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Woman had lip bitten off in drunken Plots brawl

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A pregnant mother of four was this week given a suspended five-year sentence for biting off another mother’s entire bottom lip during a drunken brawl almost three years ago.

The victim, has been left with permanent facial disfigurement and says she is often taunted by other women.

Anne Marie Byrne (41), from Crumlin Road, Dublin, who now lives in a housing association home in Mulhuddart, was living in rented accommodation in Ard Aoibhinn, Athenry, with her three young children when, on July 1, 2013, she attacked another woman, then aged 39, at The Plots, a green area at the back of Woodquay.

Byrne pleaded guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court in May 2014 to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to her victim, Helena Flaherty, and sentence was adjourned at the time and again that July when it emerged Byrne was an inpatient in a psychiatric unit.

Byrne appeared before the court in November 2014 for sentence and the matter was again adjourned to January 2015 as the court was told she was engaging with the probation and mental health services in Dublin.

At the time, Conal McCarthy, BL, defending, told Judge Rory McCabe he could not finalise sentence as Byrne was due to give birth to her fourth baby on March 13 and apart from that he was awaiting reports from a psychiatrist.

He said Byrne had been an inpatient in a psychiatric unit in Dublin and had a long history of depression and bipolar disorder, along with alcohol and drug addictions.

Judge McCabe adjourned sentence to April 29 last year, placing Byrne under the supervision of the probation service in the interim.  On that date, a progress report stated Byrne needed more time to prove she had rehabilitated herself and finalisation of sentence was adjourned to last December and, then, to this week’s court.

Garda William Dilleen gave evidence at the initial court hearing in November, 2014 that both women had been drinking with separate groups at The Plots, which he described, as a common area where such groups often drink.

The women did not know each other prior to this and an argument started when Byrne began to pick on Flaherty.

Garda Dilleen said one thing led to another and both women fell on the grass where Byrne, who was on top, bit a 9 cm. square piece of flesh and tissue from Flaherty’s lower lip.

He happened to be on patrol in the area at the time and went straight to the scene where he found Ms Flaherty writhing in pain on the ground.  She was covered in blood and her lower teeth and gums were exposed.

She was rushed to hospital by ambulance and he and other people set about searching the grass for the missing flesh.  They found it six minutes later and he took it to the hospital in the patrol car.

Ms Flaherty underwent emergency surgery but plastic surgeons opted to reconstruct, Garda Dilleen said. Byrne was contrite and remorseful at the scene and co-operated fully in his investigation.

The court was told Ms Flaherty, whose children are in care and who had been living at Osterley Lodge at the time, had a troubled and abusive upbringing which led her to abuse drugs and drink in the past.

She told the court at the time she had been left permanently scarred and was being continually taunted by other women in prison where she was serving a short sentence for non-payment of fines.

She said her lower face was numb and she now spoke with a lisp.  She had permanent scars around her mouth.

Ms Flaherty said her attacker deserved to go to prison for what she did to her.

Byrne, who is now eleven weeks pregnant with her fifth child, was back before the court this week for sentence.

Favourable reports were handed into court which confirmed she had complied with all rehabilitation services and was continuing to liaise with the probation and mental health services in Dublin.

Judge Rory McCabe said she had made great strides to get her life back on track and given she was the mother of a young family, it would not be in the interests of justice to incarcerate her.

He then imposed a five-year sentence which he suspended for five years, on condition she remain under the supervision of the probation service for the next twelve months and abstain from drugs and alcohol.

Byrne smiled with relief when she heard the sentence was being suspended.

“This isn’t over and it won’t be over for the next five years,” Judge McCabe was quick to remind her.

“If you come to the attention of the authorities during the next five years you will be brought back before this court and can expect no sympathy.  I hope we don’t see you again,” he said.

CITY TRIBUNE

Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.

Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.

To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.

He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.

In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.

And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.

“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
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

Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
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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