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Jury ordered to find knife attack duo ‘not guilty’ on technicality



A judge has directed a jury to find two city youths not guilty of a knife attack on another youth two years ago, following a three-day trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court.

Marcus MacComascaigh (20), with addresses in Fana Glas, Ballybane, and Cur na Lus, Circular Road, and a now 18-year-old youth – who cannot be named because he was 16 at the time of the alleged offence – had both denied a charge of assaulting Dominic Downes, then aged 18, causing him harm, at Church Alley, Ballymoneen Road, Knocknacarra, in the early hours of Saturday morning September 27, 2014, when they appeared for trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court.

A jury was sworn in to hear evidence in the trial which was expected to take two to three days.

Outlining the State’s case, prosecuting barrister, Conor Fahy told the jury Mr Downes had sustained a number of stab wounds to his back and shoulder and had been hit with a bicycle lock.

He said Mr Downes had been in a number of pubs in the city on the Friday night celebrating a friend’s 18th birthday.

He went home in the early hours of the morning and his brother and a female friend were in the house. They continued drinking and the girl decided to make a prank call to the juvenile.

The juvenile figured out the phone call came from Mr Downes’ phone and he rang him, arranging to meet him in the alleyway beside Knocknacarra Church.

Before he left to meet the juvenile, Mr Downes took a butterfly knife with him for his own protection.

When he arrived at the alley, he was confronted by the two accused.

The juvenile pulled out a knife and swung it at Mr Downes, cutting him over his right eye.

Mr Downes pulled out the butterfly knife but dropped it.

The juvenile then swung his knife again, cutting Mr Downes’ arm.

Mr Downes kicked the juvenile, knocking him to the ground.  He then walked away, but the juvenile came after him.

Mr Fahy said MacComascaigh then joined in the assault and held Downes in a headlock, while the juvenile stabbed him a number of times in the back.

The juvenile then took out a bicycle lock and hit Downes.

He eventually managed to free himself and make his way home. He was later treated in hospital for his injuries.

Mr Downes had refused to come to court to give evidence in the trial and in the absence of the jury, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.

Detective Fergal Kilbane executed the warrant and brought Mr Downes to court in custody the next day. Jurors were unaware he was in Garda custody at all times during the trial.

Mr Downes was called as a witness for the prosecution on and was questioned by Mr Fahy. He told the jury he didn’t remember what happened that night.

In reply to Mr Fahy, he said he remembered he had been drinking in town but said he could not remember anything after that.

Following further questioning, Mr Downes said he remembered drinking later when he got home, but could not remember anything after that.

Legal submissions were made to the court in the absence of the jury by two barristers who represented both accused under the Free Legal Aid scheme, regarding Mr Downes’ unwillingness to give evidence.

Following their submissions, Judge Rory McCabe ruled Mr Downes’ statement, which he had made to Gardai, was inadmissible in the trial as he could not be cross-examined by both defence teams if it was allowed into evidence.

Mr Fahy informed the court that the State was not offering any further evidence in the case and the trial could not proceed.

Judge McCabe then directed the jury foreman to enter a verdict of “not guilty by direction of the trial judge” in relation to both accused.

Judge McCabe said to MacComascaigh and to the juvenile, who is serving sentences for other offences: “You’re both discharged for the present, but I’m sure we will be seeing you again.”


Galway City Council Chief asked to intervene after Kirwan junction ‘near misses’



From the Galway City Tribune – Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, has been urged to intervene and instigate a review of the controversial changeover of Kirwan roundabout to a traffic light junction.

A relative of the Collins’ family, who operate a B&B on Headford Road, has pleaded with Mr McGrath to act to make it safe to enter and exit this house.

Joseph Murphy, from County Galway but living in England, a relative of the owners of the B&B located on the N84 side of the Headford Road, has warned of the potential for a serious collision at that junction.  He wrote to Mr McGrath, and copied all city councillors including Mayor of Galway, Clodagh Higgins (FG), seeking a review of the junction and in particular access to the B&B. Mr Murphy said he has been driving for forty years but this junction was “one of the most difficult and complicated traffic light junctions I have ever experienced”.

The CCTV shows a van stopping in the junction to give way to pedestrians before entering the B&B.

He said he wrote the letter because he nearly had a serious accident, due to no fault of his, when leaving the residence.

An amber traffic lights system is in place at the house, since the junction changeover last year, which is supposed to help motorists exit onto the Headford Road from the B&B.

This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. A one-year digital subscription costs just €89.00. The print edition is in shops every Friday.

He said the lights are complicated and it was unreasonable and unfair on his family and any guests staying at their B&B who may be endangered trying to enter or exit the driveway.

Videos of ‘near misses’ recorded on CCTV footage, and supplied to Councillor Mike Crowe (FF), have been seen by the Galway City Tribune.

They give a flavour of how dangerous it is to exit the residence on an amber light; and indicate an apparent lack of understanding of the system on the part of other motorists.

Cllr Crowe and other elected members raised this safety issue at a Council meeting last week during a discussion on the City Development Plan. It was decided to rezone some land adjacent to Sandyvale Lawn, which would allow for a new entrance to the house to be constructed, although there is no timeframe.

Mr Murphy, in his email to officials and councillors said it was an “extremely busy junction”.

“I do not believe that enough planning or consideration was taken when the traffic lights were installed, especially those that were installed directly in front of my sister’s house.

“My relatives in Galway should not have to worry every time they leave their house nor should anyone coming from the Menlo direction have to worry about getting blocked in by other vehicles when entering my sister’s house,” he said.

Mr Murphy added: “I would urge the Galway City Council to carry out an immediate review to make this busy junction safe before somebody gets hurt in a serious accident.”

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Plan for former pub in Galway to house Ukrainian refugees



From the Galway City Tribune – The former Lantern Bar in Ballybane has been proposed to accommodate Ukrainians seeking refuge in Galway.

The Galway City Tribune has learned that works are underway on the building to advance the plans.

The Council confirmed that they had been briefed on the proposal but refused to be drawn on the details.

“Galway City Council is aware of a proposal to use the Lantern Bar at Ballybane Shopping Centre for refugees,” said a spokesperson.

“The coordination of the development of accommodation facilities such as this is the responsibility of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.”

This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. A one-year digital subscription costs just €89.00. The print edition is in shops every Friday.

The local authority spokesperson said they did not have information on the number of people who would be accommodated, nor did they know when the facility might be open.

The Lantern Bar has not operated as a pub for some time, although its licence was renewed on appeal at Galway Circuit Court in February 2020 when the court was told that it was intended to sell the premises.

The bar, which had been the location of a series of public order incidents in 2019, had previously had its licence revoked following several objections from residents.

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City centre residents’ fears over new late-night opening hours



From the Galway City Tribune – Residents in one of the city centre’s oldest residential areas fear their lives will be turned upside-down by proposed later opening hours for pubs and nightclubs.

Chairperson of the Bowling Green Residents’ Association, Jackie Uí Chionna, told a public meeting of the City’s Joint Policing Committee (JPC) that as city centre residents, anti-social behaviour was part of their daily lives.

However, they expected the situation to worsen if Government proceeded with proposals to extend nightclub opening hours to 6.30am.

“Our concern at our recent AGM was the longer pub opening hours – it will result in an increase in [anti-social behaviour],” said Ms Uí Chionna.

She said it was their belief that this policy went against the right of city centre residents to “exist and live as a community” in the middle of town.

“We oppose increasing opening hours. We won’t have any sleep – we have minimal as it is. And we won’t feel safe to walk on the streets.

“It is regrettable that there has been so little consultation with gardaí and residents,” said Ms Uí Chionna.

Chief Superintendent Gerard Roche said Gardaí were waiting to see what happened with the legislation for later opening hours.

“On one hand, not having 5,000 or 10,000 people coming out at the one time will be a benefit but the question is if they won’t [come out at one time]. And will businesses buy into it?” questioned the Chief Supt.

Meanwhile, another Bowling Green resident and former city councillor, Nuala Nolan, raised concerns about the new model of policing and said rostering, which had gardaí working three days on and four days off was making it difficult to follow up on matters with community gardaí.

“You can’t get that person when they’re off for another four days – the continuity is gone,” said Ms Nolan.

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