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CITY TRIBUNE

Woman lay dead in locked hospital toilet for up to 12 hours

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A 34-year-old woman who lay dead in the toilets of University Hospital Galway for up to twelve hours died as a result of a lethal level of alcohol intoxication, an inquest into her death heard.

Ewelina Cieślak, a Polish national who had been a resident at Galway Simon’s high-support accommodation in Newcastle, was found dead in a disabled toilet at the hospital’s Emergency Department on Monday morning, August 7, 2017.

In evidence given to the inquest, Housing Support Assistant with Galway Simon, Nadine Hughes, said Ms Cieślak had addiction problems with alcohol, but had been sober on the Sunday afternoon when she left her accommodation in Hazel Park.

“Ewelina had been drinking on Saturday, August 5, but had been sober when I was talking to her on Sunday, August 6,” Ms Hughes told Coroner for Galway West, Dr Ciarán MacLoughlin.

“She told me she was going out but she did not say where. We had agreed to keep in contact by phone, as per our protocol,” she continued.

Ms Hughes explained that residents were not obliged to stay with them if they did not want to, but they were always encouraged to return at night.

Several attempts were made to contact Ms Cieślak throughout Sunday night, August 7, but her phone was switched off – something Ms Hughes said was not unusual for Ms Cieślak.

Ms Cieślak was found by security staff at UHG behind the locked door of the disabled toilet at 6.30am the following morning.

Security guard at the hospital, Keith Moggan, told the inquest that he had entered the toilet when an unrelated “suspicious male” he had been watching went missing sometime before 6.30am.

“When I discovered the disabled toilets were locked, I went to get the keys from the office and on opening the door, I discovered a female who I now know to have been Ewelina Cieślak.

“I sent a security officer who had followed me to get help,” said Mr Moggan.

He said that as the toilet was in full view of patients outside, he closed the door before checking for a pulse. He said he could not find one and that the body was cold to the touch.

Ms Cieślak was rushed to the resuscitation room where staff at the hospital attempted to revive her but she was pronounced dead at 6.43am.

Mr Moggan said he checked CCTV footage of the area a short time later from which he could identify Ms Cieślak entering the toilet at 6.57pm on Sunday evening.

Nobody had accessed the toilet in the hours between Ms Cieślak’s entry and his opening of the door at 6.30am the following morning.

“At approximately 6.45am, a member of the nursing staff ordered that I open the toilet and we searched it,” said Mr Moggan.

Their search uncovered four empty 200ml bottles of vodka discarded in the waste and sanitation bins.

Noonan, the company contracted to provide cleaning services for the Saolta Hospital Group, were represented by Account Director, Rachel Naylor.

Ms Naylor said it was their policy to check the toilets at least every two hours.

On the night in question, Ms Naylor said attempts had been made to access the toilet where Ms Cieślak was found on three separate occasions – at 6.30pm, 9pm and 11pm.

She said because of the staff member’s inability to gain access, it had been assumed the toilet was out of order.

“There have been occasions in the past when hospital security would lock the toilets as they may require a maintenance person to attend.

“This has happened in the past and no ‘out of order’ sign was placed on the door,” said Ms Naylor.

She said staffing levels were normal on August 6 and 7, 2017, and that it had been standard procedure to make a note of failure to access toilets and inform a senior manager upon their arrival at 7am.

Since the death of Ms Cieślak, Noonan and hospital management have added a new regulation to their procedure requiring cleaning staff to contact security if they cannot gain access for an extended period.

“If a toilet is occupied for a period of 30 minutes or more, security must be notified to see if the occupant is safe,” said Ms Naylor, adding that Noonan cleaning staff do not have keys to enter once the door is locked from the inside.

Coroner, Dr MacLoughlin, reading into evidence the report of Consultant Pathologist, Dr Yi Ling Khaw, said that Ms Cieślak’s blood alcohol level was 576mg per 100ml.

“Alcohol levels may be toxic from 100 to 450mg, while lethal is between 400 and 600mg.

“Ewelina Cieślak died on August 7, 2017 at University Hospital Galway. The cause of death, in accordance with the medical evidence, is alcohol intoxication,” said Mr MacLoughlin.

He said that another significant condition that was contributory, but not the cause of Ms Cieślak’s death, was a diseased and fatty liver.

Members of Ms Cieślak’s family had travelled from Poland to attend the inquest and speaking through an interpreter, Dr MacLoughlin extended his condolences to her mother, Joanna, and daughter, Greta – as well as members of her immediate family and friends.

“The inquest is not in a position to make any recommendation as the cleaning company and the HSE have learned from the tragic circumstances of Ewelina’s death and have put in place protocols to avoid it happening again,” concluded Dr MacLoughlin.

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council Chief asked to intervene after Kirwan junction ‘near misses’

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From the Galway City Tribune – Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, has been urged to intervene and instigate a review of the controversial changeover of Kirwan roundabout to a traffic light junction.

A relative of the Collins’ family, who operate a B&B on Headford Road, has pleaded with Mr McGrath to act to make it safe to enter and exit this house.

Joseph Murphy, from County Galway but living in England, a relative of the owners of the B&B located on the N84 side of the Headford Road, has warned of the potential for a serious collision at that junction.  He wrote to Mr McGrath, and copied all city councillors including Mayor of Galway, Clodagh Higgins (FG), seeking a review of the junction and in particular access to the B&B. Mr Murphy said he has been driving for forty years but this junction was “one of the most difficult and complicated traffic light junctions I have ever experienced”.


The CCTV shows a van stopping in the junction to give way to pedestrians before entering the B&B.

He said he wrote the letter because he nearly had a serious accident, due to no fault of his, when leaving the residence.

An amber traffic lights system is in place at the house, since the junction changeover last year, which is supposed to help motorists exit onto the Headford Road from the B&B.


This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. A one-year digital subscription costs just €89.00. The print edition is in shops every Friday.


He said the lights are complicated and it was unreasonable and unfair on his family and any guests staying at their B&B who may be endangered trying to enter or exit the driveway.

Videos of ‘near misses’ recorded on CCTV footage, and supplied to Councillor Mike Crowe (FF), have been seen by the Galway City Tribune.

They give a flavour of how dangerous it is to exit the residence on an amber light; and indicate an apparent lack of understanding of the system on the part of other motorists.

Cllr Crowe and other elected members raised this safety issue at a Council meeting last week during a discussion on the City Development Plan. It was decided to rezone some land adjacent to Sandyvale Lawn, which would allow for a new entrance to the house to be constructed, although there is no timeframe.

Mr Murphy, in his email to officials and councillors said it was an “extremely busy junction”.

“I do not believe that enough planning or consideration was taken when the traffic lights were installed, especially those that were installed directly in front of my sister’s house.

“My relatives in Galway should not have to worry every time they leave their house nor should anyone coming from the Menlo direction have to worry about getting blocked in by other vehicles when entering my sister’s house,” he said.

Mr Murphy added: “I would urge the Galway City Council to carry out an immediate review to make this busy junction safe before somebody gets hurt in a serious accident.”

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CITY TRIBUNE

Plan for former pub in Galway to house Ukrainian refugees

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From the Galway City Tribune – The former Lantern Bar in Ballybane has been proposed to accommodate Ukrainians seeking refuge in Galway.

The Galway City Tribune has learned that works are underway on the building to advance the plans.

The Council confirmed that they had been briefed on the proposal but refused to be drawn on the details.

“Galway City Council is aware of a proposal to use the Lantern Bar at Ballybane Shopping Centre for refugees,” said a spokesperson.

“The coordination of the development of accommodation facilities such as this is the responsibility of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.”


This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. A one-year digital subscription costs just €89.00. The print edition is in shops every Friday.


The local authority spokesperson said they did not have information on the number of people who would be accommodated, nor did they know when the facility might be open.

The Lantern Bar has not operated as a pub for some time, although its licence was renewed on appeal at Galway Circuit Court in February 2020 when the court was told that it was intended to sell the premises.

The bar, which had been the location of a series of public order incidents in 2019, had previously had its licence revoked following several objections from residents.

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CITY TRIBUNE

City centre residents’ fears over new late-night opening hours

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From the Galway City Tribune – Residents in one of the city centre’s oldest residential areas fear their lives will be turned upside-down by proposed later opening hours for pubs and nightclubs.

Chairperson of the Bowling Green Residents’ Association, Jackie Uí Chionna, told a public meeting of the City’s Joint Policing Committee (JPC) that as city centre residents, anti-social behaviour was part of their daily lives.

However, they expected the situation to worsen if Government proceeded with proposals to extend nightclub opening hours to 6.30am.

“Our concern at our recent AGM was the longer pub opening hours – it will result in an increase in [anti-social behaviour],” said Ms Uí Chionna.

She said it was their belief that this policy went against the right of city centre residents to “exist and live as a community” in the middle of town.

“We oppose increasing opening hours. We won’t have any sleep – we have minimal as it is. And we won’t feel safe to walk on the streets.

“It is regrettable that there has been so little consultation with gardaí and residents,” said Ms Uí Chionna.

Chief Superintendent Gerard Roche said Gardaí were waiting to see what happened with the legislation for later opening hours.

“On one hand, not having 5,000 or 10,000 people coming out at the one time will be a benefit but the question is if they won’t [come out at one time]. And will businesses buy into it?” questioned the Chief Supt.

Meanwhile, another Bowling Green resident and former city councillor, Nuala Nolan, raised concerns about the new model of policing and said rostering, which had gardaí working three days on and four days off was making it difficult to follow up on matters with community gardaí.

“You can’t get that person when they’re off for another four days – the continuity is gone,” said Ms Nolan.

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