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.
Allegations over Galway homeless hub that’s nominated for award
A unique social housing development in the city, which has been nominated for an award, was the subject of complaints and allegations by a resident living there.
The Westside Modular Family Hub has been shortlisted for the Irish Council of Social Housing Allianz Community Housing Awards 2021.
Opened in May last year, the purpose-built family homeless service was developed by Galway City Council and Peter McVerry Trust with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, and the Housing Agency.
The 15 units were installed at a cost of €2 million after what Galway City Council described as, “extensive public consultation and engagement with local residents and local representatives in advance and during the project to ensure all issues of concern were addressed”.
In a press release announcing the accommodation was nominated for an award, the City Council said that, “there is strong support from the local community for the development”.
It has been nominated for an award, which is determined by public vote.
However, it has emerged that at least one resident of the hub complained to the City Council about anti-social behaviour.
The resident made allegations of drug-taking, late-night house parties and drinking, and fighting earlier this summer.
The resident detailed an alleged attack in which a woman bit another woman’s shoulder and an ambulance was required.
The complainant also said that families were not being moved-on to longer-term accommodation within six months.
The complaints were made to the Housing Department at City Hall and it’s understood they were referred on to the service-provider, Peter McVerry Trust.
A Peter McVerry Trust spokesperson said: “The service offers good quality accommodation and professional supports to homeless families. Since opening the service in May 2020 we have supported 28 families, comprising of 38 adults and 60 children and helped 13 families move into housing with a further move-on expected in the coming week.
“From time to time issues do arise within the service, and PMVT staff will speedily and assertively respond to such issues to support and protect all residents as best we can. We have 24/7 staff supports on site, intensive key worker assistance and household specific care plans in place. Ultimately, our priority for each family in our care at Westside is to secure a housing pathway for them in order to exit homelessness.”
Asked for comment, a City Council spokesperson said: “I am advised by colleagues in the Housing Directorate that any issues that may arise in the Hub are dealt with by Peter McVerry Trust who are the service providers of this facility and a service level agreement is in place to deal with any issues that may arise.”
When the 15 units were installed in 2020, City Councillor Colette Connolly highlighted at a Council meeting that there was a leak in the roof of some of the homes. The Council confirmed “water ingress” in windows in a number of the units, which would be rectified by the supplier at no additional cost to the local authority.
Announcing the award nomination last week, the Council said the hub was designed to “temporarily house families while they seek a long-term solution to their housing need,” with the assistance of the Peter McVerry Trust management who are on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
It features 15 own-door two-bed and three-bed units, each with a kitchen, dining space and bathroom. There is also an on-site playground.
New fire station for Athenry gets stamp of approval
Councillors have given their stamp of approval to a new fire station for Athenry – voting unanimously to grant planning for the development at Ballygarraun South.
The site of just under two acres, located between the new Presentation College and the railway line, will house a station as well as a training tower and parking.
Chief Fire Officer Paul Duffy told a meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District this week that they hoped to have a contractor appointed by the end of October, with works to get underway soon afterwards.
“We have worked very hard to get this project to a tangible position and it’s great that the ‘Part 8’ planning application [one which requires a vote by councillors] has been adopted today,” said Mr Duffy.
“This will hopefully get underway this year and we can move on to other stations [in the county], with another one planned for next year and another the year after,” he added.
The plans include the construction of a 361 square metre fire station with finishing materials common to the area which ‘will link the development on the site to the context overall’.
Permission has been granted from the IDA, which owns the site, for Galway County Council to proceed with the development on their lands.
The meeting heard that consideration had been given to the sightlines for exiting fire trucks and that amendments had been made to the original plans to ensure they were adequate.
Local area councillor Gabe Cronnelly (Ind) said the progression of a new fire station for the town was hugely welcome, adding that it had been years in the making.
“We have to give huge credit to Paul Duffy who pursued this. Athenry is one of the busiest stations in the county. We secured an extension for the existing station six years ago and when the Department was granting that, they could see that, from the amount of calls it was getting, that a new station was justified,” said Cllr Cronnelly.
Cllr Shelly Herterich Quinn (FF) said she was ‘delighted’ that the area’s representatives had given the proposal their unanimous backing.
Plan for ‘world-class’ campus with potential for 10,000 jobs at Galway Airport
From this week’s Galway CIty Tribune – A proposal to transform the former Galway Airport into a ‘world-class’ business and technology campus has been drawn up by Galway County Council – with the potential to create up to 10,000 jobs.
The plan, which was compiled as part of the Draft County Development Plan, proposes a multi-million-euro investment in the 115-acre site owned jointly by the County and City Councils.
According to the vision document, the airport site at Carnmore could become a key economic driver that would “attract and secure long-term investment in Galway and the western region, and underpin the development of the Galway Metropolitan Area”.
Among the sectors identified as potential occupants are renewable energy, biodiversity, food science and logistics.
Some of the structures included for are a ‘landmark building’; commercial units; park amenity and recreation space; a renewable energy park; and a multi-purpose leisure facility.
A contemporary development with the potential to accommodate emerging industries is promised, with projected employment numbers ranging between 3,500 to 10,000 over time.
However, county councillors raised concerns at a meeting this week that the proposal they had seen in the Development Plan had been ‘sitting on a shelf’ since last March – and they still hadn’t seen what was dubbed ‘the masterplan’ for the airport site.
Cllr Liam Carroll (FG) told the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District meeting that the recent news that Oranmore was among the locations being looked at by multinational tech giant, Intel, put fresh focus on the future of the airport.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.