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CITY TRIBUNE

Three fined for felling trees in Salthill Park

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Three people have been convicted and fined over the felling of trees at the back of Salthill Park last year.

Denise Colgan (58) and her brother Roy Colgan (63), both of Charnwood, Park Avenue, along with John Nolan (47), 3 The Currans, High Street, Headford – whom the Colgan’s hired to cut the trees – had all denied damaging five mature trees belonging to Galway City Council at Salthill Park on Saturday July 16, 2016, intending to damage such property or being reckless as to whether such property would be damaged, contrary to Section 2 (1) of the Criminal Damage Act 1991.

Judge Mary Fahy convicted all three of causing criminal damage to the trees, following a fully contested hearing spread over two days, at special sittings of Galway District Court.

She fined Denise Colgan €1,000 and her brother, Roy Colgan, €1,500. She directed they each pay €2,000 compensation to Galway City Council for the loss of trees.

Finding that John Nolan’s part, in cutting down the trees, was lesser than the Colgan’s, Judge Fahy convicted and fined him €500.

The first day of the hearing, which took place in October, heard evidence the Colgans told a Garda and a Council employee, who visited the site that Saturday, that they had permission to fell the trees, which they claimed acted as a magnet for antisocial behaviour near their home.

A neighbour told the hearing it was no coincidence the Colgans had asked Nolan to cut the tress on a Saturday, when they knew the Council offices would be closed and no one would be able to confirm if they had permission to cut the trees until the following Monday morning.

Detective Colm McDonagh said had great difficulty in locating the Colgans as each time he called to the house in Charnwood it was locked up.  He later discovered that Denise Colgan spent most of her time in Holland and that her brother lived in Dublin.  He said he interviewed John Nolan who said the Colgans led him to believe they had permission to fell the trees.

Det McDonagh said Nolan told him: “Roy Colgan is a solicitor and I thought everything was done correctly. They told me there was no issue from the Gardai to fell the trees. I was going on the Colgans word that everything was okay. They told me about public order around the trees and about stones and bottles being thrown into their property,” he said in his statement.

Det McDonagh said Nolan told him he had quoted the Colgans €3,000 to cut, chip and remove the trees from the site.

Nolan told him he had returned to the Park on the Sunday but left again after people who had come to view the fallen trees, shouted “tree-killer” and “murderer” at him.

He said he returned on the Monday to clear the site but the Council had fenced the area off by then.

The court heard in October that it had cost City Council €6,000 to clear the site.

Denise Colgan gave evidence on the second day of the hearing last week.

She explained she travelled to Holland regularly for medical treatment but that the house in Charnwood was her and her brother’s only home. She said she and her brother had been in regular contact with City Council and Gardai over the years concerning public order issues near their home.  The Council had stopped replying to her correspondence.

The Council, she said, had felled rows of other trees on either side of the park in the past, but had left five trees right in front of their house and she claimed antisocial behaviour had become concentrated in that area after that.

She said she met with Superintendent Pat McHugh and Inspector Karen Maloney on June 23, 2016, and she claimed he raised the issue of the 1946 Forestry Act with them, which allowed for the felling of trees within 100 feet of a person’s property.

”He asked if we had ever thought of felling the trees ourselves. He advised us to secure a report about the trees. He informed us of our right to fell within 100 feet of our property,” Ms Colgan said.

Inspector Brendan Carroll, prosecuting, said Supt McHugh, who was present in court, would deny ever saying that.

“As he (Supt McHugh) raised the Forestry Act, we took it as an endorsement,” Ms Colgan added during cross-examination.

Roy Colgan told the hearing missiles had been thrown into their property and he had been intimidated by people who had climbed into their garden to urinate. He said he had also observed people ‘shooting up’ under the trees. He explained he had been a solicitor but had not practised since the 1980s.

In reply to his barrister, Con Crowley, Mr Colgan said he felt there had been a common objective between he, his sister and the Gardai to have the trees removed due to antisocial behaviour in the Park.

Judge Fahy observed the 1946 Forestry Act had been completely overhauled.

Mr Crowley pointed out that the Act, which allowed for the felling of trees within 100 feet of one’s property, was still in place back in July 2016 and had not been amended until last year.

Mr Nolan gave evidence he noticed the Colgan’s home was “absolutely destroyed” with egg shells from people throwing eggs when he visited the property and he noticed broken bottles and stones had been flung into the garden. He said the Colgans showed him a two-inch file of correspondence they had with City Council over the years.

He said Roy Colgan mentioned to him that he was a solicitor and he took it that everything was in order.

He agreed with his solicitor Ronan Murphy, that he had been misled by the Colgans.

Judge Fahy said that after hearing all of the evidence, claims made by the Colgans that the trees had been a magnet for antisocial behaviour and that they were under siege in their home by gangs of youths who congregated under the trees to drink, were “grossly exaggerated”.

She said they had not obtained permission from anyone to fell the trees. The trees, she said, were in a public park and were a public amenity for the benefit of the people of Salthill and the public in general.

“And I find it beyond belief that they are basically saying the Gardai gave them permission. I’m sure the Gardai would give them advice about security, but at no stage could Gardai have any authority to tell them they could fell public property,” Judge Fahy said.

Leave to appeal the convictions was granted.

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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