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CITY TRIBUNE

‘Out of control’ pub gets licence renewed

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The owner of The Lantern in Ballybane has succeeded in having the bar’s annual drinks licence renewed, paving the way for the premises to be sold.

An order made in the District Court by Judge Mary Fahy in November – refusing to renew the pub’s annual drinks licence – was quashed by Judge James McCourt at an appeals hearing in the Circuit Court a week ago.

Residents, who had applauded Judge Fahy when she refused the licence in the District Court, were quite despondent when it was renewed by the Circuit Court.

Afterwards, they said they were anxious to find out who the new owner would be and were not very hopeful that things would change at the pub.

Mary Lydon, from Gentian Hill, who owns the Lantern Bar, had applied to the Annual Licensing District Court in November for a renewal of the licence and also its transfer back to her, after former tenant, Danny Kenny, nominee and director of Kingu Kongu Ltd had it handed back to her when he vacated the premises last September.

Refusing the renewal or transfer applications in November, Judge Fahy said the lack of proper management at the premises – particularly during all of last year – which had resulted in Gardai having to deal with several public order incidents in the area, had led her to refuse the applications.

Ms Lydon sought to allay the District Court and local residents’ concerns about the running of the pub by Mr Kenny throughout 2019 by telling Judge Fahy in November that she would not be leasing the premises again and that she intended to sell it. However, the sale could not go through unless the licence was renewed, she said.

The appeal hearing was told last week that another well-known publican, who was not identified in court, was keen to purchase the premises providing the licence was attached.

Terry Lydon, who said he managed his mother’s many properties, confirmed he had a purchaser for the pub on condition the licence came with it.

Sergeant Brendan Moore, who is the dedicated licensing Sergeant for Galway City, said he was objecting to the licence renewal because of the way the premises had been run by Mr Kenny. Gardaí had been called to deal with 31 Public Order incidents – five of which were very serious – at the pub on several dates, starting with New Year’s Eve last year and right up to when the pub closed last August, he said.

He said he had taken it upon himself to visit the premises regularly at closing times last year and had taken up to a dozen Gardai with him on each occasion to ensure the premises was closed properly.

In reply to Judge McCourt, the Sergeant said the Lantern Bar was the only premises in Galway that was out of control on New Year’s Eve last year.

“I never saw the licensee (Kenny) there. I made many visits to the pub and he was never there,” the Sgt added.

He said he feared that if the licence was renewed now, then in the future, when Gardaí gave notice of objecting to the renewal of any licence, it would simply be transferred to someone else to avoid objections.

“If we object to any premises, there is an opt-out clause now and if we give notice of objections that opt-out clause is there for people to use,” Sgt Moore pointed out.

Mr Kenny gave evidence at the appeal hearing that while he was the licensee at the time, he had appointed a bar manager who had full responsibility for running the premises.

He said he called to the premises weekly and viewed an incident diary which the manager kept.

Mr Kenny said he had not been informed of any problems by his manager and he suggested that if the Gardaí – whom, he said, knew him well – had approached him directly, he would have dealt with matters swiftly.

Under cross-examination by State solicitor, Willie Kennedy, Mr Kenny said he had signed over the licence and handed back the lease to Terry Lydon last September because business was slow and his company’s debts, including rent arrears of up to €8,000, were mounting, adding that Kingu Kongu Ltd had since been liquidated.

He denied the rent debt had been written off on him surrendering the lease and licence months before the lease was due to expire.

Mr Kennedy put it to him that handing the licence and premises back early it had been a device to avoid objections and refusal of the licence renewal.

Judge McCourt compared Mr Kennedy’s application to the court to impose the ‘ultimate sanction’ by refusing the renewal of the licence, to a ‘Doomsday scenario’.

“A lot of store has been given to unruly incidents but incidents always arise.  It certainly is not the first case where a licensee, such as Mr Kenny, has been put in a situation where the landlord takes a premises back.

“But is there anything to suggest that the surrender and handing back was nothing more than arm’s length and voluntary?” Judge McCourt asked Mr Kennedy.

“The surrender was two years early,” Mr Kennedy replied.

“If you were a landlord and there was trouble you might take back your property and waive rent due to keep the licence,” Judge McCourt suggested.

Mr Kennedy said there was evidence before the court that the premises was badly run and the Gardai were objecting to the renewal of the licence because they felt the licensee was not properly running the premises.

“The court is adopting the stance that if the property is transferred at arm’s length then that is okay,” Mr Kennedy said.

Judge McCourt replied: “If no one can offer evidence of something sinister going on or evidence there was collusion between the landlord and the tenant, then the transfer was legitimate,” Judge McCourt replied.

Mr Paul McGettigan BL, instructed by solicitor, Glenn Keaney, for Ms Lydon, said Mr Kennedy was insinuating the licence had been “laundered” but in fact, discussions (between Mr Kenny and Tony Lydon) had been going on since the previous January. The business, he said, was not performing and was in debt and his client had approached Mr Kenny on several occasions.

“There is nothing untoward here,” he said.

Judge McCourt said he was satisfied the objections raised in the matter were well founded and they were accepted by everybody, including Mr Kenny and the Lydons.

“On the face of it, it was a legitimate, valid surrender,” he held.

The judge said he could not ignore the fact he had been told that Ms Lydon had a new occupier ‘lined up’

“The premises is back in secure hands and the licence is back in secure hands,” he noted.

The judge said it was appropriate in the circumstances to allow the appeal and renew the licence attached to the premises.

A spokesperson for a large group of local residents, who attended the appeal hearing, said: “We are the people living with the consequences of the pub.  This is a residential area. There are elderly people, there are disabled people and there are ordinary people of many ethnic backgrounds most of whom hate the thought of the pub being reopened.

“We can only pray that the new owners at least try and run a better establishment but we’re not very hopeful.”

CITY TRIBUNE

Budget money set aside for study into tidal pools

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How the tidal pools might look. IMAGE: SUPER FLY IRELAND

Councillors have agreed to provide funding for a feasibility study into reopening the tidal pools in Salthill.

During the Galway City Council budget meeting this week, a balanced budget of €103 million for next year was passed by councillors.

Included in this was €44,000 for a feasibility study to be carried out to reopen the tidal pools at Ladies’ beach, which has been described as a “a huge asset to the city” by Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath.

Support for the reviving of the pools grew legs after an online petition attracted over 4,500 signatures.

Up to 100 of the 518 submissions made under the City Development Plan currently being drafted supported reopening the pools which have been out of action since the late 1970s.

Meanwhile, the four biggest allocations in the budget for 2022 were nearly €39m set to be spent on housing and building; €17m on recreation and amenity and €14m on road, transport and safety and €13m on environmental services.

There was broad welcome from around the table for plans to employ three more community wardens; six additional permanent general operative posts; four seasonal outdoor workers and two housing maintenance staff.

The two key projects earmarked for Council-owned land at the Dyke Road and Sandy Road to create “affordable, residential-led and mixed used development” will also get nine specialists to progress them with the Land Development Agency.

But there was widespread criticism that the City Council continues to be the poor relation when compared to other cities around the country.

Because it has been categorised in ‘Band 5’ since 1991 – along with rural local authorities such as Carlow, Leitrim and Monaghan – its workforce is meant to be capped at 487.  Last May it was at 524, with plans to increase that by 30 more next year due to increased projects and pressure on services. But these posts will have to undergo rigorous assessment by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

The ‘controlling pact’ of councillors made adjustments of €423,000 to stump up for their own projects. They achieved these savings by cutting the IT budget by €60,000, culling €220,000 earmarked to create a new project management unit to oversee large projects and €50,000 for a tourism promotion fund.

City Hall’s plan to increase grave opening charges to reap €15,000 was overturned as was their recommendation to up the price of using public toilets from 20c to 50c, creating revenue of €23,000.

Their proposal of an €8 per day charge to park in the Dyke Road, Cathedral and College Road car parks was also scaled back to €6.50, which will bring in extra income of €149,000 instead of €298,000. A monthly €100 parking ticket will also now be available for daily users, which will reduce the charge to just over €3 per day.

Among the biggest winners in the revised budget was a feasibility study for the Salthill tidal pools (€44,000); Westside running track lights (€40,000); Greenfields walking path (€32,000) and €30,000 each for the castles restoration project and repairing roads and footpaths in Old Mervue.

The ‘pact’ projects were slammed by out-voted councillors as discriminating against residents on the east side of the city, who make up one third of the population, but allegedly only attracted 10 per cent of these adjustments.

This was rejected by the councillor leading the ruling pact’s budget, Cllr Frank Fahy (FG), who said in fact €105,000 would go to projects on the east side out of the €423,000 even though just one councillor in the pact was from that ward – Cllr Terry O’Flaherty (Ind).

Slamming the cut of €60,000 to ICT, Cllr Mike Crowe said never in the history of the City Council had technology been so important at it facilitated staff to work from home and in an era where cyberattacks had paralysed the Health Service Executive (HSE) and NUI Galway.

He also said the monthly parking charge would effectively take advantage of people who were only worked in the office two or three days.

“Galway City East has one third of the population but the adjustments by the pact equate to 10.5% – €49,000 – that’s 10-11% to be spent on the east. The rest is Galway City West and Galway City Centre [wards]. That’s a reflection of the pact. Last year the east got 18% of adjustments and 31-33% went to other wards…some of these adjustments are at the least very questionable and should be reconsidered.”

Cllr Alan Cheevers (FF) said he found the adjustments “very parochial”. There was nothing to fund improvements in Doughiska, Roscam, Headford Road and Tuam Road.

“We’re elected to represent the people of the city so I believe we should allocate it fairly.”

The budget passed, with just one councillor, Mike Crowe, voting against it. Another vote to alter the 2009 Parking Bylaws to allow for a monthly parking ticket was passed 11 votes to seven.

 

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CITY TRIBUNE

Salthill will NOT have one-way traffic under new cycleway plans

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Salthill will not be reduced to one-way traffic under plans for the new cycleway along the Promenade, following the intervention of the National Transport Authority in the controversy.

It was confirmed yesterday (Thursday) that a design is now being considered to “ensure the widest support possible”.

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council – which recently created cycleways in Dublin – will now be involved in the design process.

Last September, city councillors voted in favour of creating a two-way segregated cycle lane along the coastal side of the Prom from Grattan Road to Blackrock as a six-month trial.

However, it subsequently emerged that this would involve introducing one-way traffic along the Prom, with the outbound lane closed to make way for bicycles – this information has not been presented to councillors as they decided to vote on the cycle lane without any prior discussion.

Galway West TD and Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton, subsequently asked the National Transport Authority (NTA) to intervene in the row.

“As a result of a meeting held last week between the NTA and the City Council, I can confirm that both parties are working to review proposals that will meet the objectives of the [City Council] motion while also looking to retain two-way traffic,” she said.

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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CITY TRIBUNE

Criminal Assets Bureau targets two Galway families

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Garda raids at seven locations on the east side of the city earlier this week were aimed at ‘hitting in the pocket’ two families alleged to be heavily involved in the drugs trade, the Galway City Tribune has learned.

Close to 100 personnel from different Garda and Customs specialist units were involved in the searches of residences in the Castle Park and Radharc na Gréine estates early on Tuesday morning.

According to Garda sources, they are confident that the raids – which also involved the seizure of a 191 Audi car worth an estimated €45,000+ in the Garryowen area of Limerick – will lead to arrests over the coming weeks and months.

Files have already started to be prepared for forwarding to the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) in relation to the seizures on Tuesday which included €22,000 in cash; £4,450 in sterling; a range of high-value designer goods, as well as the freezing of €17,000 in a bank account.

Searches carried out prior to this week’s operation by specialist Garda units had resulted in the seizure of €18,680 in cash and the freezing of bank accounts to the value of €66,000. Two Rolex watches were also seized – these items have a value which can range between €10,000 and €100,000 each.

The strategy behind the CAB/Garda crackdown on illegal drugs gangs is based on striking at the finances of the local drug barons – as well as the seizure of cash/goods and the freezing of bank accounts, Revenue are closely involved in the ‘monitoring of income’ of the gang members with a view to issuing substantial tax bills.

Detective Superintendent Shane Cummins, who is in charge of crime operations in the Galway Garda Division, said this week’s searches were part of an ongoing operation aimed at tackling the sale and supply of illegal drugs across the city and county.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read more on the raids and Garda Asset Profilers, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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