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CITY TRIBUNE

Man threatened to burn his elderly parents in bed

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A man who threatened to burn his elderly parents as they slept in their beds, has been sentenced to eight months in prison.

The 29-year-old man’s mother told Galway District Court that she never felt like her home was her own, as she had to spend more time out of it than in it, due to her son’s threatening and violent behaviour.

The man – who may not be identified in order to protect the identity of his parents – appeared in custody before the court, charged with assaulting his mother at her home in Renmore on November 20 last.

He pleaded guilty to obstructing Garda Rachel Killeen at the house on December 7 last and to breaching a Safety Order on several dates late last year, which the court had granted to his parents last July, and which stipulated he stay away from his parents and their home.

Sergeant Georgina Lohan withdrew a charge involving an assault on the man’s father, following the plea to the other charges.

The court heard Gardai were called to the house on November 21 last.

The man’s parents told them their son had gone into his father’s bedroom the day before where he demanded money.

His father gave him €20, but he wasn’t satisfied with that and he pushed his father around the room.

He then went into his mother’s bedroom. She was eating breakfast in her room because she was too afraid of her son to stay in the kitchen.

Her son demanded money from her and she gave him €20. He wasn’t satisfied with that and he demanded more money, pushing her against a sink in her room. He then took a cup of hot tea from her and threw it at her.

Both parents attempted to flee their home in their night clothes and their son threatened them that if they didn’t leave the house he would throw hot water at them.

They returned to their home that evening. Their son pushed his mother around the next day. Both she and her husband became afraid they would be assaulted again and they called the Gardai.

The accused was brought before court the next day where he was granted bail on condition he stay from his parent’s home.

He breached that condition on December 7 last and his parents called the Gardai after he fell asleep in his room.

He became very aggressive when awoken by Gardai and threatened to burn his parents as they slept when he got the chance. He also threatened to stab Gardai in the neck with a scissors when they tried to arrest him.

Gardai called for back-up and the Regional Support Unit arrived at the house where they assisted in arresting the man. He had been held in custody since that date.

Defence solicitor, Brian Gilmartin, said his client had serious addictions to alcohol and drugs, but the time he had spent in prison had made him realise he needed help.

He said his client had been given bail last November to appear before the court on December 7, but he had breached that bail by not turning up in court that day and by going back to his parent’s home.

Mr Gilmartin said his client had instructed him that once he had served any custodial sentence the court would impose, he wanted to take up a residential treatment course to deal with his addictions.

Sgt Lohan said the man had 11 previous convictions, including nine for Public Order offences, one for possession of drugs and one for failing to turn up in court.

Judge Mary Fahy asked to speak to the man’s mother to ascertain her attitude towards her son and how the assault had affected her.

“It has affected me for life. I’m in shock. I can’t believe it,” the woman said.

She said she did not want her son to come back to her home once he was released from custody. She then thanked the Gardai for their support “down through the years” and especially during the most recent, stressful period.

“I never thought I had a home. I was more out of it, than in it,” she added.

The woman agreed with Judge Fahy that at some point in the future she and his father would want to rebuild some sort of relationship with their son, but it would have to be done away from their home.

Judge Fahy said things had been bad, but matters had got a lot worse when the son had started drinking alcohol and taking drugs as he got older. Those addictions had exacerbated matters, she said, and had come to a head when the parents were being assaulted in their own home.

She said it was clear the man needed urgent treatment. She said he was very, very seriously addicted to drugs and alcohol and he would require residential treatment with follow-on aftercare.

The offences occurred while the accused was on bail and that made his offending behaviour even more serious, the judge observed.

She sentenced the man to four months in prison for assaulting his mother and imposed a consecutive four-month sentence for obstructing Garda Killeen when she went to arrest him on December 7.

A consecutive four-month sentence was imposed on him for breaching the Safety Order on December 7, but it was suspended for two years on condition that he be of good behaviour and not reoffend during the next two years; link in with the probation service within 24 hours of his release from prison; attend any residential rehabilitation centre identified for him; and that he stay away from his parent’s home during the period of the suspension.

Concurrent, but suspended one-month sentences were imposed for the remaining breaches of the Safety Order. The sentences were backdated to December 7, when the man first went into custody.

“He now knows he cannot go back home and he will need another residential address. I do hope he is serious about getting treatment for his addictions and that his parents give him the support he needs. That is up to them and I know it’s going to be difficult for them, given what has happened,” Judge Fahy added.

Leave to appeal the sentences was granted on the man’s own surety of €600 and one independent surety of €800 with half of each amount to be lodged in cash in court.

Judge Fahy stipulated the independent surety would have to be approved by the court.

She said the man would also have to provide a residential address, stay away from his parent’s home and that he liaise with the Resettlement Team and addiction services while in prison, pending the outcome of any such appeal.

CITY TRIBUNE

Councillors zone land for residential use despite concerns over flooding

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From the Galway City Tribune – Galway City Council has voted to allow for the future development of housing on a large parcel of land on the Headford Road (photographed and shaded red) which had previously been designated for recreation and “water-based activity”.

The land, which is situated below sea level, has been designated as being in a Flood Zone A area by the Office of Public Works (OPW), meaning that “vulnerable usage” such as housing should not be considered there.

BY ANDREW HAMILTON

During a meeting to approve the Galway City Development Plan 2023-29, councillors voted to reject the recommendation of its own Chief Executive, and in doing so opened the door for the future development of the 1.3-hectare (3.2-acre) site.

The land, which overlooks Terryland Forest Park, was also identified as a flood risk in the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management report (CFRAM).

Cllr Frank Fahy (FG), proposed that the local authority should ignore the submissions of the OPW and the CFRAM report and rezone the land as residential.

“To say that this land should only be for water-based activity is not correct. To say that all of this land is a floodplain is also incorrect,” he said.

“It is below sea level but because of the dyke, it is not going to flood. There is a bit of land at the bottom [of the site] which is a flood risk, but I would imagine, if plans do go forward for this site, that area would be left open. Some of the land is borderline [flood risk] but not all of it.”


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.


This proposal was opposed by a number of councillors including Cllr Owen Hanley (SocDems).

“I would say that 80 per cent if not more [of the site] is in a flood risk area or is of concern. Also, if you develop part of it, you make the rest of it more at risk of flooding because the water is diverted there,” he said.

“While I respect that councillors are arguing in good faith, I am concerned about the way that we are discussing flood risks in this development plan overall.

“It would be inappropriate, given the advice that we have been given, to make this change.”

Despite these objections, councillors voted by a margin of 10 to 4 to rezone the land.

This decision may put the council on a collision course with the Minister of the Environment, Eamon Ryan, as the newly formed Office of Planning Regulators (OPR) had opposed this rezoning. The role of the OPR is to ensure that local development plans are in line with national regulations.

It is expected that the OPR may refer this decision to the Minister for the Environment, who has the power to overrule this decision by Galway City Council.

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CITY TRIBUNE

240 student bed spaces in Galway are ‘just a drop in the ocean’

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From the Galway City Tribune – State-assisted student accommodation is a step in the right direction, but the 242 beds announced for Galway are just a “drop in the ocean”.

That’s according to the President of University of Galway (UG) Students’ Union, Sai Gujulla, who told the Galway City Tribune that while they welcomed the announcement that Government was to begin investing in student beds, it would do nothing to address the crisis in the sector in the short term.

The Government announced this week that for the first time, it would provide State assistance “to stimulate the development of new and additional student accommodation” – financially supporting the construction of 242 on-campus student beds at UG.

However, Mr Gujulla said the number was nowhere near what was required and the proposal formed part of a long-term strategy which didn’t address the very real crisis being faced by students right now.

“It is a welcome announcement, but it’s not sufficient for what’s required.

“It will take a number of years for this to take effect and so it will do nothing for students who need accommodation right now,” he said, adding that the number of students commuting daily to Galway from all over the country was at all-time high as a result of the accommodation shortage.


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.


Minister of State and TD for Galway West, Hildegarde Naughton (FG), said the policy would “ensure affordability for all students” by ensuring costs are kept to a minimum during the construction phase.

“This new policy will see 242 student beds delivered in the first phase by the University of Galway, with ATU also given funding to develop its own proposals to provide affordable student accommodation.

“The focus of this policy is to ensure affordability for students and this Government will ensure that costs are kept to a minimum, thus providing more affordable rents,” said Minister Naughton.

Mr Gujulla said it was imperative that this commitment was met and that when Government said affordable, it was affordable for students and parents on low incomes.

“We’ve heard before that accommodation would be affordable, but it must be affordable for all and not just some people,” he said, adding that means testing, similar to that used for accessing the SUSI grant, should be considered as a way of setting rents.

Minister Naughton said this scheme was the beginning of a new policy on student accommodation aimed at making third level education more accessible.

“I look forward to seeing this new scheme rolled out across all our tertiary educational facilities in Galway,” said the Fine Gael TD.

Meanwhile, Mr Gujulla said students were still struggling to find accommodation in the city, despite being back at college for three months.

“We have new cases with the same problems every day and with new Erasmus (European) students and postgraduates arriving in January, it will continue,” he said.

“Rents are still extremely high and they’re not going down and while this intervention by Government is positive, it needs to go further and we need something to address the immediate problem too.”

(Photo: The Goldcrest student accommodation in Corrib Village. University of Galway owns large tracts of land in the area).

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CITY TRIBUNE

New life breathed into derelict Blackrock cottage

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From the Galway City Tribune – Boasting one of the most spectacular views in the country from a reimagined building marrying old and new, Blackrock Cottage on Salthill Prom finally opened this week after a labour of love by its new caretakers.

During a tour of the spectacular outdoor dining pods with chef Martin O’Donnell on the eve of its unveiling, at least four people approached, curious about how the derelict Famine-era building was brought back to life.

“That happens every time I’m out here,” says Martin, who hails from just up the road in Barna.

“The level of interest in this place is unbelievable.”

Most new eateries have to work for footfall. This one has potential customers passing by morning, noon and night, even during the depths of the wildest winter. It’s an unrivalled location opposite that most iconic symbol Galway – the Blackrock diving tower.

Brían McHugh from McHugh Property Holdings Ltd bought the cottage from the previous owner, the late Mary Sjothun (née Flynn) in 2018. Initially turned down for planning permission by Galway City Council, on appeal the design for bringing back the old to life and creating a new light-filled modern extension with a bike rental and repair station on the site was approved by An Bord Pleanála.

The project took 18 months to build during a difficult Covid period, when materials and workers were in short supply.


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.


“We didn’t have to keep the cottage as it wasn’t listed. But we wanted to be respectful of an 1830s cottage and its history. So we worked with Galway City Conservation Officer Jim Higgins to keep the beams, the slates on the roof and lime mortar – we’ll finish the whitewashing when we get a dry spell,” explains Brían.

“I think Sean Dockry architects have made a great job of creating a commercially viable building with a modern extension, marrying the old with the new while maximising the views.”

The raised terraces, one of them with a firepit, have all been designed to allow people to sit in sheltered areas while looking out over Galway Bay. The garden has been landscaped with herbs and edible flowers that will be used in the kitchen.

The second phase of the site, expected to be completed next March, will develop a bigger barbecue area with seating for up to 60 people. The bicycle rental area will be added if the greenway becomes a reality.

The takeaway part of the café will be run by the Álainn team, who ran the pop-up coffee van and later container beside the site offering superfood pots and delicious coffee by the Burren roaster Anam Coffee that became such a hit with swimmers and walkers during the pandemic.

Breakfast and lunch will be walk-ins only, with dinner to be offered early next year. The menu is described as contemporary modern Irish using top class local producers that have a good working relationship with Martin. He was head chef in The Twelve in Barna for 15 years and has a slot on Ireland AM on Virgin Media TV.

Things to expect on the menu are pulled confit of duck with eggs benedict, lamb shank and poké bowls with in-house cured fish.

“There’s nothing like this in the west of Ireland – I don’t think there’s anything like this anywhere in the country – a space like this, with so many tables, four inches from the water,” says Martin.

“We’re mid-price range. Blackrock Cottage was always built for the local people, not the elite. We’ll have amazing quality food that will be affordable.”

Brían declines to reveal the extent of the investment in this venture. His company also owns the nearby driving range and the Spinnaker Hotel, as well as various development sites in the city and suburbs.

“It’s not cheap to bring a 200-year-old cottage back to life. But I’m delighted we didn’t take the easy option and we saved a piece of Galway history.”

(Photo by Brian Harding: Gerard O’Donoghue, Operations Manager; Mathieu Teulier, General Manager and Martin O’Donnell, Head Chef at Blackrock Cottage restaurant).

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