Galway 2020 has insisted its original objective of raising €7 million in private sponsorship funding ‘hasn’t changed’.
The company set up to deliver Galway’s European Capital of Culture in 2020 told this newspaper it hoped to make a number of positive announcements about private sector funding in the coming weeks.
In March of this year, a financial report by Galway 2020, prepared for Galway County Council, revealed that the company had raised less than €30,000 in private sponsorship income last year.
Despite this low level of sponsorship ‘in the bank’, Galway 2020 reiterated this week that it was still targeting €7 million in private sector funding.
“Galway 2020’s objective to raise private funding of €7m hasn’t changed,” a spokesperson said.
“A largescale fundraising drive is underway. Galway 2020’s fundraising team is engaging with local, national and international businesses very positively and effectively.
“Since the appointment of (creative company) Artichoke and the activation of the fundraising team in mid-January 2019, under the leadership of Development Director, Sarah Coop, almost 100 new business meetings have taken place and hundreds of new prospects identified and engaged with.
“A number of potential partnerships are at an advanced stage of negotiations and we look forward to making announcements in that regard in the coming weeks. This process to negotiate and agree packages with fundraising partners takes time to finalise for each individual business. We are passionate about ensuring that both sides get the same level of satisfaction from the partnership.
“As is normal for projects of this scale, it is envisaged that the fundraising drive will continue throughout 2019, into and during 2020, with funding realised throughout the entire duration of the project,” the spokesperson added.
In January of this year, a briefing document was prepared for Minister for Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, which stated that approximately 50% of the funding for Galway 2020 “is secured”.
The document – prepared at the behest of Minister Madigan before she made an appearance of RTÉ Radio One’s Drivetime programme – said the overall project value was €39.7 million.
The briefing, released to the Tribune following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, said: “From January 2019 we are going full steam ahead with our partnership programme. In order to develop these partnerships we needed to be able to clearly outline to businesses the opportunities that Galway 2020 can offer them. We have completed this work over the past few months.
“We believe strongly that we will achieve our sponsorship targets in support of a world class European Capital of Culture. Galway 2020’s objective to raise private funding of €7 million hasn’t changed”.
At that stage, Galway 2020 had commitments of €23 million from the public purse including €15 million from the Department, €6 million from Galway City Council and €2 million from Galway County Council.
Since then, the County Council has agreed a further €2 million grant.
Minister rebuffs calls to lower air fares for islanders
Efforts to extend reduced public transport fares to Galway’s offshore islands have been rebuffed again.
Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív (FF) has been campaigning for months to have reduced passenger fares that apply to public transport on the mainland, introduced to the islands.
The former Gaeltacht Minister had lobbied Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys on several occasions to extend the reduced fares to the Aran Islands and Inishbofin.
In the latest response to a Parliamentary Question tabled by Deputy Ó Cuív, Minister Humphreys has again resisted calls to extend the discounted fares to islanders.
In the reply she said that residents of Ireland’s 19 offshore islands already enjoy ferry fares that are at least 20% cheaper than visitors.
Minister Humphreys said, “any unilateral action to alter the terms of the existing contracts could represent a breach of contract and bring the entire procurement process into disrepute”. This, she argued, “could have a detrimental impact on the ongoing operation of these vital services”.
Minister Humphreys said that her Department, “will continue to examine ways of ensuring affordability and sustainability of island transport, both within existing contracts and in future”.
Deputy Ó Cuív suggested he had been led on a merry dance over the past few months and said the Minister never intended to reduce fares for islanders.
“It is now clear from this reply that the Minister, on advice from the Department, never intended reducing the passenger fares to the islands in line with the reduction in the rest of the country and that all the replies I got were just a push off without basis. One of the things mentioned in previous replies was that subsidised services could not be in direct competition with non-subsidised services. It is clear from the reply that the Department do not even know if such a situation exists,” Deputy Ó Cuív added.
Galway must ‘sort itself out on the tourism front’
Galway risks losing its reputation as a go-to destination for Irish tourists unless the city’s ‘overall package’ is revitalised.
That’s according to a local councillor who says sky-high hotel prices and anti-social behaviour problems in the city were serving as a deterrent for would-be visitors.
Cllr Mike Crowe (FF) said as people became more prudent with their spending amid a cost-of-living crisis, few would be willing to fork out €500 for a weekend in Galway.
“People want to feel that they are getting some value and they’re certainly not feeling it this year.
“While it’s not only Galway where this is an issue, the prices are too high and people are more concerned with what they’re spending at the moment,” said Cllr Crowe.
A survey of available hotel rooms carried out by the Connacht Tribune this week showed that for two adults to share a double room in Galway City for the weekend of August 26 to 28, the average cost was €560.
The cheapest room available was at a hotel 7km outside the city centre, at a cost of €409 for the same two nights.
By comparison, the average room cost for the same weekend in Limerick was €450 – including a stay at a five-star hotel.
Dublin prices remain way above any of the regional cities, with punters expected to come up with more than €700 for even the most basic property for the last weekend in August.
However, Cllr Crowe said Galway had to stop the rot before the good work done to attract tourists prior to the pandemic was lost for good.
“The vast majority of people are not going to stay in any city where an ordinary weekend in August will cost them more than €300, not to mind €400 and €500.
“Put simply, people want to get a fair product for a fair price,” he said.
A proportion of hotel rooms were facilitating refugees from Ukraine and elsewhere, he said, which was reducing the overall number available and this was having an impact on supply, said Cllr Crowe.
In addition, the city had struggled to compete with the on-course entertainment provided for racegoers in July, with city centre businesses struggling as a result, he continued.
“What we’re offering here at the moment is not at the level it needs to be at. Ultimately, the rooms are too dear but that is just one factor – the city is too dirty as well.
“From an experience point of view, if you’re walking from Bohermore or College Road down through the spine of the city as far as Salmon Weir Bridge, the city is dirty. There are neglected buildings, gangs are drinking at various corners, there are issues with begging and all of that is acting as a deterrent,” said the Fianna Fáil councillor.
Galway was fortunate that representatives had worked for years to protect the business element in the city centre core, said Cllr Crowe, avoiding the problems faced by cities like Limerick and Cork where their shopping core was now located outside the city at suburban shopping centres.
“We have been lobbied for decades to ensure that the shopping experience was kept in town and we have done, but now all business owners need to step up and do their bit to keep the areas around their premises.
“The Environment Section in Galway City Council also needs to get the finger out and make sure the city is clean,” he said.
Cllr Crowe called for a joined-up approach, to include city councillors and the Council Executive, Gardaí, the tourism industry and local businesses.
“We all need to come together and look at what we’re offering as a city and I think if everyone was honest, they would say what we’re offering at the moment is not up to standard.
“We need to do it because if we don’t, the great progress that was made in the past will be lost,” he said.
Tesco urged to go for full Irish on new supermarket
British retail giant Tesco has been urged to provide Irish-language self-service checkout tills at its new Galway Gaeltacht store.
The company acquired nine Joyce’s Supermarkets across Galway earlier this year and is in the process of rebranding and redesigning them as Tesco stores.
Among the supermarkets is ‘Siopa an Phobail’ in Indreabhán, in the Conamara Gaeltacht.
Conradh na Gaeilge this week urged Tesco to provide an Irish language self-service checkout at its Indreabhán store, which is the first-ever Tesco in the Gaeltacht.
Bearna-based Irish language news agency, Tuairisc.ie reported that Conradh na Gaeilge has recommended Irish-language self-service checkouts be installed in Indreabhán, similar to those available in Welsh-speaking areas of Wales.
Tesco has bilingual signs at its Galway City stores and issues bilingual press releases.
A spokesperson for Tesco Ireland confirmed to the Connacht Tribune that it has engaged with Údarás na Gaeltachta about taking over the Indreabhán shop and petrol station.
“We have begun the process to rebrand and redesign the Joyce’s Supermarkets as Tesco stores across Galway which will take place on a phased basis over the coming months. We’re delighted to confirm that in line with our community ethos, we will continue to operate Siopa an Phobail at Indreabhán.
“We are engaged with Údarás na Gaeltachta to ensure we’re responding to the needs of the Gaeltacht community and how best to support our new colleagues and customers as our integration begins,” a Tesco Ireland spokesperson said.
She said that services provided at Indreabhán, including the petrol filling station will be retained.
“During the transition process, we will be delighted to welcome employees from Joyce’s stores to the Tesco team.
We will continue to keep customers and communities updated on the impact of refurbishment on store operations. We look forward to opening our Tesco store at Indreabhán later this year and thank the customers and communities for their patience while refurbishment works are carried out. We look forward to serving the community for many years to come,” she added.