three nights a week to talk to us and bring us soup and sandwiches. Only for them I would be dead a long time ago,” he reflects.

“Back then people ignored you if you were homeless, you were kept down, you had nothing at all. I never had any possessions, only what I wore. If the shoes went, sometimes I would put cardboard in them. Christmas was the loneliest part of the year. You had nothing. You had no Christmas dinner. You never mix with anyone when you’re homeless. You’re a lonely person.”

In 2015 Dennis moved into a Council flat while still receiving support from Galway Simon.

“I’m in my own little paradise now,” he exclaims.

Dennis, who is fronting Galway Simon’s Christmas appeal, insists there are no hopeless cases.

“Look at me years ago, I changed my life and I don’t drink today. I’m years off the drink and I did it for myself. I can’t stop thinking about the people, including friends of mine, who weren’t as lucky as me. Galway Simon didn’t give up on me.”

■ Visit galwaysimon.ie to make a donation.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Poor record at UHG for ambulance ‘turnaround’ times

Enda Cunningham

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Just over 4% of patients who arrived by ambulance at UHG were handed over to Emergency Department staff within the guideline 20-minute ‘turnaround time’, according to newly-published figures.

Ambulance turnaround times measure the time interval from ambulance arrival at a hospital, to when the crew is ready to accept another call.

The statistics show that during the month of September, 1,022 patients arrived at University Hospital Galway by ambulance.

Of these, just 47 (4.6%) recorded ambulance ‘turnaround times’ within 20 minutes. That rate has dropped from 7.9% (75 turnarounds) in September 2017.

According to the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), all hospitals in Ireland should monitor the implementation of a 95% rate of patients being handed over from an ambulance crew to the Emergency Department staff in less than 20 minutes, and where this is not met, corrective action should be taken.

However, the HSE monitors it at 30 minutes, with a target of 95% turnaround in that time.

Based on the HSE’s alternative 30-minute turnarounds, the rate was 18.5% (190 transfers to ED) in September, down from 28.5% (270 transfers) in September 2017.

The figures were released to Fianna Fáil TD for Galway West, Éamon Ó Cuív, who said that urgent action needed to be taken to address the “huge deterioration” in times.

“These figures are very disappointing and extremely worrying for those who may depend on an ambulance over the winter months.

“More worrying is in 2017, the turnaround time at UHG was 7.9%. The decline in the transfer turnaround times is yet another reflection of the pressures on hospitals and the lack of capacity to cope.

“The main reason for the delay is because Emergency Departments are too busy with too few staff to process a patient coming in by ambulance.

“I will be pressing the Minister on the status of the proposed new Emergency Department at UHG which is long awaited and will go some way to reducing turnaround times,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.

The highest 20-minute turnaround rates were recorded at Temple Street Children’s Hospital (60.9%) and the Rotunda (60%) in Dublin, while the lowest were Kerry University Hospital (1.7%) and Mercy UH in Cork at 2.7%.

For 30-minute turnarounds, the highest rates were the Temple Street Children’s Hospital (83.1%) and the National Maternity Hospital (81.6%) in Dublin. The lowest rates were Cork UH (12.7%) and mercy UH (15.4%).

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CITY TRIBUNE

Building and hardware giant Screwfix planning Galway store

Enda Cunningham

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The British hardware, building and DIY chain, Screwfix, is planning to open an outlet in Galway.

Through a subsidiary company, the Kingfisher Group, which also owns B&Q and GoodHome and Castorama in France, has sought planning permission for a change of use of a unit at Ballybane Industrial Estate on Bóthar na Mine.

The unit, formerly occupied by Galway Coal, would be changed to a Screwfix warehouse with trade counters, as the business primary supplies building products to trades.

Screwfix has more than 620 stores in the UK and Northern Ireland, and employs more than 8,300 people.

According to the company: “Screwfix dispatches thousands of parcels every week for next day and weekend delivery to tradesmen, handymen and serious home improvement enthusiast. Screwfix also operates a growing number of trade counters across the UK which [each] have over 11,000 items in stock, available for immediate collection.”

The company stocks tools; heating and plumbing supplies; electrical and lighting; bathrooms and kitchens; outdoor and gardening; building and decorating supplies.

“[The operator] is a potential new entrant to the Irish market, at least in terms of a physical, ‘on the ground’ presence. The primary use of their business premises would be storage of goods, with trade counters primarily for pick-up, arising from online sales.

“As a result, the unit would include ancillary trade counters aimed at local building companies including what is known as a trade plus counter, aimed at specific trades.

“Their products are principally sold to trade over the internet, via catalogue, over the telephone, as well as over the two trade counters, which typically occupies about 9-10% of the gross floorspace of any one unit,” the planning application reads.

The company usually employs six to eight staff, four of whom are full-time.

The applicants have allowed for five parking spaces and note that parking at the Screwfix premises in Ballymena, Co Antrim was observed during peak Friday lunchtime trade. Over the hour, there were 25 visits to the unit and each visit lasted 3-5 minutes.

“At any one time, there were 2-3 visitors to the store, so the demand on parking was in that range also. We have made allowance for five spaces [in Ballybane],” the application reads.

A decision is due from Galway City Council in the middle of December.

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