Since October 2007 Galway has suddenly lost that safe and secure feeling that it once held in such esteem. The vicious death of 17-year-old Swiss language student Manuela Riedo , whose body was discovered on wasteland at Lough Atalia on October 8, changed Galway city and its surrounding areas.
Suddenly we were being told to always walk in groups, particularly at night, and to keep our children locked safely indoors. Supposed to have only lasted until her suspected killer was caught, the tragic situation broke the much-loved innocence of Galway. But even when the mention of the name Manuela still sends chills through many in Galway, that feeling of safety slowly started to creep back into the city. In March of this year Gerard Barry of Rahoon was sent forward for trial in connection with the Swiss teen’s murder. The city seemed to start returning back into its bubble once more. But it wouldn’t stay so for long.
On April 18, 21-year-old Martin Ward was left grossly deformed after a known family rival shot him in the hand with a sawn-off shotgun while the young man joined a friend who was delivering takeaway food to a house at Whitestrand Road. The community was left shaken and shell-shocked, even when the culprit, 43-year-old Anthony McDonagh, was captured just a few hours after the shooting. McDonagh, who was a former Irish champion weightlifter, was given a 12 year sentence last month for the shooting, which the judge called “a cowardly, most brutal, and pre-meditated attack”.
November then saw a return to the headlines for another of the year’s high profile cases when 22-year-old Czech man Jakub Fidler was charged with the murder of 19-year-old Nicola Vonkova. The death of the young foreign national, who was also from the Czech Republic, occurred in Inverin on July 21 when her body was found in a drain near a bungalow where she had been employed as a carer and where she and Mr Fidler both lived. She was allegedly the subject of manual strangulation which may have caused or contributed to her death.
But it was this day last week that Galway took its third hit when 20-year-old Francis Fahy was stabbed to death outside a pub in Glenamaddy in the early hours of the morning. Local man Patrick Doherty (45 ) has been charged with the murder as well as with assaulting another man, Gerard Costello, in the wake of the incident.
Speaking to Galway First on Friday, Galway West Chief Supt Tom Curley said he does not believe there should be any cause for concern, noting that crimes within the district is down in almost all areas.
“Yes, there was an increase in what we call ‘headline crime’,” said Supt Curley. “But we are actively enforcing throughout the city and the outskirts all the time, and crime figures reflect that. We believe that people are entitled to walk freely within their city.”
According to figures from the Central Statistic Office there have been three homicide offences in Galway West in the first three quarters of the year, two murders and one dangerous driving causing death, the same number there was in the first three quarters of 2007, though with no murders. Not surprisingly, however, murder threats were on the increase in 2008.
Sexual offences, which mostly involve rapes, are down 40 per cent according to Supt Curley, while assault causing harm cases have increased slightly since the third quarter of 2007. Contrary to all of this Supt Curley said that road traffic matters still top their agenda, including drink and drug driving, and that public order offences still remain the biggest problem in Galway West.
And yet, we still seem to lie in wait for the next big headline breaking story that another murder has shaken the safety net of Galway. Hopefully we’ll be waiting a long time, and hopefully that bubble will form around us once more.