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Connacht Tribune

Victims traumatised after daylight attack in Roundstone

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An emigrant could no longer enjoy family holidays in Roundstone and a local man was too afraid to attend Mass after the trauma of being set upon by three young men on the day of the village regatta.

Ian McDonagh, 23, of Toombeola, Roundstone, pleaded guilty to assault causing harm against Michael O’Regan and violent disorder on July 19, 2014.

Michael and Jason O Neachtain of Derryrush, Rosmuc, 22-year-old twins, pleaded guilty to violent disorder. Further charges were withdrawn on the guilty plea.

Garda Shane Nallen told Clifden District Court he had responded to reports of an assault in Roundstone on regatta day. He met with Mark Worley, his father Sid Worley and Michael O’Regan.

“I could see they had injuries consistent with an assault. They informed me they had been out in Roundstone, they were drinking on the street as there was music, when a group of males began to shout at them,” Gda Nallen stated.

Mark Worley and Michael O’Regan left and went to the Shamrock Bar. Soon this group of men arrived at the bar, passing by them and settling at the back of the pub.

“One male started shouting at them and went out the door. Mr Worley called his father to collect him and Michael O’Regan got up to leave when a glass was thrown at him. Ian McDonagh started shouting at Mr O’Regan, ‘I’ll f..king kill you’”.

Mark Worley got up to leave after hearing the glass break. McDonagh then roared at him: “I’ll f..king kill you. I’ll f..king kill you Worley.”

“Michael O’Regan was walking when he was jumped from behind and brought to the ground. Ian McDonagh began to kick Mr O’Regan in the head numerous times,” Gda Nallen told the court.

“Sid Worley arrived and Ian McDonagh and two associates, Michael and Jason O Neachtain, who also carried out the assault, surrounded the car and jumped on the car and kicked the windscreen causing it to smash.”

The incident had a lasting impact on Sid Worley, an elderly man who lived alone and was in fear at home as he continued to live near McDonagh.

Barrister for Jason O Neachtain, Fiachra Breathnach, told the court that words were exchanged the previous weekend which had sparked the incident.

“They had been having words with an elderly man and it stemmed from that,” he remarked.

Mr O’Regan said he had been returning to Roundstone from his adopted home in Florida since 2004 with his wife, who was a Worley, bringing their three children with them. Now he felt like a stranger.

“Fond memories have turned into a nightmare … it was the one thing we looked forward to after working hard all year,” he stated.

Instead of their family holiday this year, he had to return to give evidence in the case.

“My brother-in-law Mark can’t go to the local pub on a Friday to have a pint without fear of a confrontation. My wife’s father and brother are not comfortable in their own home.”

Mark Worley said he continued to have many sleepless nights. “I was threatened to be killed. I take that very strongly. It’s not a nice thing to happen,” he testified.

“I have a young family. I’m fearful to go away for work as my wife is too afraid. My father his back door barricaded like Fort Knox. We don’t go to Roundstone – it’s our house, our town. We don’t even to go Mass.”

Mr Worley said on several occasions McDonagh had pulled alongside him in car and he felt intimidated by him even though nothing was said.

“I want a line drawn under it … I just want to get on with my life.”

Barrister for McDonagh, Brendan Browne, said his client wished to formally apologise. “He’s remorseful, he’s ashamed of his behaviour, he regrets his conduct.”

Judge Marie Keane asked if the defendant wished to apologise himself, to which Mr Browne said he did.

Under oath and instructed by the Judge to face both Mr O’Regan and Mr Worley directly, McDonagh said he was sorry for that night and things had gone too far.

Asked if there would be any further difficulties between himself and the injured men, McDonagh replied: “Definitely not.”

The O Neachtain twins issued similar apologies facing the men.

Judge Keane asked all three if they understood the importance of tourism to a village like Roundstone.

Garda Nallen said while the injured parties were not seeking any compensation, he would like to point out that Mr O’Regan had spent €3,000 in flights to give evidence.

Mr Browne, on behalf of McDonagh, said his client had described it as a “moment of madness”. He had a sum of €1,590 in court to help defray the travel costs.

McDonagh, who was employed in the building trade, had a girlfriend who was five months pregnant. Jason O Neachtain was training to be a nurse while helping his father on the family farm.

He was in a car crash two years ago in which a friend lost his life which had changed his outlook on life and led to depression, his barrister Fiachra Breathnach told the court.

Since the birth of his child 18 months ago, his situation has improved and wants to be around to raise his child with his partner.

Michael O Neachtain lived at home and also helped on the farm and worked as a handy man.

He too was in the fatal car crash, which had a profound effect on him and had led to alcohol difficulties.

The O Neachtains were willing to give €300 each to help with travelling expenses.

Judge Keane said the “unprovoked and appalling attack” had had a very serious effect on the victims.

She said they had blighted Mr O’Regan’s connection to a part of the world which he held very dearly, a connection which was particularly important to emigrants.

“No money is going to restore his peace and sanctuary,” she stressed.

Judge Keane also noted that Mr Worsley could not attend Mass which was of significant importance to people in a community such as Roundstone.

She handed McDonagh seven months’ imprisonment but suspended it for two years on condition he had no contact with the injured parties and was of good behaviour.

“You better find somewhere else to park other than beside Mr Worley. You’re simply not to open your mouth to Mr Worley,” she warned.

The O Neachtains were each sentenced two three months, suspended for two years on the same conditions.

A total of €€2,190 was to be handed over to defray Mr O’Regan’s flight costs and a further €500 to pay for Sid Worley’s windscreen.

Connacht Tribune

Adults and young pupils collaborate on children’s book now in the shops

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A new book – a collaborative collection of stories and poems written by the Oughterard Writers Group and the children from the local primary school – was officially launched in style last week.

Tell me a Story was officially launched at Scoil Chuimín agus Caitríona, Oughterard, by the principal, Micheál O’Domhnaill – to the delight of the children, parents, friends and writers in attendance and those watching live on zoom.
by Jess Walsh and Barbara Dunne
Tell Me a Story is a collaboration between the Oughterard Writers Group and the children of last year’s 4th class from Scoil Chuimín agus Catríona. It had its genesis in January when the writers applied to Galway County Council for funding for the story book.

The book is the culmination of several months’ work, where stories and poems written by the writers, were sent to the children.

The group was unable to meet the children in person, due to Covid restrictions, but met them several times on Zoom, facilitated by Pete Mullineaux, and James O’Donnell, their teacher. And after months of hard work by the children, their handwritten work and illustrations were then passed back to the writers for design and completion.

Each story in the book tells a different tale. The children responded to the story they liked best, and the book is interspersed with wonderful drawings from the children, with new story endings and poems, along with some of the children’s own handwriting.

It was a special night for all to finally meet in person at the official launch.

The children were presented with their contributor copy by the writer of the piece they worked on, and guests were treated to some selected readings from the book by the children themselves.

The evening was rounded off by Muinteoir J O Donnell reading his poem, Last Night’s Wind from the book, and it was a very fitting ending to a wonderful evening.

The book costs €10 (with 50% of profits being donated Scoil Chuimín agus Caitríona) and can be bought online from Kenny’s and Charlie Byrne’s bookshops in Galway, and from Moycullen Bookshop and shops in Oughterard.

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Connacht Tribune

Landowners see red at poor greenway dialogue

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A decision on the route chosen for the greenway between Athlone and Galway City is expected to be announced before Christmas – despite the vehement opposition of a group of landowners.

Opponents staged another protest outside County Hall last Monday to up the pressure on councillors to continue to voice disquiet over the way the project is being pursued by Galway County Council and RPS consultants.

Jean Molloy from Stoney Island outside Portumna, a member of the East Galway Action Group, said there was a complete lack of respect by the project team for the major stakeholders who had the most to lose – those whose land would be taken by the greenway.

Her family, who run a small farm on the land earmarked for the route, had received two letters from the team and not a single phone call over their concerns. She had attended public meetings to outline their preferred route but believes the consultants are not listening.

“We’re expected to give up everything but yet we don’t see a real benefit in the way the route is going as it doesn’t connect villages or neighbours, our kids can’t use it to cycle to school,” she insisted.

“The preferred route is in remote areas off-road, which may suit tourists a few times a year but won’t be safe for us. Why can’t they go along the road, as long as it’s segregated? Yet, we’re expected to give up our livelihoods, our privacy, our security.”

The campaigners allege the process has been flawed from the start.

They accuse those driving the project of “underhanded” tactics and adopting a “divide and conquer approach” and say consultants have failed to engage with every landowner and resident affected in the route corridor. They allege the team is refusing to meeting landowners in groups.

“They have told landowners that a final route is to be released before Christmas, but this is just not feasible. It’s important that the general public is made aware of how the individuals at the centre of the proposed cycleway are being treated.”

Director of service in the infrastructure and operations unit of Galway County Council, Derek Pender, has refuted claims of intimidation and a lack of engagement.

Last September he insisted they had undertaken well over 1,500 face-to-face or phone call consultations with 350 potentially impacted private landowners over 15 months.

The preferred route starts near Ballyloughane Beach, east of Galway City, passing through Oranmore, Rinville, Clarinbridge, Kilcolgan, Kinvara, Gort, Woodford, Portumna, Meelick, Clonfert, Ballinasloe, Shannonbridge, and finishing at Athlone Castle before linking with the cycleway to Dublin.

He claimed there was support for approximately 90% of the route and that the so-called hybrid model – where the cycleway would go along a national or regional road – would only be used in discreet isolated areas that were specific pinch points.

Cycleways beside long stretches of road were not safe, he has previously contended.

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Connacht Tribune

Clifden roster dispute escalates despite HSE recruitment

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Staff at both a hospital and nursing home in Clifden are balloting for industrial action over changes to the rosters – despite a targeted recruitment campaign for nurses that has resulted in over 20 applications.

Last week Clifden District Hospital – beset by critical staff shortages – closed for four days with the HSE claiming that no patients were booked into the facility with respite and step-down beds for recuperating patients who can be medically discharged from an acute hospital but deemed not well enough to go home.

This was the same week when the HSE admitted that 4,662 bed days were lost at University Hospital Galway (UHG) and Merlin Park and 1,295 at Portiuncula Hospital in the first nine months of this year due to delayed discharges.

The HSE said the four days could be used by staff at Clifden District Hospital and St Anne’s Community Nursing Unit to take leave accrued due to overtime they had built up over filling in shifts due to a lack of workers.

Anne Burke, Galway industrial relations officer for the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), said the union did not accept there was no demand for beds in a facility such as the Clifden District Hospital.

“They have orchestrated this downgrading of the hospital because we believe they want it for another purpose which they have not yet revealed. If you don’t advertise you’re open for business you won’t get the business. We think they don’t want it to be a viable option,” she exclaimed.

“They have always told us that staff weren’t interested in coming to Clifden. But there was no meaningful recruitment. Now, finally, they advertised specifically for jobs in Clifden, and we have been told that 29 applications were submitted and 21 are deemed eligible for interview, which we understand will take place next week.”

The INMO and SIPTU [Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union] are to ballot members from the two facilities for industrial action next week over changes to the rosters.

They claim the HSE is breaching the Building Momentum public service agreement which requires changes to rosters to be done by agreement between management and staff. A previous memo withdrawing the staff right to seven uncertified sick leave days was rescinded following lengthy talks at the Workplace Relations Commission.

Over 700 people attending a public meeting last September over fears Clifden District Hospital was being closed by the HSE. The hospital has had 12 beds for patients since the Covid pandemic, down from 30 some years ago.

After meeting with local politicians, the organisation issued a press release stating the facility would not close but said the respite and step-down services “remain on a day-to-day footing” due to staff shortages.

“The HSE has agreed to meet with GPs in the Clifden area to discuss the needs in the community for respite and step-down beds.”

They also announced they would run a ‘bespoke’ recruitment campaign for nurses.

The INMO estimates that seven additional nurses are needed for the hospital and a further six are required for the nursing unit to maintain rosters.

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