A retired school bus driver from Ballyconneely was given a ten-month suspended sentence and ordered to pay €20,000 in compensation to a woman he sexually assaulted when she was a child 38 years ago.
Brendan Joyce (68) of Doohulla, Ballyconneely, indecently assaulted his neighbour’s child, thirteen-year-old Catherine McEvoy, contrary to Common Law and as provided for by Section 10 of the Criminal Law (Rape) Act 1981.
The victim waived her right to anonymity at Galway Circuit Criminal Court so that Joyce, who committed what Judge Brian O’Callaghan described as a ‘grotesque offence’ when he was 30 years old, could be named.
In April, after a four-day trial, a jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict on the charge against Joyce who the court heard still refused to acknowledge his wrongdoing.
Garda Barry Maguire said the defendant, now a married father of a teenage son, had led his victim to a field near her home on a date between June 1 and September 30, 1984, where he carried out the assault.
He said Joyce had touched her around her genitals and attempted to digitally penetrate her before she kicked him and managed to break free, returning home to alert her mother.
Ms McEvoy made a complaint to gardaí in 2019 and Joyce was arrested and interviewed, but “wasn’t of any assistance”, said Garda Maguire.
In her victim impact statement, which she read to the court, Ms McEvoy recalled how “on a beautiful summer’s day 35 years ago”, Joyce lied to her and her siblings so he could separate them and “bring me to a secluded place and molest me”.
“Part of me died that day down the bog,” said an emotional Ms McEvoy.
She said what Joyce had subjected her to had cracked the foundations of her family and changed their “understanding of normalcy and decency”.
Ms McEvoy said she had been left with a very dark and deep depression that stayed with her for years and that Joyce’s arrogance and continued lies were shocking.
“You chose to harm my life for your own sexual gratification,” she said.
The court heard that the victim’s mother had spoken to Joyce’s mother after the assault occurred, and following that, the offender’s mother had instructed him to stay away from Ms McEvoy.
Judge Brian O’Callaghan said that was, as Ms McEvoy put it, “the way things were done in those days”.
Referring to her victim impact statement which he described as ‘most impressive’, the Judge said: “You put no blame on those two ladies, the offender’s mother and your mother.”
Judge Brian O’Callaghan said what Joyce did was “nothing short of despicable”.
During the course of his engagements with the Probation Service, Joyce referred to his mother telling him to stay away from the victim.
“This court is entitled to infer this man knew exactly why his mother told him to stay away from Ms McEvoy,” said Judge O’Callaghan, which he said made the court particularly comfortable with the jury’s decision.
He said the maximum sentence he could impose was two years in prison due to the law at the time the offence occurred.
“Thankfully, the law has been updated since,” said Judge O’Callaghan.
Joyce was placed on the Sex Offenders Register following his conviction.
The court had to impose sentences on a scale based on the seriousness of the crime – and due to the antiquity of the offence, that scale was limited, said Judge O’Callaghan.
“Regretfully, this court has seen much more serious cases of sexual abuse come before it,” he continued.
The maximum proportionate headline sentence he could impose was one year in prison, reduced by two months to ten months, taking into account that this was Joyce’s first offence and he was at low risk of reoffending.
The Judge said the court had to consider if sending the offender to prison for what, ‘in effect’, would be four or five months was the best approach to take and in the circumstances, he said he didn’t believe it was.
However, he said he wanted to force Joyce to recognise the harm he had done and said he would suspend the ten-month sentence for two years provided he paid €20,000 in compensation to his victim.
He said the money was “in no way valuing the hurt” and would not prejudice any other rights the victim had.
“He either recognises the victim and pays that compensation, or he goes to prison,” said Judge O’Callaghan.
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In March 2019, just weeks out from the Local Election, Niamh Byrne announced she was quitting politics. Other first-term councillors had already pulled out of the race for re-election but her withdrawal was still a bombshell.
Niamh (pictured) was once touted as a possible Dáil candidate in Galway West and future minister; and thejournal.ie ranked her fourth in a list of 30 ‘hottest young politicos in Ireland’ in 2015. But despite the potential bright future, the former Fine Gael Councillor left local politics after just one term on Galway County Council.
She cited difficulties combining work as a teacher in St. Mary’s in the city with her role representing the people of Connemara; as well as the ‘childish’ antics of some colleagues in the Council chamber.
At the time it sparked wider debate about young people’s participation in politics, particularly young women.
This month the Government announced a new scheme that gives maternity and sick pay to councillors.
Minister of State with responsibility for Local Government and Planning, Peter Burke got Cabinet approval to legislate for supports enjoyed by other workers.
Under the plan, councillors will be allowed to nominate a substitute person to fill in for them while on maternity leave. This would apply for all votes, all meetings and all elements of the role.
“I was aware of situations where councillors felt pressure to turn up to important votes or debates, when they needed to be at home caring for a new baby,” Minister Burke said.
“It is not credible maternity leave if you cannot fully switch off from your work,” he added.
As an alternative to a substitute, the legislation allows councillors additional funding for administrative support during maternity leave.
“This will mean they can pay someone on a weekly basis to assist with secretarial work,” Minister Burke said.
Galway women were to the fore in pushing for this legislation – not least County Councillor Mary Hoade (FF). She was President of the Association of Irish Local Government when it published groundbreaking maternity proposals last year. These fed into Minister Burke’s recommendations.
“Up to now, if you were a councillor, and you needed maternity leave, you needed to ask your colleagues for time off,” explained Cllr Hoade.
“In this day and age, it’s ridiculous that you’d have to seek permission for maternity leave. It seriously affected retention of councillors, and particularly younger female councillors.
“It’s important we recognise this now, with two years to go to an election. Minister Helen McEntee took her maternity, and rightly so. Every other job gives maternity leave. There has to be something to facilitate councillors to do that. Hopefully, it will address the fall-off and retention of younger female members,” added Cllr Hoade.
This is a shortened preview of this article. To read it in full, see the July 15 edition of the Connacht Tribune. You can purchase a digital edition HERE.
A family-run business from Athenry is behind a major project to bring safe water to beleaguered Ukraine.
Coftec has so far sent out two mobile water treatment plants (WTP) to the country invaded by Russia. Transported in a 40-foot shipping container, each unit is capable of treating up to 40,000 litres of water per hour, which will supply 6,200 people with the equivalent of 1.6 million one litre bottles of clean water per day.
The WTP contains pressure filters, raw water and backwash pumps, UV disinfection reactor and all the necessary pipework and equipment to enable the self-contained water solution to be operational very quickly once it arrives, explains Darragh Hobbs, Innovation Manager with Coftec.
Darragh Hobbs, Innovation Manager with Coftec.
“It’s a complete end-to-end water treatment system. We can dial in and access it remotely so we have full oversight of what goes in and what is coming out in terms of turbidity, which helps enormously for end users.
“The process is continuously monitored and process performance is maintained through its operational cycle. This feature also aids set-up on arrival and makes provision for remote support for any commissioning and operating queries should they arise.”
Coftech is a subsidiary of Coffey, the civil engineering contractor based outside Athenry, which carries out major construction projects for Irish Water. In partnership with Irish Water, they sent the two WTPs to a town called Horodok, 50km West of Lviv.
An estimated 1.4 million people have no access to safe running water across Eastern Ukraine alone, according to a recent report from the charity UNICEF. There are also fears that improper burials in parks, gardens, and public areas, could lead to contaminated drinking water.
They are due to ship another 40ft containerised water treatment plant to Ukraine next week in a deal with UNICEF.
Each plant costs in the region of €250,000. Darragh estimates there would be about 20 people involved at various stages of each unit, from design, construction and delivery, all of them working out of the Galway plant.
The mobile units are used by Irish Water when there is an issue with the main plant or it is undergoing an upgrade. But this is the first time it has been used in a conflict zone.
“This is our first job in a humanitarian space and it’s definitely life-saving – it’s arguably one of the most important projects we’ve ever done in the company. We know from the Cholera outbreak in Mariupol how desperate things are with the water there.
“It seems they are deliberately targeting water plants to put pressure on the Ukranians to surrender so it’s good to know that each of these systems can provide clean water for over 6,000 people.”
Set up in 1974 by brothers Paddy and Tom Coffey, Coffey delivers projects throughout Ireland and the UK in the water, transport, energy, civil engineering and building sectors.
Having identified the water industry as a key growth area, Coffey established a water division in 2000 to provide a one-stop-shop for design, build and operate services for water and wastewater treatment plants.
There are currently 250 employees in Coffey and 13 employed by Coftech.
A team of four Galway women achieved a lifelong dream last weekend by cycling Ireland end to end, from Mizen Head to Malin Head, in just three days – in support of the National Breast Cancer Research Institute at NUIG.
Ann Burke, Niamh Lawless, Aine McGuinness and Sarah Smith Killeen covered just under 200km per day in ideal weather conditions and arrived at Malin Head on the Inishowen peninsula on Sunday afternoon.
Following months of meticulous planning and a tough training regime, the fab four completed the iconic bike ride and have also managed to raise over €14,000 for breast cancer research.
Reflecting on the weekend, Craughwell’s Aine McGuinness said that having an experienced support team was crucial.
“We were really fortunate to have an excellent support team with us, people who are experienced in managing and participating in long distance cycling events,” she said.
“They watched over us. They fed us, they massaged tired muscles, they looked after every aspect of our welfare and for that we will always be grateful to Enda Burke, Ciaran Cannon, Martina Kingsland and Paul O’Connor.
“When you undertake an endurance event like Mizen to Malin, you must be able to concentrate on one thing only, cycling your bike and getting safely to the end of each day. Our support team made that possible,” added Aine.
Portumna’s Sarah Smith Killeen said that the fundraising element of the event was a very special aspect of the weekend, and that the team are deeply grateful to all those who supported them.
“While our journey over three days was a tough one it pales in comparison to the challenges faced by women diagnosed with breast cancer,” she said.
“Every one of us knows so many friends and relatives who have been given that devastating news and we thought of each and every one of them as we made our way along the road each day. They were with us in our hearts and gave us the courage to keep going.
“We are deeply grateful to everyone who dug deep to support our fundraising and it’s wonderful to think that we have raised over €14,000 for research into the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer,” added Sarah.
Ann Burke, a member of the Loughrea based Seven Springs Cycling Club, said that the event was made all the more special when club members from Seven Springs CC and Portumna Cycling Club took the time to cycle alongside the four women.
“To have our friends join us on the ride from Limerick onwards was a very special aspect of the challenge, a really welcome morale boost. They chatted, they encouraged and with them there, the miles just seemed to fly by,” she said.
“That friendship and support is a very important aspect of being a member of your local cycling club, and the people who took the time to join us made a major contribution to our success. We’re so grateful to them for being there.”
Carrabane’s Niamh Lawless, who came up with the idea of a women’s team taking on the Mizen Malin challenge, said that she couldn’t be happier with the outcome and encouraged other women to consider taking on similar challenges.
“The four of us made memories and friendships to last a lifetime this weekend. When you complete a challenge like that with three other women, there’s a bond formed that can never be broken. We also cycled in solidarity with women who are facing the challenge of breast cancer right now, we hope that our fundraising will make some difference to them and to others in the future,” she said.
“The four of us are not exactly young women, we’re all in our forties and fifties, and if I’ve learned anything this week, it’s that it’s never too late to do something special with friends. We’re all capable of much more than we might think.”
And the quartet are still accepting donations HERE
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