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CITY TRIBUNE

Serial arsonist gets six years in prison

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A serial arsonist who, according to his probation officer, has “a pathological desire to start fires”, has been sentenced to six years in prison for setting fire to two cars in the city last year.

Karl McCarthy (35), with a former address at Abbey House, Newcastle, pleaded guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court to two counts of criminal damage involving the burning of two cars on consecutive nights last October.

Garda Paul McNulty told the court he and Garda Evelyn Barrett were on patrol on October 4 last year in the Newcastle area following reports of a spate of house fires in the area over the previous number of days.

At around 10.30pm they received a report of a car on fire at Upper Newcastle Road.

When they arrived at the scene, Garda McNulty said he observed McCarthy, who was known to him, standing nearby looking at the burning car.  He was intoxicated.

Garda McNulty said the 2001 Ford Fiesta was completely engulfed in flames.

He noted McCarthy was in possession of a cigarette lighter and a scissors.

On the previous night around the same time, a 1997 Opel Corsa had been set on fire at the same location.

McCarthy was arrested and taken to Galway Garda Station where he was detained for questioning.  He denied any involvement but eventually admitted setting fire to both cars.

“He couldn’t not give any reason why he did it.  He used the scissors to cut the upholstery to make it easier to set the cars on fire,” Garda McNulty added.

McCarthy received a four-year sentence in December 2013 for several counts of arson committed in the Ballybane/Renmore areas in September 2012.

Houses, cars and wheelie bins were set on fire during those incidents.

Following his release from prison in late 2015, McCarthy stayed at the Fairgreen Hostel before being accepted to stay at  113 Abbey House, Upper Newcastle Road, which is run by the Simon Community, Garda McNulty said.

He said the house is located a short distance from where the fires occurred.

The court was told McCarthy is currently serving a 10-month sentence imposed on him at Galway District Court last October for road traffic matters.

Garda McNulty pointed out McCarthy was out on bail when he committed the arson offences.

In reply to prosecuting barrister, Conor Fahy, Garda McNulty said McCarthy had 70 previous convictions, 59 for road traffic offences; three for theft; three for arson, and the remainder for criminal damage and burglary.

Defence barrister, Geri Silke said her client still does not know why he set both cars alight.

She said he had never been psychologically assessed and she asked that it be done now while he was in prison.

Judge McCabe said McCarthy used a scissors to facilitate the burning of these cars which showed an alarming level of premeditation. The only mitigating factor, he said, was the early plea to the charges.

Judge McCabe said he had been furnished with a very helpful and comprehensive probation report. It stated McCarthy’s risk of reoffending was “very high”.

“He has a propensity for arson for no apparent reason and his offending behaviour is increasing at an alarming rate.

“He is a serious risk of harm to others. He’s a serial arsonist and he can give no reason for arson. His risk of reoffending is very high.

“The probation report states:  ‘He has a pathological desire to start fires’,” Judge McCabe noted.

He said the probation service had stated it saw no role for itself in any possible rehabilitation process.

Judge McCabe said the appropriate sentence was six years for each offence, the sentences to run concurrently.  He recommended McCarthy undergo psychological assessment while in prison.

CITY TRIBUNE

Gardaí bid to identify body recovered near Mutton Island

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Gardai have launched an investigation following the discovery of a body in Galway Bay yesterday afternoon.

A member of the public raised the alarm after spotting the body in the water while walking on the causeway to Mutton Island.

Galway Fire Service, Gardai and the RNLI attended the scene and recovered the body at around 4pm, before it was taken to University Hospital Galway for a post mortem.

It is understood that the body may have been in the water for some time.

Gardaí are currently examining a list of missing people in the city.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Land Development Agency rules out Merlin ‘land grab’

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Campaigners have warned the Land Development Agency (LDA) to keep its hands off Merlin Woods.

Local community group Friends of Merlin Woods said that the amenity on the east side of the city is not suitable for residential development.

It has sought clarification on whether the LDA has earmarked part of the recreational and amenity lands for housing, after it appeared on its online database of publicly-owned lands.

In a statement to the Galway City Tribune, the LDA said its database compiles a list of all State lands, not just land for development.

In relation to Merlin Woods, the LDA said: “Those lands aren’t included in the LDA developments in Galway. The lands database is a map-based tool which compiles all State lands and has no reflection on development potential.”

It came after Caroline Stanley of Friends of Merlin Woods raised concern that land within Merlin Woods had been earmarked for development.

“I’d be concerned that it’s marked as residential when it’s in RA (Recreational and Amenity) land. Some is marked ‘open space’ but some is marked as ‘new proposed residential’ on its [LDA’s] database. It makes us wonder why. We’d like clarity and to clear it up.

“The message we’d like to get out there is we need clarification, whether it’s a mistake on the Land Development Agency’s part, or whether it is an area that they consider as a residential area, which the community would be opposed to. We need clarity. It could be something that is in line for development later on, we don’t know, and we need clarity.”

Councillor Owen Hanley explained that the fears around Merlin Woods stem from legislation currently making its way through the Oireachtas that would strip councillors of powers to veto the transfer of land to the LDA for housing projects.

The Bill would also allow Government to direct what public lands – including those owned by local authorities – can be transferred to the LDA for development of social and affordable housing.
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

‘Detractors’ could hold up €10m Spanish Arch flood defence scheme

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan has warned that the Office of Public Works and Galway City Council “may end up in the High Court” if they attempt to expedite plans for the €10 million flood defence scheme for the Spanish Arch and Docks areas.

Speaking at an Oireachtas Finance Committee meeting last week, the Minister for the Office of Public Works admitted his frustration at the length of time such projects take.

But he said that if he and the OPW attempted to “shave off time” in moving the project forwards, they would have to be mindful of “detractors” making accusations later and there being a legal challenge.

He was responding to Galway West TD Mairéad Farrell, who said it was likely to be 2028 before the flood prevention works would be completed.

“It was revealed in November that it will be at least eight years before long-awaited flood defences are completed in the Spanish Arch and Docks areas – with the City Council estimating that it will be towards the end of 2028 before works conclude,” said Deputy Farrell.

Minister O’Donovan said: “The OPW is committed. There is money available. We do not have a worry about allocating money for capital spending. I say to Deputy Farrell, and to Galway City Council, that, if we can shave off time in advancing projects, we will gladly do so, but we have to be mindful of the fact that if our detractors make accusations later, we may end up in the High Court. We do not want that.”

(Photo: Flood Street in February 2014. Spanish Arch, Fishmarket Square and the Docks areas were flooded in storm weather during high tide. PHOTO BY JOE O’SHAUGHNESSY)
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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