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CITY TRIBUNE

A sad day for Galway’s buskers and free speech

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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

Mercury hit 30°C for Galway City’s hottest day in 45 years

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –

Wednesday was the hottest day in the city over the past 45 years when with a high of 30.1 Celsius being recorded at the NUI Galway Weather Station.

The highest temperature ever recorded in the city dates back to June 30, 1976, when the late Frank Gaffney had a reading of 30.5° Celsius at his weather station in Newcastle.

Pharmacists and doctors have reported a surge in people seeking treatment for sunburn.

A Status Yellow ‘high temperature warning’ from Met Éireann – issued on Tuesday – remains in place for Galway and the rest of the country until 9am on Saturday morning.

It will be even hotter in the North Midlands, where a Status Orange temperature warning is in place.

One of the more uncomfortable aspects of our current heatwave has been the above average night-time temperatures and the high humidity levels – presenting sleeping difficulties for a lot of people.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Property Tax hike voted down in Galway City

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A proposal to boost Galway City Council coffers by half a million euro every year by increasing Local Property Tax (LPT) did not receive the support of city councillors.

Councillor Peter Keane (FF) failed to get a seconder at this week’s local authority meeting for his motion to increase the LPT payable on Galway City houses by 5%.

Cllr Keane said that the increase would net the Council €500,000 every year, which could be spent evenly on services across all three electoral wards.

It would be used to fund services and projects city councillors are always looking for, including a proposal by his colleague Cllr Imelda Byrne for the local authority to hire additional staff for city parks.

The cost to the taxpayer – or property owner – would be minimal, he insisted.

“It would mean that 90% of households would pay 37 cent extra per week,” he said.

Not one of the 17 other elected members, including four party colleagues, would second his motion and so it fell.

Another motion recommending no change in the current rate of LPT in 2022 was passed by a majority.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council needs 40 more workers to help deliver on projects

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –  Forty more workers are needed at City Hall ‘right away’, the Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said.

Brendan McGrath has warned city councillors that the local authority is understaffed and it needs to hire more staff immediately to deliver its plans and projects.

The total cost of the extra 40 workers, including salary, would be between €1.75 million and €1.95 million.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council had a workforce now that was below what it had in 2007, but the city’s population has grown and so too had the services the Council provides.

The population of Galway City grew by almost 11% in the 10 years to 2016, he said, and total staff numbers in the Council fell by 13.6% during that period.

Though more staff were hired in recent years, Mr McGrath said that the Council was at 2007 and 2008 staffing levels, even though the Census will record further increases in population since 2016.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council now provides 1,000 services across a range of departments, far more than during the 2000s.

He said that currently, 524 staff are employed at the City Council. This equated to 493 Whole Time Equivalents when part-time workers such as school wardens and Town Hall workers are included.

Mr McGrath said that 12% of all staff are in acting up positions, with many more in short-term or fixed-term contracts. There was a highly competitive jobs market and the Council was finding recruitment and retention of specialist staff difficult.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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