A 19-year-old man has been sentenced to four years in prison with the final nine months suspended for what a judge described as a racially-motivated attack which took place on a busy afternoon in Eyre Square.
Goodnews Onyenweson, 82 Binn Bán, Cappagh Road, Knocknacarra, pleaded guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court to a charge of violent disorder, in that he along with three other youths acting together used or threatened to use violence in a public place on May 4 last year.
He also pleaded guilty to assaulting an Afghan national, causing him harm, on the same date and further pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of assault involving an assault on a café employee, who intervened to stop the first assault.
Sergeant Paul McNulty said he and Detective Sergeant John McElroy responded to a report of an assault which took place at 1.30pm outside Café Express.
They spoke to the male staff member who witnessed four youths attack two other youths on the footpath outside the café.
He said he intervened to stop the fight but was punched in the face by one of the four attacking males, later identified as the accused.
All four fled the scene towards Forster Street before Gardai arrived.
The witness said a young man had been kicked and punched in the face and head on the ground and looked disorientated before leaving the area.
Sgt. McNulty said he viewed CCTV footage, which made for “horrendous viewing” and saw one of the gang punch a youth who then fell to the ground. Onyenweson then stood over the victim and punched him five times in the head as he lay on the ground. He then kicked the victim four times in the head and face.
A third member of the gang was captured on CCTV kicking the same victim three times in the back and punching him to the head three times.
“I specifically observed and counted the number of vicious strikes on the CCTV,” Sgt McNulty told the sentence hearing.
He said the video footage captured the male member of staff from the café running out. He stood between the victim – who was still on the ground – and the accused.
The accused then punched him into the face for stopping the attack.
Other members of staff helped the victim to a seat as the gang fled across Kennedy Park.
Sgt McNulty said the violent attack took place on a very busy Friday afternoon of a Bank Holiday weekend and the area was packed with passersby at the time.
All four were later arrested and questioned. The other three, one of whom is a juvenile, face sentence in July for their part in the attack.
Onyenweson admitted kicking and punching the first victim as he lay on the ground. He also admitted punching the staff member who came to the victim’s aid.
The Afghan national gave a statement to Gardai that he and a friend were walking through Eyre Square when a group of males started staring at them. Words were exchanged and he said he was struck across the side of his head with a phone and was assaulted on the ground.
He sustained bruising to the side of his head, a chipped tooth and cuts to his lips and nose.
The court heard he is from Afghanistan and has lived in a city hostel for the past year.
Sgt McNulty confirmed the accused had four previous convictions for assault, trespass and public order offences. He said he was of Nigerian descent and was now a naturalised Irish citizen.
He said the accused was a prominent member of this gang and that the others were facing sentence in July.
Passing sentence, Judge Rory McCabe said there had been a racist, vicious element to this attack.
“This was a totally random, immediate attack with no possible justification for it,” the judge said.
The maximum sentence for violent disorder, he noted, was ten years before placing the headline sentence for this particular incident at six years.
He said the headline sentence for the assault causing harm charge which carried a five-year maximum sentence, stood at the high end on the scale of gravity and merited a four-and-a-half year sentence.
The lesser assault charge carried a maximum of six months and the assault on the staff member merited three months, the judge said.
“Reading the probation report handed into court today, he does not take this very seriously,” Judge McCabe said of the accused.
However, he said he had to take the mitigating circumstances into account when arriving at an appropriate sentence and in that regard, the accused had co-operated with Gardai, pleaded guilty, was young and was now saying he was sorry.
He noted that prison for a non-national was deemed to cause extra hardship, even though the accused had been living in Ireland for a long time.
He concluded by saying the proper sentence for the violent disorder charge was four years. He imposed a concurrent three-year sentence for the more serious assault on the first victim and imposed a concurrent two-month sentence for the assault on the staff member.
The final nine months of the four-year sentence was then suspended for five years on condition he come under the supervision of the probation service on his release from prison for 12 months.
The sentences were backdated to January 10 last when he went into custody.
Galway family’s light show adds magic to Christmas
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Carrick Family Light Show returns tonight (Friday) as 70,000 lights are illuminated in aid of a worthy local charity.
The man behind the lights spectacular, James Carrick, says test runs this week have proven successful and the family is ready to mark another Christmas in style.
“This is our fourth Christmas doing it. We started in 2019, but Covid was around for the last two years so it will be great this year not having to worry about that so much,” says James, who has spent the last few weeks carefully rebuilding the show at his home in Lurgan Park, Renmore.
He’s added “a few bits and pieces this year” – his brother buying the house next door has provided him a ‘blank canvas’ to extend.
Over the past three years, the show has raised almost €30,000 for local charities and James hopes to build on that this year – offering the light show for free, as always, and giving the opportunity to donate if people wish to do so.
The show runs nightly from 6.30pm, Monday to Saturday, with an extra kids show on Sundays at 5pm at 167 Lurgan Park (H91 Y17D). Donations can be made at the shows or by searching ‘idonate Carrick Family Light Show’ online.
‘Chaos’ for Christmas as Martin junction works delayed again
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Motorists attempting to get into Galway are facing a nightmare before Christmas as continued delays to the works at the Martin roundabout create traffic chaos on the east side of the city.
Anger over the controversial project to remove the roundabout at Galway Clinic intensified this week as the completion date was pushed out to February – nearly a year after works began and six months later than the supposed deadline.
Local councillor Alan Cheevers (FF) told the Galway City Tribune that he had lost all confidence in the Transport Department in the City Council and hit out at their “outsourcing the problem” to private contractors.
He said despite repeated representations from him, the local authority was refusing to take responsibility for the bedlam caused by the works, which he said had resulted in “three minor collisions in the last five weeks”.
“The bottom line is that this has been an absolute shambles and I’ve lost all faith in senior officials in City Hall. When I raised the issue again this week, I was accused of looking for newspaper headlines – they will not take responsibility,” said the City East councillor.
“It’s like an obstacle course up there, and now they’re saying February for completion. I’ve no confidence it will even be done by then – they’re out of their depth. If you look at what they’re saying, they say they’ll be doing the surfacing until February,” continued Cllr Cheevers, anticipating that works could still be ongoing next March or April.
In a statement issued by contractors Fox Building Engineers Ltd and Galway City Council, it was claimed that “supply chain issues” had impacted severely on the project.
Motorists this week reported delays of up to an hour just to travel the short distance from Briarhill Shopping Centre as far as the Doughiska Road-Dublin Road junction, a distance of less than 2km.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the December 2 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Councillors rubber stamp ‘temporary’ helipad after nine years in place
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Health Service Executive (HSE) came under fire over the ‘temporary’ helipad serving University Hospital Galway at a meeting to finalise the Galway City Development Plan for 2023-29.
Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, made a point of publicly highlighting his dissatisfaction with the HSE, calling on them to urgently “regularise” the planning permission for the helipad.
BY ANDREW HAMILTON
Speaking on the issue, Cllr Frank Fahy (FG) said that he mistrusted the HSE’s proposal concerning the helipad, saying that previous promises about the site had not been kept.
Currently, University Hospital Galway operates the helipad to transport medical emergencies on Council-owned land in Shantalla – it has been used for past nine years, despite the HSE saying it would be used for six months.
The temporary structure, the busiest helipad in Ireland, transports patients from as far north as Donegal to the hospital.
Councillors voted to change the Galway City Development Plan to provide for a helipad at this location but urged the HSE to normalise the planning permission at the site and to provide compensation to the local community for the loss of a section of the park.
Mr McGrath said that he wouldn’t “wait forever” for the HSE to bring the site in line with the planning laws.
Last month marked the ninth anniversary of when the Saolta University Hospital Group gave a commitment to the people of Shantalla about the public land it borrowed.
Tony Canavan, the then Chief Operating Officer, and now CEO of Saolta, said that the land would be used to accommodate a helipad at the rear of UHG for six months only.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the December 2 edition of the Galway City Tribune where there is extensive coverage of rezoning decisions under the City Development Plan. You can support our journalism and buy a digital edition HERE.