Up to 20 horses were found in appalling conditions in Briarhill, following a complaint to the Department of Agriculture’s Animal Health and Welfare unit.
It was only when the Department, assisted by the charity Hungry Horse Outside, entered the 30-acre site near Ballybrit racecourse last month that they realised the full extent of the mistreatment and cruelty.
Seven carcasses were found in the field at varying stages of decay, while the horses that had survived their horrific circumstances were starving, weak and being eaten alive by worms.
The horses that died of starvation had undergone unimaginable pain and suffering.
According to Hilary Robinson – founder of the Longford-based charity that took the live animals into their care – they died the cruellest of deaths.
“To die of starvation is a terrible thing, it’s just desperate. It’s just so horrendous because they fight so hard for their lives; that is just their natural instinct. Can you imagine standing in that weather and the cold all over the Christmas, hungry from one end of the day to the other, searching around for a bit of food?
“Even eating bits of branches, chewing on the timber and, you know, trying to plough the muck – just horrendous,” said Hilary.
On their first attempt to rescue the horses, Ms Robinson and her team took seven horses back to their Newtownforbes base, only filling the lorries to a safe level in the knowledge that the weakness of those rescued would almost certainly mean they would ‘go down’ during transportation.
When they returned, they found that the owner had removed several of the horses from the area before they had a chance to be rescued.
Of the eight horses rescued, only four have survived – three of which are mares and heavily in foal.
She has since had the owner of the horses at her door demanding the horses be given back – the details of which she has passed on to Gardaí.
She described how it is difficult to prove ownership and convict neglectful owners due to non-enforcement of laws surrounding micro-chipping – which has been a legal requirement since 2009 – and called for tighter controls.
“That’s where we come in – prevention is the best the whole way around – education, micro-chipping, and castration, those are the three important things – why breed horses if you don’t have a market,” said Hilary.
The charity is calling on the owner of the land to come forward so they can close it off to prevent a reoccurrence of these horrifying conditions.
“We need to emphasise this, we need the owners of the land to come forward so that we can close it up so that never happens again.
“The reason this one is so bad is the fact that it is Galway City, a very rich and affluent city; it’s beside the racecourse with helicopters flying for racing and things like that and these animals have been starving all winter long,” she said.
An investigation will now be carried out by the Department of Agriculture into this horrendous case of neglect.
A Department spokesperson said: “The Department can confirm that it is continuing its investigation into the neglect of horses in Briarhill.”
Ms Robinson believes the problem of neglect is at serious levels in Galway, with a further eight horses needing rescuing from a location in South County Galway this week.
Hungry Horse Outside, the GSPCA, the Department of Agriculture and a Dept of Agriculture vet will meet this week in Galway to formulate a strategy of prevention.
Voice of ‘Big O’ reflects on four decades
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The daytime voice of Big O Taxis is celebrating four decades in the role – and she has no plans to hang up her headset any time soon.
Roisin Freeney decided to seek a job after staying at home to mind her three children for over a decade. It was 1981 when she saw an advert in the Connacht Sentinel for a dispatch operator.
The native of Derry recalls that the queue for the job wound its way past Monroe’s Tavern from the taxi office on Dominick Street.
“There was a great shortage of work back then. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the line of people. My then husband who was giving me a lift in never thought I’d get the job, he was driving on past and I said, let me off.
“I got it because I worked as a telephonist in the telephone exchange in Derry. But I was terrified starting off because I hadn’t been in the work system for so long.”
Back then Big O Taxis had only 25 drivers and just a single line for the public to book a cab.
“We had an old two-way radio, you had to speak to the driver and everybody could listen in. It was easy to leave the button pressed when it shouldn’t be pressed. People heard things they shouldn’t have – that’s for sure,” laughs Roisin.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of Róisín’s story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Baby boom puts strain on Galway City secondary schools
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A baby boom in the late 2000s has left parents of sixth class pupils in Galway City scrambling to find a secondary school place for their children next September – with over 100 children currently facing the prospect of rejection from city schools.
The Department of Education is now rushing to address the issue and confirmed to the Galway City Tribune this week that it was fully aware of increasing pressure and demand on city schools
Local councillor Martina O’Connor said there were 100 more children more than there were secondary school places for next year, and warned that this would put severe pressure on schools to increase their intake numbers.
“This will put a lot of pressure on schools because they will have been working out the number of teachers and what resources they would need in October or November last year and they could be facing a situation where they will be asked to take an additional eight or 10 students.
“There would normally be a small excess – maybe two or three – but this year, it’s over 100. There is a bigger number of children in sixth class this year and there will be the same issue for the next few years,” said the Green Party councillor.
A Department spokesperson said while there were capacity issues, factors other than numbers could be at play, adding that there were approximately 1,245 children in the city due to move onto secondary school in September.
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.
GMIT warns partying students they are delaying return to campus
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Partying students have been told their actions have impacted GMIT’s plans to re-start practical classes on campus – and Gardaí are monitoring the city’s bus and train stations to catch those breaking the 5km travel restriction by returning home for the weekend.
College authorities said the current “extremely serious outbreak” of Covid-19 among students in Galway City was caused by a small minority who are “moving and mixing between different households”.
Following a meeting with Gardaí last week, GMIT contacted all students to clarify that because there are no ‘onsite’ classes, there should be no need to travel for educational purposes.
“The Gardaí have notified us that there will be checks at the bus and train stations to implement the 5km travel rule, as well as checkpoints on the roads, and that fines will be given for any non-compliance with this rule,” students were told.
In a separate communication issued this week, the college’s Covid Officer appealed to students to abide by the rules.
“This outbreak has had an impact on our plans with regard to return to onsite practical work, with consequences for all students.
“We are appealing to all students to comply with all Covid restrictions and in doing so, to help ensure that those students who have to return to onsite practical work can do so,” the email read.
Many students from outside the city have opted to stay in their accommodation for access to better broadband.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and more coverage of Covid figures and vaccinations, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.