The disappearance of a 25-year-old student – which sparked a widespread public appeal for information – ended four days later when a search party located his remains in muddy marshlands off Roscam, an inquiry into his death heard.
Jason McNulty, originally from Swinford, had travelled from Castlebar to Galway City with friends, and ended up at a party in an apartment at the Connacht Hotel in the early hours of Wednesday, February 18.
The Inquest at Galway Courthouse was told that he had been more drunk than normal, but his friends had let him sleep it off on a sofa. They left to find an open shop, but when they returned, Mr McNulty had left – but nobody could say where.
They drove around the city looking for him, and then headed back to Castlebar, hoping that he had found his way back.
His mother reported him missing later that morning and an earnest search began.
He had been captured on the hotel’s CCTV at 6.23am heading in the direction of GMIT, and two women separately reported to Gardaí that they had seen him at the junction with Roscam and the Dublin Road at about 6.30am.
One said that he was just wearing a t-shirt and jeans, and was waving his arms about, talking to himself.
“I saw the picture of him on Facebook, and it looked like the male I saw,” she told the Inquest.
Gardaí made an appeal through the media, which received both local and national coverage. On the Friday, the hotel grounds, the nearby estates, and the old Corrib Great Southern were searched.
The Civil Defence, search teams from Limerick and Nenagh, and joined Gardaí.
On a very wet Saturday, a large group of volunteers turned up to help, most parties were accompanied by a Garda.
Among them was family friend, Declan Byrne, who had travelled from Mayo on the Saturday to help.
Gardaí had conducted a briefing at the Connacht Hotel, before dividing up the volunteers into search parties, and assigning them different areas.
Mr Byrne was sent to Roscam, where he met a man harvesting seaweed.
“He pointed out an area to us, from his local knowledge,” he said.
“At 12 midday we saw what looked to be an elbow.”
The remains were in a tidal area with heavy mud, 600m from the nearest road, and 15m from the edge of the coastline.
Mr McNulty’s uncle, Vincent O’Connor, was in another search party, and made his way to Roscam to identify the body.
Sgt Paul Duane told the inquiry that the body would not have been visible only for the mud on his elbow had dried and fallen off. Death was pronounced at 2.25pm on February 21.
Consultant Pathologist, Dr Stephanie Curran, found no defensive wounds on the body, and only trivial abrasions.
Blood and urine samples were sent for toxicology examination, and the results came back showing a low level of alcohol in the body, at 75mg per 100ml of blood (the limit for driving is 50mg).
Rigor mortis was present when his body arrived at UHG, and when the post mortem examination was being carried out the following day – generally, this takes 24 hours to come on, and another 24 hours to leave the body.
Assistant Coroner for West Galway, Ciaran MacLoughlin Jnr, returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence that death occurred on February 21 at Roscam, and was due to asphyxia, secondary to immersion in water.
He expressed his condolences to the McNulty family on their terrible loss in such tragic circumstances.
He also thanked the witnesses who had come forward to help piece together his last movements.
Galway City Council turns down Mad Yolk Farm site
An application to retain farming-related development on a site in Roscam has been turned down by Galway City Council.
The local authority has refused to grant retention permission to applicant Brian Dilleen for subsurface piping to be used for agricultural irrigation at ‘Mad Yolk Farm’ on Rosshill Road.
It also refused permission for the retention of a bore-hole well, water pump and concrete plinth; and two water holding tanks for 6,500 litres; and other associated site works.
In its written decision, the Planning Department at City Hall said: “The proposed development, would if permitted, facilitate the use of the site for the provision of sixty 15.5m high seed beds, which have been deemed by the planning authority not to be exempted development.
“Therefore a grant of permission for the proposed development would facilitate the unauthorised development and usage on the site, contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”
The site has been the subject of enforcement action by the local authority.
A lengthy Appropriate Assessment Screening report, submitted with the planning application, concluded “beyond reasonable scientific doubt, in view of the best scientific knowledge, on the basis of objective information and in light of the conservation objectives of the relevant European sites, that the proposed retention and development, individually or in combination with other plans and projects, has not and will not have a significant effect on any European site”.
A borehole Impact Assessment Report concluded that the proposed retention development “on the hydraulic properties of the aquifer is considered negligible”.
It said that there was “no potential for significant effects on water quality, groundwater dependent habitats or species associated with any European site”.
Six objections were lodged by neighbours, including one from the Roshill/Roscam Residents Association, which argued the Further Information submitted by the applicant did “little to allay our concerns” about the impact of the development on an “extremely sensitive site”.
The applicant has until June 29 to appeal the decision to An Bórd Pleanála.
NUIG student accommodation firm records loss
The property company which operates student accommodation on behalf of NUI Galway recorded a €3.4 million increase in turnover in 2019.
However, Atalia Student Residences DAC (Designated Activity Company), which is owned by the university, recorded a loss for the year of €6,300.
Accounts for the company for the year ended August 31, 2019, show that while there was a loss, retained profits are at more than €1.6 million. The accounts are the most up to date available from the Companies Registration Office.
The previous year, the company made a profit of more than €460,000.
Atalia Student Residences operates the 764-bed Corrib Village apartment complex and the 429-bed Goldcrest Village.
The figures show that the company’s overall turnover jumped by 52% – from €6.4m to €9.8m.
Turnover for accommodation services was up from €5.2m to €8.4m; and from conferences and events was up from €850,000 to €1.1m. Turnover from shops was down from almost €328,000 to €290,000.
Outside of the academic year, both complexes are used as accommodation for conference delegates, while Corrib Village is also used for short-term holiday lets.
The accounts show fixed assets – including fixtures and fittings, plant and machinery and office equipment – valued at €1.5m. Its current assets were valued at more than €7m, including ‘cash at bank and in hand’ of almost €6.9m (up from €5.6m last year).
The company owed creditors €6.9m, including €5.2m in deferred income.
It employed 38 people (which includes its five directors) last year, up from 31 the previous year.
As well as operating the student accommodation complexes, the company also markets conference facilities and services on behalf of the university.
It pays rent to NUIG but the figure is not included in the company accounts. In 2018, the rent figure was just over €2.25m.
In Corrib Village, a single bedroom with a private en suite for the academic year costs €5,950. For Goldcrest Village, the figure is €6,760.
Call for two-way cycling under Galway City outdoor dining plan
Bike users want the local authority to examine the introduction of two-way cycling on one-way city centre streets.
Galway Cycling Campaign has again called for cycling to be allowed both ways. It comes as Galway City Council prepares to cordon-off parts of city centre streets to traffic, and make Dominick Street Lower one-way, to facilitate outdoor dining.
The cycling organisation said that the proposed pedestrianisation plan at the Small Crane, and the one-way system on Dominick Street, will result in lengthy diversions for people on bikes.
It has pointed out that school children and their guardians who cycle along Raleigh Row, and turn right towards Sea Road, will probably continue to do so even when the Small Crane is cordoned off to traffic, because the alternative route – via Henry Street – is too long a detour.
Similarly, it has been suggested that food-delivery services on bikes are unlikely to go the ‘long way round’ via Mill Street and New Road to get from Bridge Mills to restaurants on Dominick Street and would be tempted to cycle the ‘wrong way’ down the proposed one-way street or on the footpath.
Shane Foran, committee member of Galway Cycling Campaign, said now would be an ideal time to introduce two-way cycling on some one-way streets.
“It’s not controversial,” insisted Mr Foran. “It’s a general principle in other countries, if you are putting in new traffic arrangements, you would try and keep access for people on bikes.”
The regulation is contained in the National Cycle Policy Framework 2009; and a specific objective was contained in two of the most recent previous City Development Plans.
He said a former minister and Galway West TD, the late Bobby Molloy, had the vision to change the legislation in the late 1990s – but it hasn’t yet been embraced here.
“Bobby Molloy, who couldn’t be classed as an eco warrior, changed the law in 1998, so that it is available to local authorities to put up a sign granting an exemption from restrictions for people cycling on one-way streets.
“The road stays one-way for cars, and two ways for bicycles. Clearly that’s not going to be a sensible to do everywhere, like Merchants’ Road. In those situations, you might need a cycle track or lane to segregate people from traffic.
“But if it’s a low traffic street, with low speeds or relatively lower volumes of cars, then it should be possible for people on bicycles to cycle in both directions and still have it one-way for cars, without it being a major safety issue. It works in other countries,” said Mr Foran.