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Top Galway businessman takes on bank

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A row between a well-known Co Galway-based businessman and Ulster Bank may put ‘jobs at risk’, the High Court was told this week.

Former Entrepreneur of the Year John Flaherty has brought proceedings against the Bank who he claims has wrongly put a charge on four houses which he says one of his firms needs to sell to complete the purchase of other lands.

BY AODHAN O FAOLAIN

Mr Flaherty is president and CEO of the C&F Group, headquartered at Athenry, and employs 400 people locally and hundreds more worldwide. The group provides manufacturing services to the IT, motor and refrigeration industries and makes wind turbines also has facilities in China, the US, Germany and the UK.

He is seeking a High Court injunction compelling Ulster Bank to remove a charge over property located at Woodfield, Tuam.

Mr Flaherty of Casla, Athenry, says the houses are not subject to a charge, having paid some €2.4m for the Tuam site more than a decade ago.

He said he serviced sites on the land which were sold on to various builders. He also constructed a number of houses on the land for his own use.

Due to the recession he was unable to sell the last four remaining houses on the site.  Last October he secured buyers for the properties, but discovered that Ulster Bank has a put charge over the houses.

Mr Flaherty claims the bank does not hold any charge over the houses, and through his solicitor Owen Swaine wrote to the bank requesting it to vacate the charge.

While the Bank said it would investigate the matter, it has not removed the charge.  Mr Flaherty says there is an urgency to the matter as he needs the proceeds from the sale of the houses to complete the purchase of 70 acres of land at another location.

The matter was mentioned before Mr Justice Gilligan at the High Court who heard that, unknown to Mr Flaherty, the lands at the centre of the dispute have been put up as security for borrowings made by a third party, who sold the site to Mr Flaherty .

Michael O’Connor BL, for Mr Flaherty, said his client purchased the Tuam lands from a third party for a sum of €2.4m. The land was then developed as housing before being sold off.

Counsel said it was then agreed the title of the lands in Tuam would remain in the name of the third party.  Mr Flaherty was the beneficial owner of the land, counsel said.

Counsel said his client fears if he cannot sell the houses in Tuam the other deal cannot be closed – and that deal must be completed within the coming weeks.

Any failure to complete that deal would leave Mr Flaherty open to other litigation and he will lose a deposit he has already paid, counsel said.

If his client was to lose out counsel said a threat to the employment Mr Falherty provides cannot be ruled out.  “Jobs could be put at risk,” counsel told the court.  Counsel added Mr Flaherty believes the charge asserted by Ulster Bank is ‘a mistake’.

Stephen Byrne BL, for Ulster Bank, said the businessman’s application for an injunction could not go ahead as it was mandatory in nature.  Counsel asked the court for an adjournment to allow it respond to Mr Flaherty’s claims.

Counsel added his instructions from the Bank were the houses in Tuam were put up as security in 2014 by the third party from whom the lands were acquired from.

Counsel said the bank sought additional security from the third party when that person sought to refinance existing borrowings with the bank.

In reply, Mr O’Connor said that was ‘news to us’. Mr O’Connor also told the court his side would consider adding the third party to the proceedings.

The Judge agreed to adjourn the matter to a date in February to allow a number of matters in relation to the dispute, including issues and documents concern the sale of the land in Tuam, be clarified.

Connacht Tribune

Public meeting on sludge hub plan for Tuam

Declan Tierney

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The water treatment plant in Tuam

A public meeting to discuss the intake of thousands of tonnes of sludge from various parts of the country to Tuam is to take place next week.

And it has been stated that the proposal would result in around 80 lorry loads of sludge coming in and out of the town on a weekly basis.

The meeting on Monday in the Corralea Court Hotel at 8pm will voice resistance to the proposal – the public have until October 22 to make submissions on the proposal. Local Cllr Donagh Killilea said that the existing wastewater treatment plant in Tuam can only cater for the town itself and believed that this plan could pose a threat to the River Clare.

Irish Water have confirmed that both Tuam and Sligo are being looked at as being ‘sludge hub centres’ which would mean that waste from a variety of plants would be brought to the North Galway town on a daily basis.

It is being resisted locally on the grounds that the existing wastewater treatment plant is at full capacity and that any additional waste would prevent further development in the town.

According to Irish Water they have selected Tuam as a potential location for the effective treatment of wastewater sludge – they are inviting the public’s opinion on this issue. Irish Water say that sludge hub centres form part of Irish Water’s National Wastewater Sludge Management Plan to ensure the safe and sustainable management of sludge.

“A sludge hub centres is a centralised treatment facility for the effective treatment of wastewater sludge prior to reuse or disposal.

“The site selection report identifies Tuam and Sligo Wastewater Treatment Plants as potential sludge hub centres in the North-West region,” they have stated.

But Killilea said that if this is allowed come to Tuam, it will further damage the image of the town at I time when efforts are being made to rebuild its reputation.

“Tuam must say no to this disgusting development. Why should we take waste sludge from landfills, gas works, chemical industry and other hazardous plants, and have farmers spread it on their fields and go through our drinking facility,” Cllr Killilea added.

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Connacht Tribune

Publican prosecuted for allowing smoking

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A lit cigarette on a ledge inside a Loughrea bar during a HSE inspection led to the publican being prosecuted and fined for allowing smoking in a specified place on the premises.

Michael Dempsey of Aggie Madden’s Bar, Main Street, Loughrea, and his bar tender, Carmel Guinen, both pleaded not guilty to Section 47 of the Tobacco Act on December 9 last year.

Peter Gaffey, Environmental Health Officer with the HSE, told the Court there was a strong smell of cigarette smoke as he went through the front door of the bar and that he spotted a lit cigarette on a ledge between the pool table area and a stairs leading down to toilets and a rear exit entrance.

Downstairs, there was construction going on and he also noticed a cigarette butt on the floor of the men’s toilet, which also smelled of smoke.

He inspected the premises again on Monday evening, September 30 as part of the protocol before a Court hearing and again he got a strong smell of smoke around the premises.

He said he didn’t document whether there were ‘no smoking’ signage around the premises but equally didn’t document if there had been an absence of the signs on his first visit. However, he did notice signage on his last visit last week.

Another Environmental Health Officer, Chloe Harper, who accompanied Mr Gaffey on his December visit, said she too got a strong tobacco smell on entering the premises.

She said, after the lit cigarette was found, Ms Guinin had asked the four young men playing pool who had been smoking but they didn’t answer left the bar.

Michael Dempsey told the Court that he had run the bar with his wife for the past six years and employed three other people.

He said that he always made sure nobody smoked on his premises and told the Court that he had spent money on providing a steel canopy over the rear exit door seven months ago at a cost of €1,400 where his patrons could smoke.

He further explained that the cause of the tobacco smell on the premises was due to people leaving the front door open while they smoked outside on the street.

But he said that there was some confusion over E-cigarettes and whether it was legal to smoke them on a licensed premises or not.

“I have made every effort I can to provide a smoking area. There would be absolute war if I found anyone smoking on the premises. . .  but I don’t know if the E-cigarettes are legal or not. Some customers tell me it’s legal. I have a zero tolerance to smoking as I don’t smoke myself,” he said.

Carmel Guinen told the Court she was working on her own the night of the HSE inspection and that one of the young fellows playing pool had lit up and she had asked them to cut it out.

She had accompanied the inspectors during their visit and answered their questions.

Judge James Faughnan said he was satisfied that the HSE had made their case and convicted both Dempsey and Guinen. He said there was lots more Dempsey could do to make sure his customers didn’t smoke on the premises.

Pat Carty, defending, said Mr Dempsey was not running a thriving business and to take that into account by giving him more time to pay a fine.

Dempsey, who has a previous conviction for allowing smoking on the premises, was fined €1,000 plus €1,750 costs and has been restricted from selling tobacco for one week starting on November 1.

Guinen was fined €200. Recognisances were fixed for both and he gave them four months to pay.

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Connacht Tribune

Tuam Stadium unveils its new look

Declan Tierney

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THE OLD AND THE NEW . . . Some of the new seating that has been provided at Tuam Stadium as part of the extensive redevelopment project.

Spectators at last weekend’s county senior football semi-final at Tuam Stadium got a first glimpse of the revamped seated area that will become part of the long-awaited extended stand at the GAA venue.

That’s after planning permission was granted for the complete revamp of the stand which will involve the removal of the old ‘shed-like’ roof and the provision of new seating.

That ensures that, when completed, Tuam Stadium will have a covered stand with almost 4,000 seats, so that the venue will be able to host some of the top national football league and championship games.

Former Football Board Chairman John Joe Holleran said that works were progressing satisfactorily on the redevelopment of Tuam Stadium.

He also revealed that works would take place on the terraced areas which would provide the venue with a capacity of around 18,000 which would be sufficient to accommodate any provincial decider – although these matches are required to be played in designated county grounds…and Tuam is not.

But Mr Holleran, who is one of the driving forces behind the Development Advocates for Tuam Stadium (DAFTS) confirmed that more than €350,000 had been raised for the redevelopment of the venue and this has been boosted by a €110,000 plus sports capital grant.

However, he stressed that further funding needed to be raised in order to complete the project and that it why it was difficult for him to provide the Connacht Tribune with a timeframe for works to be completed.

Tuam Stadium was the first venue in Connacht to have a covered stand and the existing bench-type seating date back to the 1960s. They are in urgent need of replacing.

Works at the venue so far have included the provision of four new dressing rooms and the completion of a terraced area which will be equipped with around 1,800 seats that will eventually be covered in.

It was interesting to see the attendance at both the county senior semi-final between Corofin and Salthill-Knocknacarra – and the earlier county junior final between Glenamaddy and Salthill-Knocknacarra – make the most of the works that have already taken place.

Some of the maroon seats have already been provided and the white seats will be installed during this week and into next week, weather permitting.

Planning permission has been granted for the provision of a new roof for the existing stand but this will be extended over to new terraced area where the maroon and white seating have been provided.

Recently, local company Tommy Varden Limited provided €50,000 towards the provision of the provision of the new seating at the venue and that was an additional significant boost to the development.

Indeed, the late Tommy Varden, who was a staunch supporter of Galway football and an advocate of the development of Tuam Stadium, will have his immense contribution recognised at the ground.

John Joe Holleran said that the legacy that he left was immense and had to be recognised. “He was the fabric of Galway football during his whole life,” he added.

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