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Taxi driver has conviction for lewd comments overturned



A taxi driver who made lewd comments to a female passenger has had his conviction for breaching the peace overturned on appeal to the Circuit Court.
52-year-old African father of four, Mathew Ibenye, of 118 An Sean Bhaile, Doughiska, had been charged under Section 6 of the Public Order Act with breaching the peace following a complaint from a female passenger of a lewd conversation he initiated with her about his genitals after she had hailed his taxi down outside a city pub on July 18, 2019 and asked him to take her home to Knocknacarra.
He was convicted and fined €500 by Judge Mary Fahy following a contested hearing in the District Court last November and appealed that conviction to the higher court.
Allowing the appeal last week in the Circuit Court, Judge Rory McCabe said he believed every word the woman told the court and what she said had been the truth.
However, he said he was not satisfied the evidence presented to the court (by the prosecution) fell within the definition of Section 6 of the Public Order Act that “It shall be an offence for any person in a public place to use or engage in any threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to provoke a breach of the peace or being reckless as to whether a breach of the peace may be occasioned”. It was with regret he had to dismiss the conviction and allow the appeal.
The woman told both courts she hailed Ibenye’s taxi down outside a city pub around 2am and asked him to bring her home to Knocknacarra.
He told her he was single, was from Ghana and had been living in Ireland for eight years.
She said he suggested they go back to her home for drinks after telling her all Polish women were sexy.
The woman said she knew she was in danger when Ibenye asked her if she had alcohol back at her house before turning around in his taxi to tell her all black men were well endowed and he had “a big d..k”.
“He told me all Polish women were very beautiful and very sexy. I couldn’t believe my ears when he turned around to me and he said he had a big d..k. I knew I was in danger,” she said.
On the way to her home, the woman asked Ibenye to stop at the filling station in Lower Salthill on the pretext of getting cash from the ATM to pay the fare, but all she wanted to do was get out of the taxi, she said. She also knew there would be staff there to help her as it was a 24-hour station.
He stopped in the forecourt and she got out and took a picture of his taxi number before asking staff for help.
The Gardai were called and two arrived a few minutes later. They sent Ibenye on his way after taking his details and brought the woman home in the patrol car.
The woman denied during cross-examination by Ronan Murphy, solicitor, at the initial District Court hearing that she had initiated the turn in conversation and she also denied she made the allegations because she didn’t want to pay the fare.
Both courts heard Ibenye became “visibly hysterical” when Garda Kieran Quinn approached him on the forecourt and put the woman’s allegations about the conversation they had had in the taxi to him.
He told Gardai Quinn it was the woman who had told him she knew black men were good in bed and they had “big c..ks.”
Mr Murphy applied in the District Court to have the charge dismissed. He said the State had tendered no evidence to suggest his client had done anything to provoke a breach of the peace.
Judge Fahy thought otherwise and recorded a conviction.
At the appeal hearing last week, Brendan Browne BL, said his client had been charged under Section 6 of the Public Order Act, and yet there was no evidence before the court to suggest his client had ever breached the peace or had been reckless as to whether a breach of the peace had occurred.
Mr Browne said his client did not use threatening, abusive or insulting language and contended the proper mode for prosecution in these type of cases would have been under the 1961 Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicle) Act, or under the 2015 Taxi Regulations.
He said there was no evidence his client’s intention was to provoke a breach of the peace.
“If a taxi driver starts talking about his genitals, that might cause a reaction which might lead to a breach of the peace. A vehicle for hire is defined as a public place,” State solicitor William Kennedy, prosecuting, suggested.
Judge McCabe held with Mr Browne and granted the appeal.



GSPCA closes city centre charity shop permanently



From the Galway City Tribune – It’s the end of an era for a popular animal charity shop that has shut up shop for good at its city centre base.

The Galway SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has confirmed that it has not renewed its lease on its premises at St Augustine Street, where its charity shop has been based for a number of years.

The popular shop that sold books, clothes and bric-a-brac closed in June due to a leak in the building. It was due to reopen within days, but it has not and will not be, according to the charity.

The GSPCA said they are looking for a new premises in the city.

A spokesperson confirmed that the lease on the building was due to finish soon anyway, but after a major leak, the GSPCA and the landlord mutually agreed to bring forward the lease termination by a number of months.

“We hope to be up and running at another location in due course,” a spokesperson said.

A register charity and not-for-profit organisation, GSPCA still has a retail presence in Athenry and Ballinasloe, which generate money to run the organisation.

Its fundamental aim for over 20 years has been to care for animals in need through neglect, abandonment, abuse or those at risk due to a change in circumstances.

Its main sanctuary is based in the county, between Killimor and Portumna; and its cattery is in Athenry.

The charity assisted over 700 cats, dogs and smaller animals during 2020. According to accounts filed with the Charity Regulator, the vast majority of its income comes from donations, but its shops are important income sources and the charity made over €86,000 income from “trading and commercial activities” in 2020.

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Workers in Galway still waiting for ‘frontline’ payments



From the Galway City Tribune – A number of workers in healthcare settings in Galway have yet to receive promised pandemic bonus payments for toiling on the frontline during the Covid-19 crisis.

The Government had pledged each front-line worker would get a €1,000 payment as a thank you for contributing to the national effort during the pandemic.

But nine months on from when the Cabinet signed off on the payment, many local workers, including nurses and carers, particularly in private nursing homes, have received nothing.

Louis O’Hara, a general election candidate for Sinn Féin in Galway, labelled it as another broken promise by this Government.

“Workers here in Galway such as caterers, cleaners, security staff, agency staff and many more on the frontline in our local hospitals and healthcare settings have been contacting me to express their concern that they are still waiting for this payment,” he said.

“They are entitled to receive this payment, however the Government has failed to follow through on their promises and workers have been left in the lurch with no answers and no sense of urgency from the Government,” he said.

Mr O’Hara told the Galway City Tribune that the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, needed to clarify that the funding was still there to pay the staff.

He said a breakdown of figures for the number of staff in Galway that were not yet been paid was not available, but Sinn Féin has been inundated with complaints from workers – particularly agency staff and those in private nursing homes.

“Frontline workers in Galway have been let down badly by this Government’s failure to follow through on their promises. This is absolutely unacceptable,” Mr O’Hara said.

The party’s Health spokesperson has written to An Taoiseach Micheál Martin, urging him to intervene directly to ensure this payment is paid promptly.

Minister Donnelly, in a recent reply to a Parliamentary Question in the Dáil, said priority was given to payment of eligible staff in hospital groups, such as Saolta, and community services within the HSE.

He said that the Department of Health was “examining progressing the rollout” to six groups of non-HSE and Non-Section 38 Agencies, who were included in the scheme.

These include eligible workers in private nursing homes and hospices; staff on-site in long-term residential care facilities for people with disabilities; agency staff working for the HSE; healthcare assistants such as home help, home care and home support staff contracted by the HSE; Defence Forces members redeployed to work “in front-line Covid-19 exposed environments in the HSE”; and paramedics employed by Dublin Fire Brigade.

This was a “complex task”, he said, because “these employees are not normally paid by the public health service, duplicate payments need to be avoided, and there are many organisations to be covered”.

This work was being given “priority attention” he said.

“Payment to eligible workers will be made as soon as possible,” Minister Donnelly added.

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Murals are part of initiative to restore pride in Ballybane estate



From the Galway City Tribune – A poem about litter forms part of a vibrant colourful new mural painted on the walls of a City Council estate in Ballybane.

The poetry and artwork by local artist Irene Naughton is part of an initiative to restore pride in Sliabh Rua.

The final two lines of Ms Naughton’s poem, called The Dragon’s Foot, read: “The land, the sea and the river all get hurt when we leave a littered footprint on the earth.”

The full poem was painted onto boundary walls as part of a large colourful mural that was created by Ms Naughton.

The street art includes handprints from children living in the estate on the city’s east side.

It also depicts an enchanted forest, a dragon sitting atop Merlin Castle, a view of the Burren, a wolf, butterflies, insects and foliage, as well as a man playing the guitar, a former resident who died.

Ms Naughton, who was commissioned by the City Council’s Environment Department, said it took about five days to complete.

“The residents were very, very helpful and kind,” she said.

Councillor Noel Larkin (Ind) explained that the mural was part of a wider, ‘Ballybane Matters’ project, which stemmed from Galway City Joint Policing Committee (JPC).

“We were doing a lot of talking at the JPC about anti-social behaviour, and it seemed to be more prevalent in the Ballybane area. When we boiled it down, it was in the Sliabh Rua and Fána Glas areas.

“Month after month it was just talking. So Níall McNelis [chair of the JPC] said we should set up a small group to hone in on exactly what was going on,” he said.

A group was formed to focus on improving the Council estate of about 40 houses.

As well as Cllr Larkin, it included: Sergeant Mick Walsh, Galway Garda Crime Prevention Officer and community Gardaí Maria Freeley, Nicola Browne, Kenneth Boyle and Darragh Browne; Fr Martin Glynn; Imelda Gormley of Ballybane Taskforce; Councillor Alan Cheevers; Donal Lynch, chairperson Merlin Neighbourhood Residents’ Association; and two members of Galway Traveller Movement, Katie Donoghue and Kate Ward.

Ms Gormley carried out a survey to get feedback from residents.

“A lot of the problems people had were horses on the green, people being harassed going in and out of estates, trailers full of rubbish left around the place, the City Council not cutting the grass, and anti-social behaviour,” explained Cllr Larkin.

Small improvements, with community buy in, has helped to revitalise the estate.

Cllr Larkin praised Edward Conlon, community warden with the City Council, who has been “absolutely brilliant”.

“He looked funding that was available to get trees or shrubs and to get the grass cut more regularly,” he said.

“Fr Martin got a residents committee set up because he knew people through the church, and that means there is community buy-in, people are actually taking an interest now.

“When we started originally, Sergeant Mick Walsh mentioned ‘the closed curtain syndrome’. You go into your home in the evening close your curtain and don’t want to see what’s going on outside. Whereas now, with community pride restored to the area, if somebody is acting the maggot outside, people are keeping an eye on it and that curbs anti-social behaviour,” said Cllr Larkin.

Covid-19 delayed the project but it “came together very quickly” once work started.

Cllr Larkin said that the project will move to other estates in Ballybane, including Fána Glas and Castlepark, but they also plan to maintain the progress made in on Sliabh Rua.

“We decided to concentrate on Sliabh Rua, because if we could crack Sliabh Rua we could crack the rest of them. Pride has been restored in the community,” added Cllr Larkin.

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