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CITY TRIBUNE

Student drug dealers remind judge of ‘Breaking Bad’

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College students in Galway are becoming drugs dealers as a means of funding their way through college, a court has been told.

“It reminds me of ‘Breaking Bad’,” Judge Mary Fahy said at Galway District Court after hearing evidence against three NUIG students who, in separate and unrelated cases, pleaded guilty to drug dealing offences.

The last of the three students to be dealt with by the court was third year mechanical engineering student, Fintan Canavan (22), with an address in student accommodation at Dún na Coiribe, Headford Road, who received a six-month prison sentence.

He pleaded guilty to having €4,080 worth of cannabis for sale or supply to others on March 25, 2016.

Gardai searched his girlfriend’s address at The Stables, College Road, Galway and found the drugs along with a digital weighing scales and €2,000 cash in her bedroom.

Canavan was not there at the time of the raid, but he presented himself at Galway Garda Station three weeks later.  He was interviewed and admitted the drugs, the weighing scales and the money were his.  He admitted the drugs were for sale or supply to others and also for his own use.

Handing a letter from Canavan’s professor and other references into court, defence solicitor Gearoid Geraghty said his client was a third year mechanical engineering student at NUIG.

“Well, isn’t that embarrassing?  How many students from NUIG were in here today?” Judge Fahy asked.

Mr Geraghty said his client had since got away from the drugs scene completely and the results of a series of clean urine tests were handed into court to prove he was now drug-free.

Mr Geraghty said a conviction would have a serious impact on his future employability and he pointed out his client had no previous convictions.

Judge Fahy said this was a serious offence involving a very significant amount of cannabis.

Garda Orla Flatley, prosecuting, said that while he had co-operated in the Garda investigation, Canavan had come to Garda attention since.

She said he had admitted selling drugs to his friends at the time of this offence. “He said he wanted to make money for college,” the Garda said.

“It seems to be a growing trend among students,” Mr Geraghty commented.

“Well, if it’s a growing trend, they will have to expand Castlerea Prison,” Judge Fahy replied.

She said Canavan, like the other two students who had been before the court earlier that day for drug-dealing, had been given an opportunity to go to college and they had abused that privilege out of sheer greed.  She said they were coming into court expecting to be dealt with leniently because they were going to college.

“Well, I’m sending out a message today,” the judge said, before sentencing Canavan to six months in prison.  Leave to appeal the sentence was granted.

Earlier in the day, third year chemistry student, Sean Curran (21), from Co Meath, was the first of the students to be dealt with.

He pleaded guilty to being found in possession of cannabis, Ecstasy and Ketamine, at his student accommodation in Dun na Coiribe on December 14, 2016. He also pleaded guilty to having the cannabis for sale or supply to others on the same date.

“He is a chemistry student and he’s involved in this.  It reminds me of ‘Breaking Bad’,” Judge Fahy said.

Gardai also found €575 cash, the proceeds of drug dealing, during the raid on Curran’s accommodation.

Defence solicitor, John Martin, said his client was supplying student friends with cannabis and was using it himself. He said the quantities of the other drugs were very small and his client was not addicted to them but he was a regular cannabis user at the time.

He said Curran was now drug-free and was presenting with clear urine tests.

Reading references which were handed into court, Judge Fahy said she wanted to hear from prosecuting Garda Frank Hand, who was not present in court before finalising the matter.

The judge said Curran came from a wealthy background in Meath and there had been no need for him to deal in drugs.

She adjourned sentence to October 8 for urine analysis test results, a Garda behaviour report and for Garda Hand to give his opinion.

The second student to be dealt with was Jack McDonnell (23), with an address in Dún na Coiribe, who is a law graduate and currently studying for his LLB.  The court heard he had signed for a package containing €1,936 worth of cannabis on May 16, 2016.

Customs officials alerted Gardai in Galway that a package containing cannabis had come through the postal system and both Gardai and Customs carried out a controlled delivery of the drugs to McDonnell’s address.

Gardai returned to the address moments later and found the drugs in McDonnell’s bedroom.

His solicitor, Sean Acton, said somebody else had asked his client to sign for the package.

Garda Flatley said McDonnell told her he knew the package contained drugs when he signed for it.

She said he had not come to Garda attention before or since this incident.

Mr Acton said at the time of the offence, McDonnell had taken a year out after getting a corporate law degree but he was now back studying for his LLB in NUIG.

He said his client did not take drugs and references were handed into court.

Mr Acton said his client had made a huge mistake and he asked for sentence to be adjourned for 12 months, adding he would be shocked if his client came to Garda attention again.

Judge Fahy said that in order to consider the case fully she needed proper testimonials and proof that McDonnell was in college and doing the course he said he was doing.  She adjourned the matter to next week’s court for that purpose.

CITY TRIBUNE

Mercedes on track to fulfil promise to drive down fuel figures

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The Mercedes Benz CLA Shooting Brake.

This week’s test car has become this month’s test car because most car distributors have shut up shop as per Government orders and I’m left with the Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake until everything is up and running again.

For this I’m extremely grateful to Motor Distributors Ltd (MDL) – Mercedes distributors in Ireland – for allowing me to hold on to this eye-catching car.

Those with an eye for style will understand why Mercedes-Benz has produced the CLA Shooting Brake. Those with a practical persuasion might ridicule it, but a closer look might just challenge that position.

You see, some of the dimensions give a lie to any thoughts of this car being too sleek and too low to be a proper estate. It actually has more space in the boot than their own C-Class estate, and more headroom than the C-Class coupe.

As for the car itself, apart from the ultra-stylish, sleek exterior and the classy interior, this car, like many other cars in the Mercedes brochure, has one outstanding highlight: astonishing fuel consumption.

About six years ago, Mercedes bosses told us that they were on a mission to drive down fuel figures and to clean up their diesel engines beyond anything that was around back then. Right now, they are well into that target and this car is testament to that.

So far I have travelled around 500 kilometres, with 680 kilometres still left in the tank. My current rate of consumption is reading at 4.3L/100km which has been achieved without breaking any limits and driving, for the most part, in ECO or Comfort mode.

CO2 emissions are calculated at 108g/km which gives you an annual road tax bill of €190. These are impressive figures and imply that diesel can still have a significant role to play in the future of motoring.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

New Covid-19 assessment clinic at Merlin Park

Enda Cunningham

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The HSE is opening a new assessment clinic at Merlin Park Hospital this week for Covid-19 patients who are showing mild symptoms.

The Community Assessment Hub is for patients who are confirmed Covid-19 positive and who require face-to-face clinical assessment.

Appointments for the seven day service (8am-8pm) are through GP referral only and walk-ins are not permitted.

A HSE spokesperson said the idea behind the hub is to keep mildly symptomatic patients away from the acute hospital system.

“The aim of the hubs is to divert mildly symptomatic patients who require medical assessment away from the acute hospital system by providing a facility in the community where patients can be seen, and clinically assessed by a team of nurses, doctors and physiotherapists,” the spokesperson said.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Redundancies are not on the cards for Galway City Council workers

Dara Bradley

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Redundancies at Galway City Council as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic have been ruled out by Chief Executive Brendan McGrath.

The local authority has imposed a temporary ban on recruitment, but is not planning to lay off any of its 520-strong workforce.

Mr McGrath said that down the road, if this crisis continues for a prolonged period, replacing staff who retire may not be possible. But for now, Council workers are ‘flat out’ maintaining essential services across a range of departments.

“No, we’re not planning that (lay offs). We will endeavour to keep our workforce fully employed. We’ve built up our team since the recession, a lot of our team and the additional bodies we’ve taken on are related to specific projects, for which there was various forms of grant aid available so I think we’d be confident that we will try to be able to retain the entire staff resource,” he said.

Nearly 150 members of staff have been set up to work from home, thanks to the ICT Department at City Hall.

Outdoor staff, and other office staff who must be at City Hall, are observing social distancing guidelines. Offices that used to be packed with people now have one or two workers, spaced in accordance with the guidelines.

As with the private sector, there have been changes to the ‘normal’ working week for Council staff, and some have been redeployed to other areas.

The Council has a statutory obligation to maintain essential services.

“Essential services are anything to do with homelessness; urgent housing repairs like plumbing and electrical; work on houses that were nearly complete to bring back into beneficial use and to bring back into use for self-isolation; public lighting is essential; burst water mains; maintaining traffic lights for road safety; and anything to do with water supply and waste water and treating effluent,” said Mr McGrath.

Street cleaning is classed as ‘necessary but not absolutely essential’, and is a slightly lower category than ‘essential services’.

The rota for street cleaning has been cut back to a number of times a week rather than every day, and this reflects the quieter streets due to people staying at home.

The city’s burial grounds are closed, but graves still need to be opened, and the Planning Department continues to operate.

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