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Woman had lip bitten off in drunken Plots brawl



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.


Community volunteers out in force for planathons on banks of Lough Atalia



Planters…the group of community volunteers after their Lough Atalia Plantathon.

Student volunteers and community activists were out in force throughout the month of December to push back against the climate crisis – taking part in a series of ‘plantathons’ on the banks of Lough Atalia.

Planting bulbs and trees, the programme was led by Galway Community College which owns the lands involved – and aims to rewild another portion of the city, following in the footsteps of Terryland Forest Park.

While a much smaller area by size, those behind the initiative say it shows what’s possible when the community comes together.

Supported by the National Park City initiative, the creation of this woods and wildflower meadow on what were, until now pasture lands, also had the backing of several other voluntary organisation in the city as well as Scoil Chaitríona Senior, Dominican College Taylor’s Hill, Galway Education Centre and Galway Science and Technology Festival.

With the bulbs provided by the Newcastle-based multinational Aerogen, Convenor of the Galway National Park City Brendan Smith said the project epitomised how the initiative brings interested parties together to do good.

He said efforts such as those on Lough Atalia showed the determination of young people and locals to continue the great work of those who carried out the very first plantathon in Terryland almost 22 years ago.

Those efforts were required now more than ever as the impact of the climate emergency was being acutely felt.

“The frequency and severity of storms is becoming more characteristic of Ireland as a result of unstable destructive global warm weather caused by the burning of fossil fuels and the destruction of nature’s ‘carbon sinks’ such as forests and bogs.

“Storm Barra was the latest in a long list of storms to hit our shores over the last decade. But one key way to tackle the climate emergency is to plant trees – and lots of them. The Irish Government wants to have 22 million trees planted annually.

“This planting also happens to tackle the other great global crisis of our modern era, namely Biodiversity loss,” says Brendan.

“One million out of five million known species on the planet are threatened with extinction. Global populations of fauna have declined by nearly 70% since 1970.

“A forest is probably Earth’s most diverse biodiversity rich mix of ecosystems with an oak tree being able to be home to over 400 species of flora, fungi and fauna.

“Planting trees is a necessary action in helping to save the planet from humanity’s errors.”



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City’s newest Salmon Weir crossing will be in place before end of year



An artist's impression of the new Salmon Weir crossing

Galway city’s newest pedestrian bridge – costing €5m – is expected to be installed before December of this year.

The new cycle and pedestrian bridge over the Lower River Corrib will be located 25 metres downstream of the existing Salmon Weir Bridge.

An Bórd Pleanála granted planning permission for the bridge last August, and work is expected to begin on the project in the coming months.

Galway City Council, in conjunction with the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), North Western Regional Assembly and the National Transport Authority, has sought tenders from contractors to carry out the work.

The City Council is co-funding the project under ERDF with matched funding from the NTA.

The project must be completed by November 30, 2022, to comply with EU funding drawdown.

In the planning application, the City Council said 9,000 pedestrians and cyclists who currently use the Salmon Weir Bridge would use the new bridge once it’s opened.

The bridge will link Gaol Road to Newtownsmith. The scheme includes three span pedestrian and cycle bridge over the Lower River Corrib (main channel), Mill Race (Persse’s Distillery River) and Waterside Canal (Friar’s River).

The vision is that it would facilitate the BusConnects project, which will use the existing bridge, and also open up opportunities for a civic plaza at the Council owned car park at Galway Cathedral.

According to the tender documents, the “bridge substructure will be reinforced concrete construction, founded on sleeved reinforced concrete bored cast in place piles at the abutments and spread footings founded on and anchored to rock at the piers”.

Traffic management will need to be put in place during works and due to the environmentally sensitive site location “no temporary or permanent works will be permitted to be undertaken from the watercourses”.

Contractors have until January 21 to respond to the competition.





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CPO could trigger major development of housing



Aerial view of Bothar an Chóiste - Pic. Google Maps.

Just one submission has been received in relation to a Compulsory Purchase Order on a section of a hugely busy rat run between the Tuam and Headford Roads that could open up a large tranche of land for development if approved.

Galway City Council has applied to An Bord Pleanála to compulsorily purchase over 500 metres of land along Bother an Chóiste in Castlegar adjacent to land it already owns where a previous application to build 48 homes failed due to the width of the road around 2007.

That land is on the same side of the road as the Cluain Riocaird estate. There is another privately-owned land bank of over six hectares on the other side of Bothar an Chóiste also zoned residential that could accommodate up on 400 units which would also benefit from the road widening.

No application has been lodged for that development, but any approval would be dependent on an upgrade of the road which is widely used by motorists to avoid tailbacks at the two busiest traffic junctions in the city.

A spokesman for the Council told the Galway City Tribune that the purpose of the CPO is not to upgrade the through road between the Headford Road and the Tuam Road but to facilitate access to a parcel of its own land for housing development.

“The land take is not designed to be a transport measure. Bothar an Chóiste is not intended to serve as anything other than an access and egress point for local residents. The extent that we’re upgrading is the extent of residentially zoned land,” he stated.

One valid submission was received by the end of December deadline and has been forwarded by the board to the Council for consideration.

If the CPO is approved by an Bord Pleanála, the Council would prepare a design for housing and the road widening and seek funding from the Department of Housing. It would also be obliged to seek approval from Galway City Councillors for a part 8 development.

An application to build 74 homes a short distance away on the school Road was turned down by An Bord Pleanála after being rejected by the Council which had asked the developer, Altitude Distribution, to increase the housing density. The appeals board found the development would constitute a traffic hazard due to the width of the road and shortcomings with the layout because of site constraints.

A Bothar an Chóiste resident told the Galway City Tribune there were no details of what measures would be implemented to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety on what was already a highly-trafficked road.

“From a road safety stand point, marginally widening the road will only add to the already endemic ‘rat run’ culture as cars will be have a straighter road on which they can travel faster, with more danger for pedestrians, cyclists, families with buggies and small children getting to and from housing units to local shops, the Ballinfoile Castlegar Neighbourhood Centre, schools and other amenities,” she predicted.

“Making this road easier for cars to travel by widening means that even bigger, heavier vehicles that currently avoid it as it is narrow and bendy will make it even more detrimental to vulnerable road users.

“Housing units are welcome, but these builds should have the essential services and safe interconnected infrastructure for most vulnerable road users at the heart of the road widening proposals. It’s counter-productive to propose road widening without thoughtful footpaths and cyclepaths that will further lock local residents into car culture.”

The Council spokesperson said the design would facilitate pedestrian movements and public lighting to encourage active travel.

An Bord Pleanála is scheduled to hand down its decision by May.

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