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CITY TRIBUNE

A sad day for Galway’s buskers and free speech

Dara Bradley

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Bradley Bytes – A Sort Of Political Column with Dara Bradley 

Bylaws placing restrictions on busking and street performances such as acrobatics, puppetry and fire juggling, in the city centre, were passed by Galway City Council this week.
The political credit – or blame – for the new regulations lie with Cllr Terry O’Flaherty (Ind), who championed busking restrictions as far back as 2009, and Cllr Peter Keane (FF), the architect of the wording for the bylaws in their current from; and to the other 10 elected members who backed them, and voted for the bylaws.
That they passed by a 12-6 majority, is a victory for some businesses, and retailers, who flexed their muscle, collectively, to bring pressure on certain city councillors. It worked.
Businesses contribute €40 million in commercial rates to the city’s coffers annually, and they successfully convinced enough councillors that their workers deserve a bit of peace and quiet during the working day. A collection of buskers, no matter how vocal and united, just don’t command that political clout.
As has been argued in this column before, and Pauline O’Reilly (Green) pointed out in the debate on Monday, the bylaws smack of nanny-statism.
Bradley Bytes believes the bylaws are wrong, and on balance, the damage that their introduction could do to Galway’s reputation as an artistic city, and one which cherishes the arts, and artists, outweighs the negative impacts some buskers’ performances have on the ‘protected streetscape’, as the busking exclusion zone is called.
That they’re to come into effect on January 2, 2020, two days into Galway’s European Capital of Culture designation is almost beyond belief. . . it’s worthy of an episode of Father Ted.
We won’t re-hash the arguments against the bylaws; that’s already been won, and as democrats, we must respect the decision of the majority of people who we elected to City Hall to represent us.
One provision in the bylaws, however, is bonkers. It states: “A street performer shall not act, say, do or sing anything that is likely to cause alarm, distress or offence to any member of the public, and business owner or occupier, the Council, authorised persons and/or any member of An Garda Síochána.”
It must be the most chilling, and dangerous attack on free speech in the history of that beacon of democracy we call Galway City Council, and Galway Corporation before it.
Cllr Keane, the proposer of the bylaws, said it was included because of one busker who said particularly nasty things, repeatedly, one day. What this nasty thing was, wasn’t divulged to the meeting, presumably to spare all our blushes; maybe it is a thing that somebody somewhere ‘perceives’ to be nasty.
But nobody at Monday’s meeting could explain who will decide what acts are allowed or not, based on their capacity – or likelihood – of causing offence. Will City Hall employ thought police, to dilute buskers’ performances? Will they issue fines, if they don’t temper their acts?
Without freedom of expression, buskers don’t exist. Without freedom of speech, newspapers and newspaper columns documenting the demise of busking – online or in print – wouldn’t exist either.
That anti-free speech clause is almost certainly unconstitutional, it is most definitely unworkable, and is a complete affront to democracy. With all this noise about busking, it’s worth remembering George Orwell’s thoughts on free speech: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear?”
Long may it continue . . . For more Bradley Bytes, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. 

CITY TRIBUNE

Huge reward for ‘dognap’ – as canine companion dies of broken heart

Denise McNamara

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James with Biggy, Poopie and Little One

Galway City Tribune – Galway’s most famous dog, Biggy the Irish Wolfhound, has “died of a broken heart” after his Jack Russell best mate was the victim of a suspected ‘dognap’ – which led to the owner putting up a €20,000 reward.

Following a social media campaign which went viral, Biggy was famously reunited with his family 11 days after he went missing in 2013. He was discovered on the motorway outside Athenry.

Nine years later, James Leopold Mechels has erected hundreds of posters all over the city and suburbs in a desperate bid to find the ageing Jack Russell he calls ‘Little One’.

The Belgian native recently increased a reward for the return of his beloved pooch from €1,000 to €20,000. But so far, no credible sightings have been made.

“He’s been missing for 3,288 hours – 137 days, I’m so exhausted, so upset, so anxious. I’ve stopped working to focus all of my effort into finding him. I’ve cycled all over the city, I’ve driven to the horse fair in Ballinasloe,” James told the Galway City Tribune this week.
This is a preview only. To read more of James’ story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

■ Anybody with information is asked to call 087 0650678 or Ark Vets on 091 584185.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Row deepens over Tiny Traders market

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Galway City Tribune – The row between the Tiny Traders Village and Galway Arts Centre – the operators of Nuns’ Island Theatre – deepened this week as the Arts Centre announced its intentions to open its own market on the site.

Manager of the Tiny Traders Village, Paul David Murphy, has claimed this was proof that it was always Galway Arts Centre, and its Managing Director, Páraic Breathnach’s, intention to “force” them out, adding that he had felt under constant threat of being shut down.

“It did come as a bit of a shock, but it was something I was expecting,” said Mr Murphy of a post on social media announcing that a new market would open.

“It’s now obvious that they were trying to get rid of us and I can’t believe how transparent they’ve been. Up until this point, there had been a little degree of mystery as to why this happened. It’s sad because the Tiny Traders Village was working really well.”

This comes following a decision by the Tiny Traders to cease trading two weeks ago, citing changes that Galway Arts Centre had requested that Mr Murphy said would have made his business “unviable”.

Speaking to the Galway City Tribune this week, Páraic Breathnach confirmed that they had requested changes – involving layout alterations and clearance – but this had been done due to health and safety concerns.

“There were changes requested to comply with fire regulations, safety and health. They were in relation to the blocking of pathways, the blocking of fire exits, clearance between stalls and the affixing of canopies to a listed building,” said Mr Breathnach.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Call for Gardaí to confiscate vehicles involved in fly-tipping

Francis Farragher

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Children's toys, a bed and a cot amongst an illegal dumping site in Ballybane

Galway City Tribune –  confiscation of vehicles – and driver disqualification – have been sought by a Galway TD and a local councillor for those involved in illegal dumping.

According to Independent TD, Noel Grealish and Independent councillor, Noel Larkin, illegal dumping on the east side of Galway City has now reached ‘an all-time high’.

Last week, Deputy Grealish and Cllr Larkin, met with Climate Action and Environment Minister, Richard Bruton, to seek new measures cracking down on those involved in illegal dumping.

“I asked Minister Bruton to introduce legislation that would result in driver disqualification for persons convicted of illegal dumping while using a vehicle. I am also seeking for the introduction of legislation that will give judges the power to order the confiscation of vehicles used for illegal dumping,” said Deputy Grealish.

The Gardaí and Galway City and Council Councils have now been asked to establish an ‘all-county initiative’ to tackle the problem.

This year, Galway City Council was allocated just €50,000 from a €7.4m Government fund to tackle illegal dumping – the lowest figure of any local authority in the country.
This is a preview only. For extensive coverage of the illegal dumping issue, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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