A kitchen porter who sexually assaulted a woman in her home while posing as a masseur, has been sentenced to three years in prison with the final 18 months suspended.
Gheorge Popa (66), a Moldovan national, had been working as a kitchen porter in a Galway City restaurant for eight years prior to the offence taking place at the woman’s home in Galway City on April 7, 2016.
A friend had recommended Popa to the woman, who is in her 30s and suffers from work-related back pain.
Popa pleaded guilty to the sexual assault moments before his trial was due to begin at Galway Circuit Criminal Court.
Sergeant Patricia Grady gave evidence that the victim’s friend had recommended Popa as a masseur and she arranged for him to call to her house to give her a back massage.
Her children were in bed when he called and the woman brought him upstairs to her bedroom.
She lay on the bed, face down wearing a bra, leggings and pyjama bottoms.
Popa opened the woman’s bra and began to massage her back.
He then told her to turn over onto her back. She became extremely embarrassed when the bra slipped and her breasts were exposed.
Popa pulled down her bottom clothing and lay on top of the woman, trying to kiss her. Seconds before this happened the woman had noticed his trousers were undone. He sexually assaulted her and then immediately apologised.
She was extremely afraid he might harm her and her children so she said nothing to him but went to her en suite. He followed her and cleaned himself and dressed.
He followed her downstairs and told her not to tell their mutual friend. He said he normally charged €20 for a massage but said he would not charge her under the circumstances.
In her victim impact statement, which Sgt Grady read into evidence, the woman said she had been extremely frightened that Popa might return to her home.
She contacted the Gardai two days later and samples taken from her clothing and body at the Sexual Assault Unit, were sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory.
Meanwhile, Popa returned home to Moldova, but was brought back to this jurisdiction in custody on foot of a European arrest warrant last May and was charged with sexual assault.
Samples taken from him matched semen samples taken from the victim’s body.
The woman, who was present in court, said in her impact statement that she felt “shocked, ashamed and upset” at what had happened. She said she had been left feeling violated and scared that Popa might come back.
She said she no longer felt safe and no longer trusted people.
“I feel angry and sad all the time. I will never trust anyone again,” she said.
Defence barrister, Conal McCarthy, offered an apology in court on behalf of his client.
He said Popa had worked for many years in Ireland and regularly sent money home to his family in Moldova. He had no previous convictions in either jurisdiction.
Judge Rory McCabe noted the maximum sentence for this offence was ten years and he placed the headline sentence at six years.
Taking Popa’s guilty plea, which spared the victim from having to endure a trial, his age and his previous good record into account, the judge said the appropriate sentence was three years with the final 18 months suspended.
The suspended part of the sentence is conditional on Popa leaving the country as soon as he has served the balance of the sentence, which was backdated to when he went into custody last May.
He was also placed on the Sex Offender’s Register.
Six Shinners to contest Galway City local elections in 2024
Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley
Sinn Féin is planning to run two candidates in each city electoral ward in the next Local Elections in 2024.
Party number-crunchers nationally want to flood local election tickets with candidates to pick up extra seats and capitalise on anti-Government sentiment that is circulating among a cohort of voters.
The Shinners ran too few candidates in the last General Election. It meant they could not capitalise fully from a swing to the party during that campaign. They left seats behind them.
Now they’re planning to run a record number of candidates. In Galway, that would mean two candidates in each of the three areas, City West, City Central and City East.
The thinking is that they need to pick up additional seats in local authority elections, so that they have sufficient councillors to vote for Sinn Féin candidates in Seanad elections. More councillors equals more senators.
Sinn Féin is very much preparing for Government; and while the polls suggest it’s the most popular party (at 34% according to the latest in the Sunday Times last weekend) and would likely win most Dáil seats if an election was held tomorrow, it would still need numbers in the Seanad to pass legislation.
One problem faced by Sinn Féin is the party might find it difficult to source six credible candidates to contest local elections in Galway.
Another problem with running two, rather than one, in each ward in Galway City is that SF could split the vote and end up not winning any seats at all.
In 2019, Councillors Mairéad Farrell, Mark Lohan and Cathal Ó Conchúir all lost their seats after dismal local elections. Farrell was since elected to the Dáil following her Lazarus comeback but the organisation locally is still wary of a fickle Galway electorate.
If Sinn Féin doesn’t win back those three seats lost in 2019, then the next locals would be deemed a massive failure.
Winning more than three seats on Galway City Council would be a success but are the Shinners willing to risk running two candidates in each ward, splitting the vote and ending up with egg on their faces?
Photo: Mairéad Farrell with fellow Sinn Féin members Mark Lohan and Cathal Ó Conchúir (back left) after she was elected to the Dáil in 2020. All lost had their seats in Galway City Council in 2019 after dismal local elections.
This is a shortened preview version of this column. For more Bradley Bytes, see the January 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Galway is seventh-worst city in Europe for car traffic congestion
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Car traffic congestion in Galway is quickly rebounding to pre-pandemic levels, with commuters spending up to 94 hours caught on the city’s gridlocked arteries last year.
According to data compiled by INRIX, a world-leader in mobility data, Galway is the seventh-worst city in Europe for congestion, an 84% increase on its position in 2021.
The data shows that Galway places in the worst 50 cities in the world for congestion – taking 39th place, with Dublin the only other Irish city placing higher at Number 12.
While the figures show that car traffic has not fully returned to pre-Covid levels, the 2022 figures came within 13% of 2019 congestion rates.
This was despite vast numbers continuing to work from home last year, a worrying trend according to the local People Before Profit representative Adrian Curran.
In Cork, Limerick and Dublin, there had been a more lasting effect, showing decreases of 20%, 26% and 29% respectively, he said.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the January 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.
Galway 2020 paid €110,000 for PR while cutting spends on arts events
From this week’s City Tribune – Galway 2020’s bank account statements for five months of 2020 reveal thousands of euro were spent on public relations firms and media advertising when its cultural programme was being cut and ‘revised’ during the upheaval at the onset of Covid-19.
The AIB statements date from April to September of 2020, when Covid-19 had seriously curtailed cultural activities of Galway 2020, the company behind the city and county’s European Capital of Culture. They show more than €110,000 was paid to Dublin-based public relations firm Q4 PR, in three separate payments in April, May and June of 2020.
Thousands more were paid to other public relations firms, radio stations and, to a lesser extent, newspapers.
In March of that year, Galway 2020 announced it was reviewing its programme of events due to Covid-19 restrictions imposed by Government after a global pandemic was declared, curtailing all events.
On April 7, it confirmed it was laying off staff and had ended its agreement with Helen Marriage and Artichoke which was providing creative direction.
Later that month, it issued statements to say it was exploring a ‘re-imagined’ programme of events to take place at the end of 2020 and 2021.
Although the amounts paid to media and PR companies other than Q4 PR are relatively small, compared with expenditure on other headings, the payments suggest the importance Galway 2020 placed on image and public perception around that time.
The bank statements were released to the Galway City Tribune following a protracted Freedom of Information request and after an appeal to the Office of Information Commissioner.
Many of the payees in the bank statements were redacted but the names of several PR and media organisations are listed as having been paid by Galway 2020.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article with details of the spending, see the January 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. There is also coverage of this week’s rebranding and new vision of Galway 2020. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.