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Connacht Tribune

Organised beggars operating a ‘little industry’, judge says

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Eleven men and one woman – all with Dublin addresses – were brought before Galway District Court this week charged with obstructing the passage of pedestrians or vehicles while begging at various locations around the city centre in recent weeks.

Two were found with large sums of cash when arrested, while all claimed to have no source of income other than begging.

Five of the twelve received one or two-month sentences for begging because they had similar previous convictions and the rest had their sentences suspended on condition they stay out of Galway city and county for the next twelve months.

Judge Mary Fahy said it was obvious that begging was “a little industry” organised by others operating behind the scenes and she called on the State to find and prosecute those responsible. She said she suspected men – who had come to court with the group of 12 – were involved in some way.

The first defendant, Alexandro Szabo (39), 9 Island Street, Dublin 8, who claimed to have no source of income since arriving in Ireland from Romania four years ago, was found to have a social services card in his possession when arrested by Garda Nigel Silke earlier on Monday morning while begging in Eyre Square.

Another accused, Tiberiu Muntean (28), Flynn’s Hostel. Gardiner Street, Dublin, told Gardai when arrested on October 26 for begging at Eyre Square that he had no income at all since arriving in Ireland eight years ago with his wife and children.

Judge Fahy said judges were being told time and time again by defendants applying for Free Legal Aid that they had no income and yet, according to a statement of their means which had to be filled out when applying to a court for Free Legal Aid, they always stated they paid rent and had money for other expenses.

She said the State was tasked to find out if a person was in receipt of social welfare or not.

“The judiciary expects the State to make enquiries.

“They are all coming into court and saying they are not getting social welfare and yet they have social services cards. It has to be checked out. It’s quite clear instructions are being given (to solicitors) and things are said to the court that potentially are not true,” Judge Fahy said.

She noted that in Tiberiu Muntean’s case, he had stated his income was “nil” when filling out his statement of means form and yet he had also stated that he paid €75 rent per week to stay in a Dublin hostel.

“How can he have been living in Ireland for eight years with no income? Has he a social welfare card?” the judge asked. No one seemed to know the answer. He says he has no income and his only money comes from begging. I find that so hard to believe.”

She asked another beggar how he got the money to come to Galway and he said he had borrowed it from a friend.  The judge asked him if he had travelled by bus or train and he said he had taken the bus.

“It’s a little industry. Paying for a bus or a train to come down from Dublin to beg on the streets of Galway. It’s organised and it’s up to the State to be making better enquiries,” the judge said.

Father-of-two, Calin Rostas (19), 426 North Circular Road, Dublin, had a large amount of cash on him when arrested by Garda Silke for begging aggressively from people near an ATM machine on Mainguard Street on October 20 last.  He was released on his own bail of €230 cash from the Garda station that night.

The court heard he was arrested again for begging aggressively at the Spanish Arch six days later and had previous convictions for begging in Dublin.

His defence barrister, Gary McDonnell, told the court Rostas told him he was in this country for two years and was not in receipt of social welfare.

“We are told he’s not on social welfare.  He is coming down from Dublin and sees begging as a legitimate way of getting money. Did he ever try getting a job?  This type of behaviour is persistent and I find it very difficult to believe that if a person is not on social welfare that they can’t apply for a job if they wish to remain in this country because begging is illegal.

“It’s a growing industry in Galway and they are coming down in groups and the same address in Dublin is given for most of them,” Judge Fahy said before imposing two, one-month consecutive sentences on Rostas.

The court heard co-accused, Debican Rostas (22), Flat 7, 424 North Circular Road, had been given bail on October 21 for one begging offence and returned to the city two days later where he was caught begging again.

He had a sign with him which claimed he was homeless and he needed money for a hostel.

Judge Fahy said he was playing on people’s emotions by claiming he was homeless when that was not the case at all and she sentenced him to one month in prison for the second offence.

The judge took umbrage at the manner in which the group of accused men and their friends had acted in court all day, laughing among themselves and going in and out of the courtroom to take phone calls while other cases were being dealt with.

“They are disrespectful in the extreme and they think this is all a joke. When they get bail, they are back two days later. They pretend they are homeless while they have addresses in Dublin.

“What I suspect is that when someone gets a sentence, someone else with no previous convictions is recruited in to take his place.  They think they are quite clever,” she observed.

The only woman in the group was Madalena Rostas (19), Flat 7, 426 North Circular Road. In reply to Judge Fahy through a Romanian interpreter, she said she had not spoken to her solicitor yet, so her case was adjourned to December 4 for hearing.

She had been arrested for begging at 1.50pm on October 26 last and following her release on bail from the Garda station, was arrested again for begging at 5.10pm that same evening.

Hearing that most of the offences involving all twelve people before the court, occurred within a six-day period in October, Judge Fahy said that showed it was an organised endeavour.

Sergeant Finbarr Philpott, prosecuting, explained that a system was in place whereby a different person would be assigned to beg in a different location and would be moved around.

Judge Fahy said the State should be finding out who was organising this system.

“There are people involved higher up the food chain and they are the ones who should be caught. Are people being trafficked to do this? It’s more serious to be using people to beg and it’s a criminal offence to beg.

“There’s no doubt about it but somebody is organising it so the State should be looking into it,” she said.

The court was told that Zabar Rostas (22), Flat 4, 424 North Circular Road, had €300 in loose change on him after being arrested on October 21 and again on October 23 for begging from motorists stopped at the busy traffic light junction at Terryland.  He was fined €400.

Stanescu Rostas (38), Flat 7, 488 North Circular Road, who has 95 previous convictions for serious, multiple burglaries, was arrested for begging in the city on October 20 and again on October 26. He received two, one-month consecutive sentences.

Costica Rostas (45), of no fixed abode received a one-month sentence for begging on October 26. He had previous convictions for carrying a weapon, criminal damage, burglary and theft.

Cristan Rostas (36), Flat 7, 488 North Circular Road, was the last defendant to be dealt with. The court heard he had been found begging on October 26 and had previous convictions for begging.

Defence solicitor, Ronan Murphy said his client had been brought to Galway to beg.

Judge Fahy said the accused was able to give the name or names of the people who had brought him to Galway to the Gardai.

Mr Murphy said his client’s only income per week was €70 from begging and he was paying €20 per week to stay in the flat in Dublin.

“I wonder who they are paying rent to? How many people can stay in a house without causing a planning issue? Flat no 7 has been given by a number of people today,” the judge observed.

She sentenced the accused to one month in prison given his previous begging convictions.

The judge said this if a van or some other vehicle was being used in the commission of a criminal offence – that is, to transport people from Dublin to Galway to beg – then the Gardai should be looking for it.

Connacht Tribune

Take a spooky staycation this Halloween at Púca Festival

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For Halloween fans looking for a spooky staycation with a difference, Púca Festival is just the ticket. Returning to Co. Meath from 28th – 31st October, Púca celebrates Ireland as the original birthplace of Halloween. Vibrant, fun, and contemporary in feel but strongly rooted in tradition, the festival will take place in the hubs of Trim and Athboy.

Now in its fourth year, this year’s festival line-up is an exciting one, with a pool of contemporary Irish acts gearing up to re-ignite Celtic traditions through incredible music and live performances. Offering three breathtaking days and four spectacular nights of music, myth, food, folklore, fire, feasting, and merriment, Púca will boast a range of ticketed and free events, all individually priced.

From the ‘Arrival of the Spirits’ procession in Trim on Saturday 29th October right through to the ‘Coming of Samhain’ celebration at the Hill of Ward in Athboy on Halloween night, visitors will be immersed in the original and authentic spirit of Samhain.

Festivalgoers and fans of folklore will enjoy the well-rounded line-up of evening entertainment showcasing the best in contemporary Irish music, spectacle, and performance, including the talented Imelda May, Gavin James, King Kong Company, Block Rockin’ Beats, Lisa Hannigan & Cathy Davey, Jerry Fish & his Electric Sideshow Cabaret, Joanne McNally, Blindboy, David O’Doherty, Neil Delamere, and Jason Byrne. Headlining the Púca Big Top stage on October 29th, The Academic is an act not-to-be-missed. A thrilling live four-piece, their super-uplifting, hugely melodic guitar-driven sound is the product of a tight-knit gang who’ve been playing together since school.

Historic Halloween Walking Tours, Candlelit Tales Storytelling, Banshee Bingo Hall, Self-guided treasure hunts, Foraging Workshops, Circus performances, and Handfasting Ceremonies will complement the music and comedy programme, ensuring a host of diverse activities to keep visitors entertained all weekend. At Trim Castle, step back in time at the Deise Medieval Traditional Living Village. In the midst of mead and the smoke of the campfire, living history, crafts, and skills of the early to mid-medieval period come to life and will be open for all the family to discover from 29th – 31st October.

And as Samhain is a time for feasting, Jack O’Lanterns Food & Craft Markets at Trim Castle will feature local harvest offerings and Halloween favourites, in what promises to be the most spirited Púca festival yet.

Tickets are on sale now at Pucafestival.com

Book Now and Save 10%! Use Promo Code Pucafestival10 and receive a 10% Discount!

Keep up to date with PÚCA E-NEWS – Click here to subscribe to our e-newsletter and be the first to hear about all Púca Festival goings on.

Follow PÚCA on social and keep up to date with all Púca news. Use the hashtag #PucaFestival and join the Púca conversation. Facebook: @pucafestival
Instagram: @pucafestivalireland Twitter: @pucafestival

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Connacht Tribune

Italian archer brings whole new outdoor leisure pursuit to Loughrea

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An eagle-eyed Italian has converted a cohort of locals in Loughrea into archery enthusiasts – in the heart of their local forest.

Mattia Cestonaro set up Loch Riach Traditional Archery, the first field archery club in Galway to be affiliated to the Irish Field Archery Federation (IFAF).

After raising nearly €800 in public donations, he established the course geared to different levels in a forest located in Peterswell on the Slieve Aughty Mountains.

Field archery has participants shooting at various targets. The targets may be concentric circles, animal faces on paper or 3D animal targets, from a variety of distances, which can be marked or unmarked.

There is a main course layout in a loop shape, where small groups of archers, typically up to four, walk around and stop at each station to hit a target.

The club is a non-profit organisation with the main aim to promote our beloved sport in Ireland.

“This is a sport for everyone, we have kids, adults, families shooting together. It’s some mighty fun,” enthused the native of Vicenza in north-eastern Italy.

“This is an exciting new activity for the local community, as well as to visitors from other counties and clubs.”

Mattia has created three small bridges to cross the river in different points using pallets on the course located on over 160 acres of forest. There are currently 14 targets spread out over 1.5km, crossing different types of terrain.

The club teaches a ‘traditional, instinctive way of shooting’.

“It is a challenging course with different tricky shots, uphill, downhill, between trees. We tried as much as we could to use natural backstops to make the shots look as natural as possible,” he explains.

“We think our club as a group of friends who share the same passion, we organise many social activities and we encourage members to volunteer in the club’s activities.”

The main course is made entirely of 3D targets.

“We believe there is nothing else like the sight of a realistic 3D target in the forest.”

Several of the first courses held last July sold out. The courses in August completely sold out.

It costs €50 per person for four weekly classes lasting an hour and a half, with the minimum age of eight set for participants. Archers aged under 18 must have at least one parent participating in the course with them.  Adult membership of the club costs €60 for the year, while kids pay €30, which includes membership to the social club.

“There was an overwhelming response to our first beginner courses and an ever more surprising conversion rate, which saw the 100% of those who completed the course become members of the club. This was amazing and already repaid the months of hard work in the woods,” enthuses Mattia.

The club will now concentrate on making sure all the new members receive proper support during their first months in the archery world.

Mattia was doing field archery in Italy but took a few years off until he got the opportunity here over three years ago to reignite his passion.

“I went back into it thanks to my friend Enea, who is the son of the iconic Italian character Papetto, who is one of the greatest masters of Instinctive shooting and whose values and philosophy he is trying to promote and keep live for over 45 years.

“This is the same I’m trying to do with the club, I am offering beginner courses where we cover all the basics of field archery and where I try to spread my archery philosophy which has the social aspect of this discipline in his core values.

“To put it in simple words, I’m in love with this sport, and I try to transmit my passion to other people.”

The Italian moved to Ireland from Italy in 2014 looking for a change in lifestyle. After three months in Clifden, he transferred to Galway and found a job in supply chain with Schneider Electric, where he continues to work.

In December 2020 he bought a house in Loughrea and moved in with his partner Tatiana.

“It was a huge step in our life, and we couldn’t be happier with our choice. We found a lovely welcoming community, everyone is so kind with us and there is so much to do around here: from the lake which is at our doorstep, and we walk daily with our dogs, to the numerous sport activities available.”

Mattia plays with the Loughrea Rugby Club and recently helped organise a group of 14 Italian teenagers to visit Loughrea from his old club, the Rangers Rugby Vicenza. They stayed with host families and trained with the Loughrea RFC for a week.

Mike Feerick of Ireland Reaching Out said he and wife Eileen regularly get behind the bow and arrow on a Sunday morning after completing a beginner’s course earlier this summer.

He has praised Mattia’s hard work, with the support of Coillte, in turning an area of Slieve Aughties into a recreation hub.

“It’s interesting that someone has come to live among us and helped us strengthen our community, starting a new pastime in the locality which takes advantage of the wonderful hinterland we have in East Galway.”

“It is a big undertaking for any one person – but he has persevered and indeed succeeded.”

Mattia has plans to expand the course with new targets and create a bigger training range.

“We plan to create nice picnic areas for members to spend time together with benches and tables and some shelter for the rainy days. We also plan to host the first official IFAF shooting in 2023, where people from other clubs from all Ireland will come over to compete as part of the IFAF annual calendar,” he explains.

“The future ahead is exciting, and I am very proud to be able to offer something different to a community which is giving so much to me and my family in terms of quality of life.”

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Connacht Tribune

Hurdle cleared for Claregalway traffic calming and flood relief scheme

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A dispute over land acquisition that threatened to sink a long-awaited traffic calming scheme and flood relief works in Claregalway has been resolved.

A meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District councillors heard that an agreement had been reached with the landowner, enabling the Council to proceed with its plans to install a surface water drainage scheme at the bridge.

Cllr Jim Cuddy (Ind) said following repeated representations, he had been assured that a resolution had been found.

“I have been informed that we are waiting for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) to come back to the Council to tell them to proceed,” said Cllr Cuddy.

This came as councillors hit out at the lack of progress on the project, with Cllr James Charity (Ind) pointing out that it had been three years since they approved the project.

“I have had a lot of complains in the last few days about flash flooding in Claregalway, on the street outside Centra . . . we’ve mentioned it in here ad nauseum,” he said.

“It is very frustrating for communities and residents up there that this is not progressing – it’s a long-standing problem that’s being put on the long finger.”

Cllr Albert Dolan (FF) said it was disappointing that having approved the project in 2019, councillors were being kept in the dark and had received no official communication from the National Roads Project Office (NRPO) to explain the delay.

“It’s three years on and we have not seen any progress . . . the Athenry Oranmore councillors are not happy that this has been delayed for so long without being given a reason,” said Cllr Dolan.

Cllr Charity suggested that a representative of the NRPO should be invited to a meeting of local area councillors to explain the lack of progress.

“If the matter is progressing, we need an update from them. Resolution with the landowner is one thing but the TII committed to this in 2019, so now there is a question of funding as well,” said Cllr Charity.

Cllr Liam Carroll (FG) concurred and said with the increasing cost of construction materials, funding would need to be addressed without delay.

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