Galway mayor ‘shocked’ as onlookers film his assault rather than help

Cllr Niall McNelis says ‘ego is totally bruised’ after being punched in face by man

The mayor of Galway says the city is still a “very safe”but has acknowledged there is an issue with street drinking.

Labour Party councillor Niall McNelis made the comments after he was assaulted by a man on Wolfe Tone Bridge in the city on Friday night.

Cllr McNelis sought on Monday to play down his actions in intervening when a young woman was being assaulted by the man. He said the man had told him he had a “blade”. “I stepped back then and that’s when he punched me,”he said.

Cllr McNelis paid tribute to the rapid response of the gardaí, who arrived on Wolfe Tone bridge within eight minutes, and to a woman who had called the gardaí and who reassured him that they were on the way to assist.

A man is due in court in Galway on Monday in connection with the incident.

“What shocked me is nobody else came to the young woman’s assistance and nobody else intervened when I was assaulted,” he said.

“What really upset me was the three to five men standing by and recording what happened on their mobile phones,”Cllr McNelis said.

“When as a society did it become okay to take out a mobile phone and record it when a garda is arresting someone, or a security man is removing someone from a nightclub?”.

“This seems to be a regular thing now and must make it very hard for the gardaí to do their job.”

“The gardaí didn’t know they were coming to help me as mayor. . . if they had, they might have taken 18 minutes,”he quipped.

“I slept badly afterwards, because it is the first time I’ve been punched. . . just thinking that if he had had a knife. . . and my ego is totally bruised,” he said.

The councillor did not require medical attention and said he understood the young woman was not injured.

‘Large cohort of street drinkers’

Cllr McNelis said Galway gardaí are “doing an excellent job” in policing bye-laws on drinking outdoors, but there is a “large cohort of street drinkers in town and that’s an issue we have to look at”.

“We need a multi-agency approach as we have homeless people with addiction issues who are being turfed out of hostels and aren’t turning up for medical appointments, and there aren’t sufficient resources to make sure there is a follow through,”he said.

Cllr McNelis said he understood a female garda had also been injured in a separate incident on Friday night, and said garda numbers were at “an all time low”

Galway gardaí told a joint policing committee meeting in April that there had been a 14 per cent drop in public offence incidents, but there was an increase in assaults causing harm and minor assaults.

Galway city has recently renewed its purple flag status which lists “lower crime and anti-social behaviour” as among the qualifications, but last year Fianna Fáil councillor Mike Crowe described the accreditation as “all a bit fluffy” and said it had not made the city safer.