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.
Brave Holly’s battle against leukaemia
A keen young camogie player from Knocknacarra diagnosed with leukaemia at the start of the first lockdown has now learned that she has lost her sight in one eye due to a rare complication.
Holly McAlinney was the picture of health at age seven. Her mother Sharon remembers the day schools were closed last March that her teacher had remarked that Holly had difficulty hearing in class.
She took her to the GP, thinking it was an ear infection and then her jaw swelled up so she thought it may have been her adenoids acting up. When medication did nothing to relieve the symptoms, they sent off a blood test.
“I went to the doctor with her on my own, you were only allowed one parent in at a time. They asked if I could call my husband so I knew things were bad. They confirmed it was leukaemia on a Wednesday and on the Monday we were in Crumlin Children’s Hospital getting chemotherapy – that’s how quickly it’s all been.”
Holly is now in the middle of her fourth round of chemo, which she undergoes weekly one day a week in the Dublin hospital. When she finishes this, she will have a fifth round given over two years to ensure the cancer doesn’t return.
Her medical team are extremely positive about her prospects. There is currently a 98 per cent survival rate with leukaemia, which is of course a huge relief to family and friends.
But things haven’t gone plain sailing throughout the treatment. Holly developed ulcers on her duodenum which left her in intensive care for a spell. And then last week, the family learned that the leukaemia had infiltrated her left eye, leaving a gap which could result in permanent blindness.
“We’re seeing a specialist in University Hospital Galway (UHG) next week but we don’t hold out much hope the sight will come back. Holly’s the most upbeat of all of us because she’s so young – she can’t see the repercussions into the future.
“That’s the way she’s been throughout the treatment. The first two rounds were heavy and the third quite light so she bounced right back. She was in school September and October, you wouldn’t know she was sick, and we felt she was safe because everything was so clean and with all the bubbles.
“It was right back down with the fourth round which was the heaviest so she can’t go see anyone just her brother – it’s heart-breaking.”
Her school friends have been keeping in touch by sending videos and cards to Holly to cheer her up.
While camogie and swimming will be out of the occasion for the foreseeable future, Sharon is confident they can find other hobbies that will enthral Holly, who is a very sociable and sporty girl. Sharon trains Holly with the U-8 camogie team with Salthill-Knocknacarra GAA.
The frequent trips to Dublin and hospital appointments has meant that Sharon has had to give up her job working in the Little Stars Montessori on the Cappagh Road, where son Alex still attends afterschool. Dad Rob works as an alarm engineer.
New mothers that Sharon met in Holly’s parent and baby group in Knocknacarra have organised a fundraiser to help the family get through the financial stress of coping with cancer.
They are planning a hike on December 6 at Diamond Hill, Connemara and have already raised €16,000 in donations.
“Rob and I are both from Salthill, but it’s been amazing the amount of people we wouldn’t have heard or seen in years who have contacted us to offer support. It’s only when you’re in trouble that you realise how good people can be.”
■ To make a donation, log on to GoFundMe
Full details of the Christmas Covid restrictions
The Taoiseach announced this evening that the country will move to Level 3 restrictions from next week, with shops, gyms, hairdressers, hotels, restaurants and gastro-pubs set to reopen.
“It hasn’t been easy. Many individuals and businesses have made huge sacrifices. And many more are totally fed up with Covid-19 and everything that has come with it over the past nine months. I understand that feeling. Very often I share it,” Micheál Martin said in an address to the nation.
“This cannot and will not be the kind of Christmas we are used to but it will be a very special time where we all enjoy some respite,” he said, as he announced the planned move to “Level 3, with some modifications”.
The use of face coverings is now recommended in crowded workplaces, places of worship and in busy or crowded outdoor spaces where there is significant congregation.
From 1 December, under Level 3, as set out in the Plan for Living with Covid-19:
- weddings with up to 25 guests are permitted (same as current provisions)
- funerals with up to 25 mourners are permitted (same as current provisions)
- no organised indoor events should take place, other than as provided below
- gatherings of 15 people may take place outdoors
- non-contact training may take place outdoors in pods of 15
- only individual training should take place indoors and no exercise or dance classes are permitted
- no matches/events may take place except professional and elite sports, approved inter-county Gaelic games, horse-racing and approved equestrian events, all behind closed doors
- gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools may reopen for individual training only
- nightclubs, discos and casinos should remain closed
- hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs may open with services limited to residents only
- non-essential retail and personal services may reopen
- people should continue to work from home unless absolutely necessary to attend in person
- public transport capacity is limited to 50%
From 1 December:
- households should not mix with any other households outside those within their bubble
- people should stay within their county apart from work, education and other essential purposes
From 4 December:
- restaurants and pubs operating as restaurants (serving a substantial meal) may reopen for indoor dining with additional restrictions, (including requirement for meals to be prepared on site, inside the premises). This includes access for non-residents to restaurants in hotels
- higher, further and adult education should remain primarily online
Adjustments for the Christmas Period
From 1 December:
- places of worship to reopen for services with restrictive measures, subject to review in January
- museums, galleries, and libraries to reopen
- cinemas to reopen
- wet pubs to remain closed except for takeaway/delivery
From 18 December to 6 January:
- households can mix with up to two other households
- travel outside your county to be permitted
From 7 January, the measures put in place prior to 18 December will apply, subject to ongoing review of the trajectory of the virus.
The measures for cross-border travel will be the same as for travel between all other counties, that is, from 1 December, people should stay within their county apart from work, education and other essential purposes while from 18 December to 6 January, travel outside the county is permitted.
It has further been agreed that the use of face coverings is now recommended in crowded workplaces, places of worship and in busy or crowded outdoor spaces where there is significant congregation.
Proposals to change speed limits in Galway City are voted down
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Planned speed limit changes for Galway City are stuck in the slow lane after councillors rejected a proposal for new bylaws.
The bylaws would have introduced a 30km/h zone in the city centre and 19 other changes, including increased speed limits in areas such as Bóthar na dTreabh to 80km/h.
Management at City Hall have now been sent back to the drawing board to draft new speed limit bylaws after a majority of elected members voted against them – it could at least two years before new proposals are ready.
At a meeting this week, several councillors spoke out against plans to increase speed limits to 80km/h on approach roads into the city.
Many of them criticised the system of selecting roads for speed limit changes, lashed the public consultation process and decried the lack of input from councillors, despite speed limits being a reserved function of elected members.
Councillors were particularly peeved that the proposal had to be accepted in its entirety, without amendments, or rejected outright – they could not pick and choose individual changes.
Deputy Mayor Collette Connolly (Ind) led the charge against the bylaws, which she described as “idiotic”.
She lambasted the “incomprehensible decision” not to lower speed limits to 30km/h outside schools and she said it was “utter raiméis” (nonsense) that speeds can’t be lowered to 30km/h, if 85% of the traffic on that road travels at 50km/h.
Cllr Connolly said the bylaws were “flawed”, and cited the decision to leave Rahoon Road/Shantalla Road at 50km/h, despite a crèche and two schools on other roads like Lough Atalia remaining at 30km/h.
(Photo: A speed van on Bóthar na dTreabh on Thursday morning)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, including how each councillor voted and a map of the proposed changes, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.