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Sleeping woman sexually assaulted, court hears




A 28-year-old man who sexually assaulted a woman as she slept in a friend’s house, went to his parish priest to look for guidance before telling his family about what he had done.

Brian Finnegan, from Kilsallagh, Williamstown, pleaded guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court last October to sexually assaulting the then 22-year-old woman in a house at University Road on October 15, 2017.

The Director of Public Prosecutions had initially directed the charge could be dealt with at District Court level if Finnegan entered a guilty plea, but he pleaded not guilty when the matter came before Galway District Court in 2018 and was sent forward for trial to the higher court.

Finnegan appeared before the Circuit Court last October for trial where he changed his plea to guilty when the charge was put to him.

Sentence was adjourned for the preparation of a victim impact statement and for a probation report on Finnegan.

Garda Vicky Duggan told the sentence hearing the young woman had returned to her friend’s house following a girls’ night out and had gone to sleep in her friend’s bed alone.

She woke up during the night to find Finnegan on top of her.  She tried to push him off and get up, but he pushed her back onto the bed before sexually assaulting her.

She shouted for help when she saw Finnegan attempting to take off his boxer shorts and managed to push him off her as her friend came into the room to assist her.  Finnegan was told to leave the house immediately afterwards.

He was subsequently interviewed by Garda Duggan and made certain admissions.

“He admitted he didn’t know the woman, and had “tried it on” but nothing else happened,” she said.

The woman became upset at times while reading her victim impact statement to the court.  She said she still struggled to deal with what happened to her.

“He took advantage of me.  I woke up to the horror of him trying to undress me against my own free will.  I was living a nightmare, I cried so much that night,” she said.

The incident had left her feeling angry, sad, lonely and sick.  She said she had become a burden to her family and boyfriend and she was always fearful that people would judge her if they knew she had been sexually assaulted.

“I get angry and sad when I hear the words ‘sexual assault’ and ‘rape’,” she sobbed.

The woman said to her attacker that she wanted him to think every day about what he had done to her.

Defence barrister, Michael Clancy, apologised to the woman on behalf of his client and assured her that he did think every day of what he did that night and felt ashamed.

“He was so distraught about this that before telling his family, he went to his parish priest and he gave him guidance to deal with this in the appropriate manner,” Mr Clancy said.

A medical report from Finnegan’s GP was handed into court, stating he suffered from low mood since the incident and was on medication.

A letter from his employer at a Roscommon meat factory along with a “glowing tribute” from his former football club, and a letter from the parish priest were also handed in.

“He admitted it was wrong straight away and on the night he himself began to cry on realising what had just occurred,” Mr Clancy said of his client.

Judge Rory McCabe said this had been a reckless and unsolicited attempt by the accused to engage in sexual contact with an innocent victim who woke to find him on top of her.

“His best explanation is that he was drunk and was ‘trying it on’ and that he didn’t know the victim,” the judge noted.

He said that, thankfully, due to the victim’s quick action and the intervention of her friend, the attack ended quickly.

Judge McCabe placed the headline sentence – before aggravating and mitigating circumstances were taken into account – at three years.

However, on hearing the probation service had yet to complete a second, more detailed risk assessment on Finnegan, he decided to adjourn finalisation of sentence to May 22.

“There are no winners in this case and the victim is justifiably outraged at what happened to her,” he said.

Noting Finnegan was already on the Sex Offenders’ Register following his guilty plea last October, Judge McCabe said that was a significant penalty in itself but it was justified for what he described as Finnegan’s “grossly offensive conduct”.


Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.

Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.

To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.

He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.

In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.

And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.

“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
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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Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
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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