The Marine Institute’s planned test site off the coast of An Spidéal has attracted a wave of opposition from concerned individuals and organisations.
A total of 557 submissions were lodged as part of the public consultation on the Galway Bay marine and renewable test energy site, it has been confirmed.
One local business has claimed the development has the potential to lead to 20 job losses, and local fishermen have also expressed concern that it will damage their livelihoods.
The family-run Park Lodge Hotel or Óstán na Páirce in An Spidéal “strongly” opposes the application for a 35-year foreshore lease.
“We have used Galway Bay at Park Lodge Hotel as a unique selling point in promoting our hotel over the past 36 years. We are concerned if this application is approved our business will suffer and result in a loss of 20 jobs for local people.
“This is unacceptable and consequently must not be allowed to happen as it will impact the wider tourism industry, which over the past two to three years has grown due to the Wild Atlantic Way,” the hotel’s submission reads.
A father and son fishermen duo, who operate a prawn trawler in the area, and have done since the 1960s, is also opposing the application.
The objector, whose name has been redacted, said they fish for prawns to the north, south, east and west of the site in question, and “not just to the west of it as the Marine Institute state in their application.”
“We lost a considerable amount of prosperous fishing ground when the original lease was granted without our knowledge in 2006, when we agreed to a site further to the southeast,” the submission reads.
It adds: “Our concern is that if a new lease is granted, the holders will increase the area of the site or God forbid seek an exclusion zone around the site without our knowledge just like ten years ago. If this were to happen it would mean considerable financial loss to our vessels, crews and families.”
Fishermen on the Aran Islands have also objected to the location of the test site, due to the potential negative impacts on prawn fishing.
“I am writing to you expressing a major concern in relation to the site location of this project,” said Sean Griffin, General Manager of Galway and Aran Fishermen’s CO-OP ltd.
“I believe that the project is worthwhile but the site location could be changed. It would not need to be changed drastically, possibly a mile or so further near Galway. The reason for the issue with the current proposed location is that it is in the middle of prawn grounds that a number of smaller trawlers fish during the year. This number has become more significant as the catches have increased in this area in the last two years.
“Surveys carried out by the Marine Institute show a high density of prawns in this location. I would propose that the Marine Institute sit down with the boats who are members of Galway and Aran Co-Op in order for them to determine what areas are fishing grounds and which are not, in this area.”
Fianna Fáil Galway County Councillor, Seán Ó Tuairisg, in his submission as Gaeilge, simply called for a public hearing into the application.
Scores of private individuals made submissions as part of the process, as well as organisations such as An Taisce, Friends of the Earth, University of Sussex, Environmental Action Alliance, Clare County Council, Fáilte Ireland and Coastal Concern Alliance.
Concerns raised – as summarised by the authorities – include incorrect information, vague information about economic benefits, misleading information, a conflict of interest and lack of impartiality of Minister Simon Coveney, no Environmental Impact Statement, inadequate information about the impact the site will have on the environment, confusion over whether it will be connected to the national grid, the 35-year lease is too long, it is too close to the shoreline, noise pollution, general pollution, there was insufficient consultation, it will impact on tourism along the Wild Atlantic Way, and it poses risks to birds, marine mammals, fish and general wildlife.
Minister Coveney will be advised by the Marine Vetting Licensing Committee, and will then make a decision on the application.
First pub in County Galway to be convicted over Covid breach
A County Galway publican has become the first in the county convicted of breaching Covid-19 regulations after 70 customers were found on his premises during the partial lockdown last year.
Tuam Court was told that when the Gardaí entered the premises at Tierney’s of Foxhall, there was very little social distancing – and no food being served, as was the requirement at the time.
Proprietor Tom Kelly was prosecuted for the breach of Covid-19 regulations which carries a maximum penalty of €5,000.
After Judge James Faughnan was informed that it was an extremely large premises in rural North Galway, he remarked that when so many people are allowed into a pub, no matter how big, it is extremely difficult to control them.
Prosecuting Sergeant Christy Browne explained that several months ago there had been opposition for the renewal of the publican’s licence on the grounds of alleged breaches of Covid regulations.
He said that, on August 30 last, there were 70 people on the premises, at a time during the pandemic when there was the requirement to purchase a €9 meal before being served a drink.
Sergeant Browne explained that when the premises was inspected, there was no social distancing, there was no food being served and no evidence of food receipts.
Defending solicitor Gearoid Geraghty said that his client ran a huge premises that can accommodate 227 customers and added that his customers were spread among three separate sections of the premises.
While there have been objections to the renewal of publicans’ licences by the Gardaí for breaches of the guidelines, this was the first criminal prosecution that has taken place in County Galway.
Tom Kelly with an address of Corohan, Tuam, the proprietor of Tierney’s of Foxhall, was charged with breaching a regulation to prevent, limit, minimise or slow the spread of Covid-19. It relates to an alleged breach that occurred on August 30 last year.
The same defendant had been the subject of an objection to his licence by Garda Inspector John Dunne a number of months ago. He was ordered to pay €500 towards a charity at the time.
The Inspector had opposed the renewal of the licences for what he said were breaches of Covid guidelines during the course of inspections carried out when the situation was relaxed during the course of 2020.
Galway recycling company run by Travellers fronts national campaign
A Galway company which employs Travellers to recycle mattresses and wooden furniture has been picked to front a national campaign urging the public to support their local social enterprises which are seen as crucial in the post-Covid recovery.
Bounce Back Recycling has this month also been nominated for top green company in the country.
Social enterprises are businesses that operate mainly to improve people’s lives and achieve a social or environmental impact. While they trade in goods and services like other businesses, the difference is they reinvest their profits to achieve core social objectives.
Bounce Back Recycling provides a mattress and furniture recycling service to domestic and commercial clients as well as several local authorities from its base in Ballybane.
There are currently twelve members of the Traveller community who manage and run the social enterprise, with plans to employ a further four workers as it expands.
Workers deconstruct the mattresses and furniture by hand, a labour intensive and time-consuming process.
The steel from mattresses is sold on to a local steel recycling company while the foam is sent to a UK company to make carpet underlay. The textile or covering is compressed and sent to landfill.
Manager Martin Ward explains that between 75 and 80 per cent of the mattress is recycled.
Mattresses that normally end up in the landfill only start to decompose after 15 years – elements such as polyurethane foam and steel springs can take up to 100 years and 50 years respectively to break down.
Since 2017, the company has diverted 50,000 mattresses from landfill.
“In Galway we dispose of 30,000 mattresses annually and they’re going to landfill through a waste company or are illegally dumped. We identified a gap in the market for Connacht and Ulster as there was nobody recycling mattresses here,” he reveals.
The company received funding to set up but is dependent on users to cover ongoing costs such as wages.
It started off with 3,000 items in its first year collecting from around Galway. Last year it processed 20,000 pieces, operating across ten counties, with plans to expand nationwide. They are also preparing to open a unit in Sandy Road where they will upcycle and reupholster furniture and sell directly to the public.
“We’re happy to be part of this ‘The Future is Social’ campaign by Rethink Ireland to support social enterprises which deliver so many other positive impacts for every euro spent.
“Everyone is much more aware of doing their bit for the environment and we hope to be recycling 100,000 items by 2025,” says Martin.
Bounce Back Recycling charges between €15 and €25 for a mattress and €10 for collection.
“We run a collection service and only charge one delivery fee, regardless if it’s one or ten items. We’ve a big demand in Connemara because there is no civic amenity site so people who want to do the right thing for the environment don’t have any access to a facility.”
Bounce Back Recycling has been nominated as a finalist in the Green NGO (Non Government Organisation) of the Year.
It is among 40 companies which have received money from the Social Enterprise Development Fund. Nationally they employ 500 people, mainly from minority groups, generating €22 million in turnover.
The ‘Future is social’ campaign will provide regional webinars, information and resources about social enterprises.
Headford’s plans for public park and gardens
Plans to create a new public park and gardens in the heart of Headford were unveiled this week.
Headford Community Garden and Headford Men’s Shed have submitted a proposal to the Headford Development Association to create the park on the lands adjacent to their gardens in Balrickard.
A rewilded, multi-habitat park would transform outdoor living in the town and provide a much-needed greenspace that would be accessible to all – offering a relaxing setting for all ages and abilities.
The promoters also hope that the project would act as a model for other Irish towns, with Headford becoming a leading example of how parkland and greenspace can help to revitalise rural settlements.
“This proposal for a park and gardens in Headford will create a quiet natural space in the centre of town for all to access and enjoy. It is a project that will benefit the people and the businesses of the town and surrounding areas for generations to come,” said Aengus McMahon, spokesperson for Headford Park and Gardens.
Within the park the emphasis will be on biodiversity; the planting of native trees, introduction of biodiverse meadow spaces with mown paths, walking trails, picnic and play areas.
The existing gardens and new parkland will serve as an outdoor classroom for use by local schools.
There are existing plans for Presentation College Headord’s Seomra Seoda to utilise Headford Community Garden for outdoor classes. The park will be fully inclusive and accessible to all.
The space will also include an outdoor cultural space for concerts, theatre shows and special events.
“During the Covid lockdowns, it was our walks in the rural countryside and wild landscapes that provided therapy for both mind and body,” said Brendan Smith of the Galway National Park City initiative.
“So, in a post Covid world it is important that, for the health of human society and of the planet, we integrate green and blue spaces into the fabric of our cities, towns and villages,” he added.
Recently Galway’s County Councillors unanimously supported a proposal to fund a feasibility study to examine the development potential of a cycleway and greenway from the Galway city to Headford. The park would be the perfect landing site for a future greenway.
Groups already sharing the existing garden area include Tidy Towns, environmental groups, Scouts, Headford Lace Project, Yarn Bombers, Meals on Wheels and Ability West.