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Mystery still surrounds death of siblings




The deaths of a brother and sister in a city house seven months ago may have been a tragic accident – but with carbon monoxide poisoning ruled out, they will always remain unexplained.

At the Inquest in Galway Courthouse, Coroner for West Galway, Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin, was unable to answer the questions posed by the family of Gavin Ridgard (50) and Patricia Kerr (58) who died at 27 Coogan Park, Newcastle, on February 9 last.

“There is nothing here to say that it was intentional – there was no note, and they didn’t tell anyone – it could have been something that went tragically wrong,” he said.

“The combination of tablets that they took stopped their breathing; it shut off part of the brain that makes us breathe, and they fell asleep. Their central nervous systems shut down.”

Gavin had moved in with his sister to the City Council-owned house three years earlier, and they were getting on well, the Inquest was told. They were last seen after the anniversary Mass for their mother, which was held in Westside Church on the evening of February 7.

Three days later, their sister, Joan, rang Patricia’s phone, but got no answer, which she said was unusual; Gavin’s phone was dead.

“I was surprised, but not overly worried,” she recalled.

However, she knew something was wrong when she got a call the following day, February 11, to say that Patricia had not turned up for an appointment.

She and her daughter went to their house, but there was no answer at the door. A Galway City Council worker managed to climb in an unlocked upstairs window and opened the front door. Gavin was found lying on the ground, and Patricia was sitting in a nearby chair. They were pronounced dead at 2.37pm.

Joan Ridgard told the Inquest that Patricia was making plans to move to the UK and live with her son in Kent, and had already started packing, and was due to book her flights that week.

She said that Gavin was upset about this, adding that the tenancy was in Patricia’s name, and that he would have to move out when she left.

Consultant pathologist, Dr Mary Casey, carried out a post mortem examination on the bodies. While she had initially suspected carbon monoxide poisoning – due to the presence of a gas heater in the room – the toxicology reports found that the presence of the poisonous gas in their systems was not at an excessive level.

There was also no alcohol detected, but there were different types of prescribed medication that would have had a depressive effect on their central nervous systems (CNS).

Both had consumed similar medications, although Patricia had a total of nine types – three more than her brother.

Dr Casey could not say for certain when they had died, as this was virtually impossible to detect after three days. However, she said it was reasonable to estimate that death had occurred 48 hours earlier, on February 9.

She concluded that the cause of death was cardio respiratory arrest, due to use of more than two therapeutic drugs that are CNS depressants.

“They interfere with the vital centres of the brain stem that control breathing and the nerves that stimulate the heart,” she explained.

Family members questioned whether or not this was suicide, as both had died in such similar circumstances. Neither Dr Casey nor the Coroner could say if their actions were accidental or intentional.

Inspector Mick O’Dwyer acknowledged that the family had been visited by a lot of tragedy recently, with the death of Gavin’s daughter, Gemma, in the same house nearly a year previously, in April 2014.


Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.

Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.

To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.

He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.

In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.

And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.

“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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