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Anger over failure of cinema backers to provide information

Dara Bradley

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Major concerns about the deliverability of the city’s arthouse cinema, which is delayed by years and over-budget, have been raised again.

Fears about Solas’ ability to operate the facility, without public convention, if it ever gets up and running, were also expressed.

The backers of the project now face a grilling from city councillors, who are angry that the project appears to have stalled once again.

A motion by city councillor Mike Crowe (FF), and which was supported by his colleagues, calls on representatives of the Solas Picture Palace to give a full update on progress – or lack of it – on the new cinema at Lower Merchants Road.

In Spring 2013, the City Council agreed to funding the cinema to the tune of €200,000 over four years. The local authority already donated the site.

Cllr Crowe  has now said the Council should ‘hold-off’ on approving the next tranche of €50,000 next year for the cinema, at least until it is briefed by members of Solas.

He said at that briefing in 2013, councillors were told that the project was contingent on receiving €650,000 in a bond from the High Court but as yet it is not known whether this will be made available, he said.

“They’ve missed so many deadlines I have lost count,” said Cllr Crowe.

“We’ve given them the site, we’ve given them funding and now it looks likely that it is going to need more taxpayer money. I mean, when is this going to end?

“There’s no work going on at the building, and there hasn’t been as far as I can see for months and they haven’t even had the courtesy to let us know what’s going on. We’re the ones doing all the chasing yet we’re the ones who have put up the money. I was the only councillor who voted against giving them the €200,000 because I don’t want to see good money thrown after bad.

“There are two issues: One is whether the project can be finished; and the second is whether it can be run without subvention if and when it is opened. I have fears about the first point but I also have very genuine concerns about the cinema’s capacity to operate on a day-to-day basis without further taxpayers’ money if they can get it open,” said Cllr Crowe.

He said by the time it is complete it will have taken over a decade. He said Solas will be asked at its Council briefing to outline its plans to get the project back on track, as well as its proposals to make it break-even, at the very least, if and when it opens.

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Greens see red on gold rush

Dara Bradley

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Opposition is intensifying to the prospect of a licence being awarded to Canadian gold prospectors planning to explore the heart of Connemara.

Environmental campaigners have warned of the dangers of awarding a prospecting licence to Toronto-based MOAG to mine for gold and silver in land around Roundstone, Ballyconneely and Ballynahinch.

They claim the exploration could devastate water supplies, tourism, wildlife – and also led to tensions in the local community.

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton has indicated he intends to grant a prospecting licence to the company to explore for the valuable minerals in townlands in Ballynahinch Barony.

The licence allows the holder to explore for mineral deposits, and does not authorise mining of any materials that are found – that requires further licensing.

And Minister Bruton’s Department insists that the activities permitted under this licence are “non-invasive” and “of minimal environmental impact”.

However, campaigners have warned of the dangers mining can have on Connemara, and have urged the public to object before July 6.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Controversial Ballinasloe landfill prepares for closure

Declan Tierney

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The Galway dump that forced householders to close their windows during the hottest of summers will take in waste for the last time during the middle of this year.

The pong the emanated from the landfill site in Kilconnell will be no more as it will cease accepting waste by the end of June next year.

Ballinasloe area councillors were told how Galway County Council took over the running of the landfill site following the liquidation of the former operators Greenstar.

The Council agreed to accept 300,000 tons of municipal waste over a three-year period and this will come to an end by the middle of next year, after which the dump will be capped and closed the following year.

Director of Services Jim Cullen informed a meeting of Ballinasloe Municipal Council that following the closure of the dump, there would be long term care of the site to ensure that there would be no adverse environmental issues.

When Galway County Council took over the running of the landfill site, an allocation of €300,000 was provided by the Department of the Environment for local projects.

Of this, €120,000 has been given to the area engineer to spend at his discretion and the remaining €180,000 has been dispersed equally among the six Ballinasloe councillors – resulting in each getting €30,000 to spend on projects in their area.

It is expected that a further €300,000 will be allocated to organisations within a certain radius of the landfill site and a committee made up of Cllr Aidan Donohue (FG), Cllr Dermot Connolly (SF) and Cllr Timmy Broderick (Ind) to decide how this fund will be dispersed.

For years, the dump in Kilconnell caused annoyance for local residents because of the smells emanating from the site and many householders say that it is still a major problem.

Cllr Michael Finnerty warned about the possibility of a run-off of leachate – a liquid that drains from landfill sites that can cause pollution – from the site into the future.

He said that he attended a meeting in Ballinasloe in which residents expressed concern about a leachate run-off from the old dump in Poolboy which has been closed down for years.

He was assured by Mr Cullen that the situation in Poolboy was being continually monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency but he would investigate these claims.

With regard to the closure of the dump in Kilconnell, Cllr Aidan Donohue said that he was not convinced about the ongoing maintenance of the site into the future.

He said when the landfill site in New Inn was closed many years ago, the Council just walked away and left the site in an unacceptable state.

The Fine Gael councillor was referring to suggestions that the Kilconnell site might have future potential and may be an asset but he cited what happened in New Inn when he said that it was just abandoned.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway 2020 could drive you to drink but not Galway Gold!

Dara Bradley

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Bradley Bytes – A sort of political column

Back in June 2017, Galwegians were still ‘tipsy’ at Galway having been designated as the European Capital of Culture in 2020, just 12 months previously.
The mood was invigorating – intoxicating, almost – as Galway continued to celebrate the culture equivalent of hosting the Olympic Games.
Diageo, the makers of Guinness, in conjunction with 45 city pubs, even launched a new beer onto the local market.
Galway Gold was unleashed on thirsty locals to “celebrate the city’s successful bid to become European Capital of Culture for 2020”. Some €10 from each keg sold was to be donated to Galway 2020.
Since the launch of the new beer, the problems with Galway 2020 are well documented. They vary from issues with artists’ Intellectual Property, fundraising shortfalls, concerns over a lack of connectivity with local communities, secrecy and lack of engagement with artists, and serious staffing issues.
They could drive you to drink. Just not Galway Gold. Not any more, anyway, because Diageo has confirmed that Galway Gold has now been removed from the market. The beer itself wasn’t particularly tasty, or popular.
A bit like the Galway 2020 project itself, all that glistens is not gold. But all is not lost either.
“Working with our customers in Galway, we have decided to replace Galway Gold as of July,” confirmed a Diageo spokesperson.
“We are replacing it with Citra IPA and using this to support the 2020 venture from now on. We are attending a meeting led by the 2020 committee with all publicans in Galway next week.
“At it, we will confirm our continuing support and present plans for the next reiteration of the fundraising plan. The move was made to keep the idea fresh and relevant and to maximise the opportunity for Galway 2020 to collect funds and support the initiative.”
With a gaping hole in the budget, Galway 2020 will be mightily relieved by Diageo’s ongoing commitment and support. Now if they could just get commitments from ‘funders’ Galway County Council, Northern and Western Regional Assembly and Western Development Commission, they’ll be sucking diesel.

Board of Galway 2020 should be watchdogs
A little update on the ‘Who knew what?’ saga in relation to the premature departure of Galway 2020 Creative Director, Chris Baldwin.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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