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Connacht Tribune

Mother and Baby Home survivor ran cannabis grow house



A Mother and Baby Home survivor, who came to Galway to assist in the investigation into the Tuam Mother and Baby Home, has been jailed for two years for operating a lucrative cannabis grow-house near Ahascragh.

Anthony Fennell (52), 25 Kildonan Road, Finglas, Dublin 7, was paying €1,000 cash every month for three years to rent the house at Killure Castle, Ahascragh, while unemployed with no visible means of support.

He said the Tuam investigation took longer than expected and he had to turn the premises into a grow-house to fund his stay in Galway when his savings ran out.

He pleaded guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court to cultivating 49 cannabis plants at the property on September 10, 2019.

The court heard each plant had a street value of €800 once harvested, bringing the total value of the seizure to €39,200.

Garda Eoin Fox told Fennell’s sentencing hearing last Friday he obtained a warrant to search the premises after speaking on the phone to a colleague who had executed a European Arrest warrant at the property earlier on September 10, 2019.

An extremely strong smell of cannabis emanated from the property when he arrived to execute the warrant that day with fumes coming down the stairs to meet him.

Garda Fox found a new door had been fitted on the landing upstairs which was sealed with black plastic sheeting. Numerous walls had been knocked through to make one large room in the upstairs area.

He found 49 mature cannabis plants growing there, tended by hydration, air filtration, feeding and heating systems.

Prosecuting State barrister, Conal McCarthy, explained Fennell was brought from his place of detention to Ballinasloe Garda station later that day and interviewed.

Garda Fox said that on the whole, Fennell co-operated in the Garda investigation without incriminating himself.

Fennell’s barrister, Dara Foynes SC, said her client had been renting the property, paying €1,000 cash per month, as requested since arriving in the area in 2017 to assist in the Tuam Mother and Baby Home investigation.

The investigation took much longer than anticipated and when Fennell’s savings ran out, be borrowed money from people whose terms and conditions for the loan were that his rented house be used as a cannabis grow-house, she said.

Describing Fennell’s life as “a story of triumph over adversity”, she said he was born in the Summerhill tenements in 1969.  His mother abandoned him when he was ten weeks old and he was sent to St. Anne’s Industrial School where he was used in six vaccination trials.

His mother took him out aged twelve and they went to Wales where he again ended up in another care institution suffering a worse fate there.

Ms Foynes said Fennell took the grow house money so he could stay on to help the Tuam survivors – but it was not his grow-house.

Noting the maximum sentence for cultivating cannabis was 14 years, the judge imposed a three-year sentence with the final year suspended for five years.

“We must sympathise with the defendant and other victims who were subjected to psychological or sexual abuse at the hands of the State or religious organisations but that can in no way justify his clearly pre-meditated decision to cultivate cannabis for making money,” the judge said before placing Fennell under the supervision of the probation service for the next twelve months.

*When first published online, the headline of this article erroneously read ‘Tuam Mother and Baby Home survivor ran cannabis grow house’. It has been updated to remove the word ‘Tuam’, which was added in error during the editing process. 

Connacht Tribune

O’Donnellan & Joyce celebrate 40 years in business



Staff from O’Donnellan & Joyce celebrate 40 years in business

When O’Donnellan & Joyce started in 1982, little did they know that one day they would be celebrating 40 years in business. Celebrating the big 4-0 in September meant this has been a landmark year for the company.

In the beginning back in 1982 they worked mostly in lettings and private treaty sales. Their auctions began in 1984 on the Aran Islands with the sale of land and a pub.

Colm commented: “It is definitely one of my highlights over the past 40 years, everyone needs to start somewhere and it was a fabulous start.” The auction was held outside in the summer and is a far cry from the auctions held today.

These days O’Donnellan & Joyce ‘Wild Atlantic’ property auctions which take place in Galway’s Harbour Hotel, are renowned throughout Ireland, with properties for sale from Galway up to Donegal and all along the western seaboard right down as far as Kerry and over in Dublin.

Modern technology now means their auctions can reach a global audience with their live stream online bidding platform attracting international bidders as well as national and local bidders who can now bid and view the auction from the comfort of their own homes leading to a dramatic expansion of audiences across the world in recent years.

Combining modern technology with nationally renowned auctioneer Colm O’Donnellan taking bids on the day, brings tremendous excitement to the live auction room.

Not only do O’Donnellan & Joyce have their successful auction department, they also have a substantial new homes division, their private treaty department which sells on average over 350 homes a year, rentals division and their rapidly growing commercial & valuations department.

Like most businesses, it is the people who make the business. O’Donnellan & Joyce has 16 full time staff with many of them there for over 20 years.


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Connacht Tribune

Meeting hears of “devastating impact” of Huntington’s on families



Patricia Towey, Huntington's Disease Association of Ireland; Minister of State Anne Rabbitte and Chairperson Thomas Lillis at the Shearwater Hotel, Ballinasloe for a members meeting of HDAI. Photo: Andrew Downes, xposure.

The Minister of State for Disability at the Department of Health has acknowledged the devastating impact which Huntington’s Disease has on the entire family.

Galway East TD Anne Rabbitte met with families affected by the disease at the Huntington’s Disease Association of Ireland annual meeting in Ballinasloe.

The Minister spoke positively about her intention to ensure families affected by HD will have access to necessary services and that family carers, who often care for several family members, have assistance.

She acknowledged the vital need for HD specialist support in the community to overcome the misunderstanding and stigma associated with the disease over generations.

The Minister also confirmed her priority to fully resource at least four of the seven required community neuro-rehabilitation teams around the country.

A member of a family affected by HD in County Galway said: “It is very encouraging to have Minister Rabbitte speak at our meeting to acknowledge the huge struggles families face.

“Huntington’s Disease desperately needs more recognition, more specialist support and more awareness from healthcare professionals; policy makers; and the general public.

“As children we grew up watching our Dad help care for Mum and just a few years later he had to start over with my older brother.

“Now my sister has symptoms and it is an ongoing struggle to get her the care and support she needs. HD families can overcome the fear and stigma associated with this disease if we know there are sufficient resources to ensure health and social care professionals can understand and help,” he said.

Huntington’s Disease affects the body’s nervous system – the network of nerve tissues in the brain and spinal cord that co-ordinate your body’s activities. This leads to progressive deterioration – physically, cognitively, and mentally until the individual becomes dependent on the help of others. Symptoms include motor (movement), mental health (for example mood) and cognitive (for example learning and thinking) disturbances, which in the majority of cases appear in mid-adult life.

Approximately 1,000 people in Ireland live with symptoms of HD or with the altered gene that triggers the disease. There are more than 3,000 people nationwide who are living at risk of developing the disease and hundreds of family carers left to struggle without adequate supports.

Despite the impact on families, from one generation to the next, there is little awareness of the condition and very limited specialist services. Unlike most other European countries, Ireland has no specialist multidisciplinary services or HD specialist nurses. By comparison, Scotland, with a similar-sized population have 10 regional multidisciplinary clinics with a team of 19 HD specialists offering outreach support throughout the country.


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Connacht Tribune

Concerns over day care move



St Brendan's Community Nursing Unit in Loughrea: day care services have moved to the Loughrea Hotel.

Day care services at St Brendan’s Community Nursing Unit – which have been suspended for the past 18 months – have re-opened at the Loughrea Hotel.

Services restarted on Monday following a lengthy search for a suitable premises, and expected to continue operating from the hotel for around 18 months while an existing building on the St Brendan’s campus is “repurposed” by the HSE.

However, at least one local councillor has expressed concerns that the same level of services will not be available at the hotel.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) ordered the closure of day services at St Brendan’s, so that the space could be used by permanent residents of the nursing unit for dining and activities such as cooking and baking.

Local area councillor Michael ‘Moegie’ Maher said that between the hotel and St Brendan’s hospital, a day care service will now be available on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with the capacity to serve 86 people every week.

“The service is vital to Loughrea and East Galway. Everyone was very disappointed to see the day service suspended. We all have neighbours and friends who use the service and this was a vital lifeline for them, allowing them to socialise with others, to have a lovely meal together and to have any minor medical issues dealt with.

“I’m delighted that a suitable premises has been found in Loughrea town, which has been the traditional location for the service and also offers users a chance to avail of other services in our local town. The Loughrea Hotel is the perfect location with all of the necessary services on site and is easily accessed by the service users”, the Fine Gael councillor and Cathaoirleach of Loughrea Municipal District said.

However, Independent councillor Geraldine Donohue raised concerns about the level of services that will be provided and said she had been asked by constituents how much the temporary service was going to cost.

“I believe that HIQA should have been challenged from the outset for our purpose built Seven Springs Day Care Centre to remain at St Brendan’s. As far as operating Day Care Services from the Loughrea Hotel, I have concerns that the services that the attendees enjoyed at Seven Springs will not be available at the Loughrea Hotel,” she said.

Meanwhile Galway East TD Ciarán Cannon said HSE management are also planning to repurpose an existing building on the St Brendan’s campus to establish a permanent home for the day care service.

He said he had attended a site meeting recently to identify potential buildings on the campus.

“We now need to begin developing a permanent home for the service at St Brendan’s as it makes sense from so many perspectives to have the service on campus.

“At our site meeting we walked the campus and have identified a number of potential locations. The HSE’s building management team will now create a shortlist of locations and ultimately a decision on the final location will be made in consultation with staff.

“The intention is to partner with the Topping Trust, a local charity, to create a state-of-the-art day care facility at St Brendan’s to open in the shortest possible timeframe. We are all working towards that outcome and there’s a serious sense of urgency attached to the project,” said Deputy Cannon.

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