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Woman set fire to her own Council house, court is told

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Date Published: 19-May-2011

By Ann Healy

A 45-year-old city woman has gone on trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court charged with setting fire to her local authority house at Tulach Ard, Rahoon over four years ago.

Veronica MacAnespie, of 38 Tulach Ard, Rahoon, denies setting fire to the semi-detached house, owned by Galway City Council at the above address on November 28, 2007.

Two units of Galway Fire Brigade were called to the house fire at around 5am that morning and had to break in because both the front and back doors were locked.

The cost of repairing fire and smoke damage was estimated at over €65,000. City Council carried out the repairs and returned Ms MacAnespie to the house.

Detective Garda John Lavery said two spent matches and a number of plastic bottles containing petrol were found in the kitchen and in an upstairs bedroom and bathroom while a five-litre petrol can was found on the stairs when the house was forensically examined after the fire.

Garda Darragh Ainsworth told the court he arrived at the scene shortly after 5am and was told the accused, who was the sole occupier, was not in the house at the time. He and Garda Dermot Cummins went looking for the accused and found her walking down Circular Road with black smoke and soot on her face and hands.

Her hair was matted with soot and there were soot marks under her nostrils. She was using a crutch and was dragging a number of large suitcases and plastic bags after her.

Garda Ainsworth said he got a very strong smell of petrol from the woman which surprised him at the time. City Council housing officer, Patricia Philbin, told the trial Ms MacAnespie had lodged over forty complaints with the Council about her neighbours from 2002 to the time of the fire.

Most of the complaints, she said were made against Anthony McDonagh and his family who lived at no 37 Tulach Ard.

Ciaran O’Loughlin SC defending, said Ms MacAnespie did not want to go to the Gardai because she was afraid of Anthony McDonagh.

He said she would say he had threatened to burn her house down and had threatened to kill her son, who had since gone to live in Waterford.

Mr O’Loughlin said no traces of accelerants were found on Ms MacAnespie’s clothes when they were forensically examined.

He said she was on her way to catch a train to Kildare and from there to Waterford to see her son on the morning her house caught fire and she was unaware of the fire until the Gardai told her.

Mr McDonagh, who is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence for shooting part of another man’s hand off, told the jury Ms McAnespie was a liar. He said he never had any problems with his next-door neighbour and in fact, he had helped her out over the years.

The trial continues today.

Read more in today’s Galway City Tribune

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

images/files/images/x3_Courthouse.jpg

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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

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Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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