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Twist in the tale for soup kitchen operator

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The operator of a former soup kitchen in the city was convicted in Galway District Court on Monday on four counts of holding collections without the proper permit.

In imposing the Probation Act on the five collectors who were also summoned, Judge Mary Fahy criticised the operator for sending vulnerable people out on the streets armed with bogus documents.

“It is very suspect that they were out collecting for a charity, when they themselves are requiring help,” she said.

Oliver Williams (47), with an address at Ballyboggan, Athenry, denied holding an unauthorised collection at both William Street and Corbettcourt on September 29 last year, at Liosban, Tuam Road, on September 17, and at Eyre Square on November 26 last year.

Four separate Gardaí gave evidence of stopping five volunteers who were collecting for Twist Soup Kitchen on the various dates. They were all wearing luminous bibs, had laminated id cards around their necks and, when asked for permits they produced a document which was signed by Williams and purported to be authority to collect. Gardaí seized over €600 cash.

The court heard, however, that Twist was not a registered charity, and was not permitted to collect money in public. Williams claimed that he thought he was exempt from needing a permit as the volunteers were selling pens, rather than asking for money.

The Garda evidence contradicted this, however – they said that the volunteers were shaking their buckets seeking donations – and Williams acknowledged during the hearing that he had been mistaken in this respect, and that the exemption only applied to registered charities.

Sgt Brendan Moore told the court that he was of the belief that the five volunteers knew their actions were not ‘kosher’ and that they were in possession of “bogus collection authorisation issued by Mr Williams.”

“There was a ‘cat and mouse’ scenario, they had been fleeing from us – this had been going on for a month at that stage (September 27),” he said.

On a subsequent occasion, Garda Micheal Murphy told the court that he was on mobile patrol in a marked car on the afternoon of January 5 2013 when he caught sight of another volunteer in a high-vis jacket who was collecting for the soup kitchen. When the collector saw the Garda car, however, he ran back towards Twist Café on Queen Street. The Garda said that when he drove the car around the one-way street to the location of the café, the man was gone.

He returned to Galway Garda Station, changed into plain clothes, and returned to the Queen Street/Forthill junction where he observed the same man collecting for Twist.

Garda Murphy said that passing motorists were putting money in a bucket and receiving nothing in return. Again, the volunteer had no permit to collect.

Garda Paul Gahan told the court that he approached Olivier Williams, in relation to these unauthorised collections, on September 17 last year, and he was subsequently summoned for holding unauthorised collections. Nine days later, the same Garda saw a Twist volunteer collecting money in Liosban.

Sgt Moore met with Williams on October 10 outside Twist, and the court heard that Williams said that Gardaí were picking on him.

“I said that he had to comply like every other charity,” Sgt Moore said.

“He said that he had applied for status, but that it hadn’t been advanced. I looked into it and it was because he couldn’t produce a tax clearance certificate.”

Sgt Moore said that Williams asked for a meeting with the Superintendent, Marie Skehill, but before Sgt Moore had even returned to Galway Garda Station that day, Williams had already been in contact with the Superintendent.

At the subsequent meeting, at which Sgt Moore took notes, Williams was advised that he could not avail of an exemption as Twist was not a registered charity.

“He was advised to desist from selling or collecting, or the Twist gear was liable to be seized – there were further detections after that,” Sgt Moore told the court.

He said that following this meeting, Twist volunteers were being sent out with the same bogus permits, but this time Sgt Moore’s name had been handwritten onto them.

“Collectors were handing these out when asked for authorisation,” he said.

When questioned about them, he said that volunteers pointed to his own name – not realising that he was the same person – on the document and said: “This man said it was okay.”

In court on Monday, Valerie Corcoran, solicitor for Williams, said that she had not been representing the defendant at the time but had since managed to convince her client that he was not exempt from needing a permit.

“He had to be told three times that he was wrong – and he was shocked (when he realised),” she said. “He genuinely thought he was doing things correctly.”

However, Judge Fahy was not convinced, and she said that the obtaining of a permit was the most basic requirement of any collections – something that even school children were aware of.

“The dates (for collections) are very closely monitored, and people have to apply months in advance for them. I cannot help but notice, and it is sad to say that several of these (collectors) are vulnerable people staying in hostels.

“It is very suspect what is going on, it is a cynical exercise to try to inform the court that they were doing it for charity, it is all very murky, and I don’t like the sound of it at all.”

The Probation Act was imposed in the case of the five collectors, while Williams was convicted on four counts of holding unauthorised collections, the maximum fine for which is €63.

The judge said that his actions were so disturbing that she had to mark a conviction on each of the four summonses before her, and the maximum fine, which amounted to €252, was imposed.

The State applied for the forfeiture of all items seized from collectors, including the money, which Judge Fahy suggested be given to Cope, which cares for the homeless in the city.

CITY TRIBUNE

Mercury hit 30°C for Galway City’s hottest day in 45 years

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –

Wednesday was the hottest day in the city over the past 45 years when with a high of 30.1 Celsius being recorded at the NUI Galway Weather Station.

The highest temperature ever recorded in the city dates back to June 30, 1976, when the late Frank Gaffney had a reading of 30.5° Celsius at his weather station in Newcastle.

Pharmacists and doctors have reported a surge in people seeking treatment for sunburn.

A Status Yellow ‘high temperature warning’ from Met Éireann – issued on Tuesday – remains in place for Galway and the rest of the country until 9am on Saturday morning.

It will be even hotter in the North Midlands, where a Status Orange temperature warning is in place.

One of the more uncomfortable aspects of our current heatwave has been the above average night-time temperatures and the high humidity levels – presenting sleeping difficulties for a lot of people.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Property Tax hike voted down in Galway City

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A proposal to boost Galway City Council coffers by half a million euro every year by increasing Local Property Tax (LPT) did not receive the support of city councillors.

Councillor Peter Keane (FF) failed to get a seconder at this week’s local authority meeting for his motion to increase the LPT payable on Galway City houses by 5%.

Cllr Keane said that the increase would net the Council €500,000 every year, which could be spent evenly on services across all three electoral wards.

It would be used to fund services and projects city councillors are always looking for, including a proposal by his colleague Cllr Imelda Byrne for the local authority to hire additional staff for city parks.

The cost to the taxpayer – or property owner – would be minimal, he insisted.

“It would mean that 90% of households would pay 37 cent extra per week,” he said.

Not one of the 17 other elected members, including four party colleagues, would second his motion and so it fell.

Another motion recommending no change in the current rate of LPT in 2022 was passed by a majority.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council needs 40 more workers to help deliver on projects

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –  Forty more workers are needed at City Hall ‘right away’, the Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said.

Brendan McGrath has warned city councillors that the local authority is understaffed and it needs to hire more staff immediately to deliver its plans and projects.

The total cost of the extra 40 workers, including salary, would be between €1.75 million and €1.95 million.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council had a workforce now that was below what it had in 2007, but the city’s population has grown and so too had the services the Council provides.

The population of Galway City grew by almost 11% in the 10 years to 2016, he said, and total staff numbers in the Council fell by 13.6% during that period.

Though more staff were hired in recent years, Mr McGrath said that the Council was at 2007 and 2008 staffing levels, even though the Census will record further increases in population since 2016.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council now provides 1,000 services across a range of departments, far more than during the 2000s.

He said that currently, 524 staff are employed at the City Council. This equated to 493 Whole Time Equivalents when part-time workers such as school wardens and Town Hall workers are included.

Mr McGrath said that 12% of all staff are in acting up positions, with many more in short-term or fixed-term contracts. There was a highly competitive jobs market and the Council was finding recruitment and retention of specialist staff difficult.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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