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Serial arsonist gets six years in prison



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.


Councillors back bid to ban city centre parking in Galway



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Councillors have unanimously agreed to ask Transport Minister Eamon Ryan to limit parking to residents only in the city centre.

Pedestrians in the city are being treated like second-class citizens, according to the Mayor, who said cars continued to get the priority on Galway’s streets.

At a meeting of the City Council this week, Mayor Colette Connolly (Ind) said the city had come to a standstill in car traffic, and pedestrians and cyclists were suffering the consequences.

“At junctions, why am I a second-class citizen in my own city as a pedestrian? It rains in Galway for 300 days of the year, but I am a second-class citizen when priority is given to motorists.

“It’s always the pedestrian that waits,” she said, hitting out at the length it took to get a green light to cross at pedestrian crossings.

One way to reduce the number of cars in the city centre would be to limit parking to residents only in the city centre, said the Mayor.

In a motion she proposed, seconded by Cllr Mike Cubbard (Ind), councillors unanimously agreed to write to the Minister for Transport to demand he pass the necessary legislation to enable the Council to do this.

The Mayor said residents were “sick, sore and tired” of people parking where they wanted when they visited the city and said despite a desire to introduce this measure going back almost 20 years, the Council was hamstrung by national legislation that prevented them from proceeding.

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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Planners approve homes for ‘cuckoo fund’ investor



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The green light has been given for the construction of 345 apartments at the Crown Square site in Mervue – the majority of which will be put on the rental market and operated by a ‘cuckoo fund’ for a minimum of fifteen years.

Crown Square Developments, which is owned by developer Padraic Rhatigan, has secured permission from An Bord Pleanála for the ‘Build to Rent’ development, with four blocks ranging ranging from four to nine storeys in height.

There will also be a neighbourhood facility with a gym, a primary care medical centre with pharmacy, a ‘working from home’ lounge, six shops, a games room and a creche.

There will be 240 two-bed apartments, 86 one-beds and 19 three-beds, all of which will be specifically for the rental market and not available to purchase.

A breakdown of the apartments shows there will be 240 two-beds; 86 one-beds and 19 three-beds.

To meet social housing requirements, the developer plans to transfer 35 of the apartments (20 two-bed, 10 one-bed and 5 three-bed) to Galway City Council.

A total of 138 car-parking spaces have been allocated on the lower basement levels of Crown Square for residents, along with shared access to another 109 spaces and another 13 for use by a ‘car club’. There will be 796 secure bicycle parking spaces to serve the apartments.

The Board has ordered that the apartments can only be used as long-term rentals, and none can be used for short-term lettings.

Under ‘Build to Rent’ guidelines, the development must be owned and operated by an institutional entity for a minimum period of 15 years and “where no individual residential units shall be sold separately for that period”. The 15-year period starts from the date of occupation of the first residential unit.

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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Councillors divided over vote on Salthill Prom cycleway



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A proposal to install a temporary two-way cycle lane along Salthill Promenade hangs in the balance, with city councillors split ahead of a vote next week.

On Monday night, the 18 city councillors will discuss Mayor Colette Connolly’s motion that the lane be installed on the coastal side of the road from Blackrock to a point opposite Galway Business School.

A poll of the councillors carried out by the Galway City Tribune yesterday found nine in favour of the proposal, with one indicating they will abstain. A simple majority is required and if there is a 9-9 split, the Mayor holds a ‘casting’ vote, effectively a second vote.

There has been a flurry of lobbying by cycling campaigners urging councillors to vote in favour, as well as some complaints from residents worried it will again impinge on their parking as visitors to Salthill seek somewhere to park up while they swim or walk along the most utilised resource the city has.

During lockdown, Gardaí removed parking on the Prom to deter people from gathering in a public space. This resulted in motorists blocking driveways and entering private estates, leading one estate off Threadneedle Road to hire a private clamping company.

Mayor Colette Connolly (Ind) believes there are a maximum of 250 spaces that would be lost to the project on one side of the road as currently proposed, including seven disabled spaces, which could be reassigned close by.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read extensive coverage of the issue and to see how each councillor intends to vote, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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