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Three fined for felling trees in Salthill Park



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.


Fallout over pitches plan in neighbouring GAA clubs’ heartlands



From the Galway City Tribune – The GAA family in Galway City was hurtling towards a civil war-style fallout over plans by one club to develop pitches in neighbouring clubs’ heartlands.

Salthill Knocknacarra GAA’s announcement last week that it intended to apply for permission to develop new pitches and clubhouse at its site in Mincloon, Rahoon provoked an immediate backlash from Rahoon/Newcastle and St Michael’s GAA Clubs.

CLG Bearna also added its weight to the opposition to the plans.

SKGAA insisted again this week the new facilities were desperately needed to satisfy growth in membership over the past decade, particularly among girls, ladies football and camogie.

A spokesperson said it had exhausted all other options to develop pitches within its parish, including at three schools, but failed and had decided to proceed with the Mincloon proposals. It insisted it is not breaching any ‘parish’ rules.

But both St Michael’s and Rahoon/Newcastle vowed to robustly defend their ‘patch’.

Rahoon/Newcastle, which fields hurling and camogie teams, declared it would be “strongly opposing” the proposal.

Officials from the club met the development committee of SKGAA last Thursday night, and afterwards issued a statement expressing “huge disappointment and dismay”.

“We will fight for our club and for our community,” the 134-year-old club’s statement said.

“We will be strongly opposing this proposal which would see Salthill Knocknacarra move 3km from their club in the Prairie to within just 500m of our club in Tonabrocky.

“This violates parish boundaries and the spirit of the GAA whose ethos is to promote Gaelic games and culture as a community based, volunteer led organisation which enriches lives and communities,” Rahoon/Newcastle said.

SKGAA denied the move to Rahoon violates any GAA rule.

This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. A one-year digital subscription costs just €89.00. The print edition is in shops every Friday.

A spokesperson on Wednesday pointed to Dublin and Cork cities, where clubs share facilities or use pitches outside of their catchment due to shortages of recreational and amenity land.

“Under Galway GAA bylaws, there are no parish boundaries in the city. So in the same way Rahoon are doing nothing wrong going into Knocknacarra schools, we’re doing nothing wrong developing this land,” the spokesperson said.

St Michael’s, which traditionally fielded players from Shantalla, Claddagh, and ‘The West’, and in recent years pulled from Bushypark, Newcastle, and Westside, is opposed to the plans.

Delegations from both clubs met last week, and afterwards St Michael’s vowed to “strongly oppose this development”.

It said it was “naïve” to claim it does not violate the spirit of the GAA ethos of respecting parish catchments.

“In a city, there is always a certain element of members playing with clubs while living outside the immediate catchment area – we are all familiar with that – but building this new state-of-the art facility within the catchment area of St. Michael’s and Rahoon/Newcastle, flying the SKGAA flag, is nothing short of a threat to the future of our club,” St. Michael’s said.

The club’s executive said it agreed the city needs more sports infrastructure.

“But not as a facility controlled by one dominant GAA club – to truly promote GAA sport in an equitable, competitive manner it needs to be shared by several GAA clubs.

“A new, improved, shared facility would level the playing field for all. St Michael’s would welcome meaningful discussion with Galway GAA County Board, Galway City Council and all city GAA clubs. Together we could understand everyone’s position and see how a shared facility of this nature could come to life for the equitable development of all,” it said.

A spokesperson for SKGAA said it wants a strong St. Michael’s club, in order for Gaelic football in Galway to flourish. Slots would be made available at the pitches for other clubs and schools. He pointed out that 70% of City Council pitches were for soccer, yet GAA had far greater membership than soccer clubs.

Chairman of SKGAA, Paddy Lynch said his club fielded 64 teams last year, and had launched a nursery section for children aged four to six, which was “hugely popular”.

“This growth has resulted in the club facilities being seriously overwhelmed. The development of new playing facilities is critical to the future of our club and continuing to provide the most opportunity to play sport to the young people of our communities,” Mr Lynch said.

In an updated statement issued Tuesday, SKGAA said it was “disappointed” with the stance taken by Rahoon/Newcastle, and urged them to reconsider its “most unfair” position.

“In recent years, Rahoon/Newcastle has been active and present in the local schools of Knocknacarra which would clearly be considered our ‘traditional’ parish area.

“We have never raised objections to their club being active in our traditional area and recruiting members outside their traditional area because it is our sincere belief that all our children should be provided with the greatest number of options possible to access sport,” it said.

A spokesperson for Rahoon/Newcastle, told the Galway City Tribune, the application caught his club members off guard.

He said there was “disappointment” SKGAA publicly launched its pitch website last Thursday, prior to briefing Rahoon/Newcastle.

“We’re very open and transparent in our dealings with other clubs, and we show a lot of respect towards other clubs, and support them. We’ve always worked with clubs in the locality, be it amalgamating teams at different times when we were both struggling, or supporting fundraising events, or helping out in different aspects when challenges come to different doorsteps be it grievances or death, and we’re disappointed this has come to the level it has come to without proper discussion before submitting anything,” the spokesperson said.

He said the issue affects three clubs, and residents of Clybaun, Rahoon and Mincloon; and ultimately it will be decided by planning experts. He said there should be “proper discussion” at executive level between clubs, and the GAA rather than in public forums.

On Wednesday, CLG Bhearna confirmed its opposition.

Following a meeting of Barna GAA’s executive Tuesday, its statement said it had similar difficulty securing and developing land, “but have done so and will continue to do so, within the local catchment areas in accordance with the GAA values and ethos”.

CLG Bhearna said these plans infringed its catchment area.

“Specifically, one of the three primary schools in our parish, Boleybeg National School which is an integral part of the Bearna/Na Forbacha parish, is located bedside the proposed new facility for SKGAA.

“We have recently appointed a full-time coaching development officer to work with our three parish schools in Na Forbacha, Bearna and Bolybeg . . . to promote GAA games and offer children the opportunity to experience and enjoy sport with their friends and community in their local GAA club,” it said.

CLG Bhearna said the proposed facility will likely have an adverse impact on its future player base.

In response, SKGAA said it respected the position of other clubs.

Galway GAA was contacted for comment.

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Five-month waiting time for NCT in Galway City



From the Galway City Tribune – The Road Safety Authority (RSA) has insisted the average waiting time for an NCT test in Galway is below the national average – even though local motorists have complained they cannot get a booking until August.

In a parliamentary reply to Galway West TD Noel Grealish, the RSA said that last week, the average wait time at the Galway NCT centre was 21 days – below the national average.

But motorists trying to book appointments have complained that the earliest date available was five months away.

“The figures are not reliable in my opinion. They say that the wait time for Galway is 21 days, shorter than the national average, but if you try to make a booking online, the next available slot in Galway is August 28. It’s the same for NCT centres in County Galway. The next available slots are months away,” one motorist told the Galway City Tribune.

According to the figures supplied to Deputy Grealish, the wait times in Ballinasloe and Clifden are 20 days, and it is 18 days in Tuam.

But online, the earliest slots available for Ballinasloe, Tuam and Clifden are September 22, August 22 and July 25 respectively.

The Irish Times reported earlier this year that thousands of motorists may be entitled to free tests because of the failure of the National Car Testing Service (NCTS) to provide appointments within 28 days.

This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. A one-year digital subscription costs just €89.00. The print edition is in shops every Friday.

Brendan Walsh, Chief Operations Officer at NCTS, told Deputy Grealish that the past year had been “especially challenging” due to the impact of Covid-19 “which caused significant staff absenteeism levels at test centres and in the call centre”.

“The first half of the year is always the busiest period for the NCTS as the NCT is due on the anniversary of the vehicle’s registration date and most registrations occur at the start of the year. With the delay in the availability of new cars, there are more older cars in the fleet, resulting in circa 1.5m cars to be tested at NCT in 2023. These multiple factors have caused a build-up of demand and have constrained capacity, as NCTS has been unable to carry out as many tests as planned,” Mr Walsh said.

He said that the average wait time nationally was 25 days, and Galway was below this.

“If a customer requires an appointment sooner than those available online, the system has the ability to allow customers place themselves on the priority list online. Customers may also be put on the priority list through the NCTS call centre, if a suitable slot is not available. Regrettably there is a longer delay than would have been in the past but the vast majority of customers on the priority list will get an appointment in four weeks.

“The available appointments that customers see online only represent approximately one third of the actual appointments available for that time. NCTS will open the remaining two thirds of appointments three weeks ahead when they finalise their schedules and have confirmed staff availability that week,” he said.

Mr Walsh added that Insurance Ireland confirmed its members will be “pragmatic and understanding”, and will “continue to be provided where customers, through no fault of their own, are unable to obtain their NCT due to backlogs at test centres”.

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‘Temporary’ Spanish Arch aquadam in place until at least next month



From the Galway City Tribune – The ‘temporary’ flood prevention barrier at Spanish Arch will remain in place until April at least, Galway City Council has said.

Cllr Councillor Niall McNelis (Lab) said the Council last week confirmed it would not be removed before the St Patrick’s Weekend and said it was likely to be after Easter before the equipment is put back into storage until next winter.

The Council said that the Transport (Operations) Directorate in City Hall “intend to remove the temporary flood barrier at Spanish Arch during April as in previous years”.

It’s understood there is a significant cost in installing the barrier.

Rather than incur that cost regularly during storm events, the Council in recent years has chosen to leave it in place continuously during the months when high tides are expected and the flood risk is greater.

Cllr McNelis said he had been contacted by locals and tour guides querying when the orange temporary flood barrier would be removed this year.

In an email to the Council, he pointed out that the bins at Spanish Arch are inaccessible, as they are located behind the boom and metal fencing that surrounds it.

With an influx of people due in Galway this bank holiday weekend, Cllr McNelis said: “We need to have bins in place.”

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