A MAJOR garda operation was put in place in Galway city this evening after a man threatened to set himself alight on a city rooftop.
The standoff, which lasted for close to five hours and resulted in a media blackout, began at 5pm this evening when a man dressed all in black and wearing a black balaclava gained access to the rooftop to the Radharc an Chlair building on Grattan Road in Salthill with a can of petrol and threatened to set himself alight.
Residents of the 36 apartment building were evacuated as a full scale garda operation was put in place.
It's understood that the incident may be connected to a scam being carried out at restaurants and cafes around Galway in recent weeks. In those cases a man was claiming to have injured himself after biting into food containing glass before seeking payment for doctors bills. A large number of food outlets around the city had been targetted and gardai were investigating the matter.
Armed gardai, fire crews and ambulances remained on stand-by as gardai, understood to be members of the armed response unit, entered the building to negotiate with the man. Several members of the fire brigade remained on alert on a crane at the roof of the building dousing it with water intermittently.
The man, who is Irish and understood to be from the Galway area, appeared to be in an agitated state as he paced back and forward on the balconied roof-top carrying what appeared to be a can of petrol and smoking a cigarette.
Shortly after 9pm the crane was waved away by the man as it attempted to get closer, forcing fire crews to turn off a search light they had trained on the building. Just under an hour later the standoff came to an end and the man was taken from the roof of the building.
He was taken from the scene by detectives in an unmarked garda car at around 9.50pm.
Residents of the apartment block who watched events unfolding from the street outside told how they became aware of the incident at 5pm when gardai arrrived at the scene.
"I could hear him shouting to gardai. He was listing off all the things that had gone wrong for him and was shouting 'I lost everything'," explained one resident.
"He was drinking and was saying he wanted to end it all but the gardai were urging him not to," said another resident.
"We don't know if he lives in the building but anyone can access the roof once they get in the front door and it was kept open recently following the storms," added another.
The man, aged in his forties, is now in garda custody.