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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

Hundreds of snapper Pat’s Galway photos set to be showcased

Denise McNamara

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Well-known face: amateur photographer Pat Cantwell

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Pictures of everyday Galway faces and places – captured by an amateur photographer as part of a hobby – are to be featured on new hoarding to be erected around the Bonham Quay building site.

Pat Cantwell’s photos of Galway people, scenery and buildings have garnered over 8,000 followers on his Facebook page, ‘Galway Faces & Places’.

He has now been approached by the developers of Bonham Quay to use 500 images as part of a hoarding around the massive €105 million development creating office space, retail and restaurant units.

Pat has advised members of the public whose photos he has taken to let him know if they are unwilling to be featured in the ‘people wall’.

“I have literally taken thousands of pictures of Galway people – it could be as many as 14,000 people – and I tell them it’s for my website and get their permission,” he explains.

“But it would be madness to try and get 500 signatures for this. Since I told people about it on the website, I’ve had 400 positive affirmations and only one man declined to be involved and that’s fair enough. It will be a random selection of people – as many well-known people as I can get.”

Pat, a native of Raleigh Row who now lives in Mervue, was a salesman in O’Connors TV & Video outlet for 25 years before moving to O’Shaughnessy’s Audiovision and Peter Murphy Electrical prior to his retirement.

It was following an unfortunate accident while on holiday in Australia to visit his son who lived in Perth that his passion for photography really took hold.
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

At least 240 Galway City Airbnbs flouting planning rules

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – At least 240 short-stay apartments and houses in Galway City are operating without planning permission, according to local authority estimates.

However, former mayor Niall McNelis has said he believes the real figure is “far higher”, while Green Party councillor Pauline O’Reilly said Airbnb is “destroying our city”.

Under legislation introduced last July, the owners of some Airbnb-type rental properties must apply for planning permission – where they fall within certain criteria – because the city is classed as a Rent Pressure Zone.

For any property which is a second or subsequent home (not the owner’s home) which is used for short-term letting, a ‘change of use’ planning application is required “for the purpose of residential short-term letting/B&B”.

Since the law was passed, Galway City Council has received just three change of use planning applications for short-term lets.

The Council’s own estimate is that there are 1,200 properties in the city that come under the short-term letting umbrella. It estimates that only 720 of these are ‘active’, and of those some 480 are exempt from the new legislation.

That means, according to the Council’s own estimate, that 240 properties in the city are operating without planning permission in breach of the legislation.
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

Four-fold increase in homeless children

Stephen Corrigan

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Emergency 'Cold Weather Response' accommodation for being provided by COPE Galway and the City Council at Seamus Quirke Road.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Galway City councillors gave their backing to Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy this week, despite being told that the numbers of families and children homeless in the region had sky-rocketed by more than 300% in three years.

At a meeting of the local authority on Monday evening, the Draft Region Homelessness Action Plan 2020-2022 was presented to councillors, in which it was revealed that in terms of homelessness, the West is worst – since 2016, the region had the highest increase in the country.

Three years ago, some 130 adults were accessing homeless services through emergency accommodation. In August of this year, that figure had risen to 351.

The number of homeless families stood at 17 in 2016; this year, that figure was at 83 by the end of September.

Some 200 children were homeless at the end of August 2019, a 344% increase on the 47 who were without a home in 2016.

The report notes that 30 people were sleeping rough in Galway City in October, while there were 251 homeless adults in the city by the end of the third quarter – 146 males; 76 families; and 185 dependents.

A series of actions are set out by the plan, with homelessness prevention at the top of the list. This comprises of ensuring early intervention for high-risk categories, including: prison discharges; young people exiting care; hospital discharges; people exiting direct provision; and victims of domestic violence.

The Mayor and Cllr Ollie Crowe (FF) both described the new Housing Task Force established in Galway – which does not include any elected representatives – as a farce, with the Mayor hitting out at the arrogance of the Minister for Housing in saying that things were improving.

“You’ve a situation where you’ve kids going to school and their news of the day is that they’ve moved to a new B&B – and they’re being laughed at in class,” blasted the Mayor.
This is a preview only. For extensive coverage of the 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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