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CITY TRIBUNE

Anger over failure of Council to provide alternative accommodation

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Amidst a widespread and worsening housing crisis, a mother of three in Salthill has been served an eviction letter by the Galway City Council – with only two weeks’ notice and nowhere to go.

Kathleen Ward is at her wits’ end. “I can’t live in the streets with my children,” she says.

Kathleen’s family – including her youngest, born only a few months ago – is one of ten who have been evicted by the local authority from the Cúl Trá halting site. The City Council believes the site is dangerously overcrowded and has told the families to be out by June 5.

But thus far no alternative accommodation has been provided. Instead, the city has suggested they use emergency homeless services.

City management wants to prevent a tragedy similar to that at Carrickmines, Dublin in 2015, in which ten people died in a fire due to halting site overcrowding and other fire safety issues.

The Cúl Trá hardstand in Lower Salthill

Yet Galway City hasn’t built a permanent halting site since Cúl Trá in 1996 – more than twenty years ago, when Kathleen’s family first moved in. According to the local authority, there are now sixteen families on a site built for six.

The Council has a legal obligation to provide Traveller-specific accommodation for those who require it. And as far as Kathleen was aware, they were still negotiating a new halting site. The eviction letter was a terrible shock.

“They promised us a new halting site in Knocknacarra,” she says, “and I’d like to know where the money for it went.”

As a Traveller, Kathleen says she wouldn’t be comfortable living in a house. “I grew up in a caravan,” she explains. “This is our culture.”

She wants to raise her children in a nice, family-friendly location. But with no halting site to move to, she is afraid of what could happen.

“We can’t stay on the side of the road, because the guards will just keep moving us,” she says. Neither she nor her husband drives a car, so transport is also an issue.

Kathleen also doesn’t want to be moved to a temporary site, well aware that the last Travellers sent to a temporary site – at Carrowbrowne – have been there eight years and counting. And she says her cousin’s family has been living in a hotel in Oranmore for over two years.

On Monday, representatives from the Galway Traveller Movement walked out of a Local Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee (LTACC) meeting.

Traveller representative Joanna Corcoran says: “We feel there is no alternative other than to withdraw from the committee as it is ineffective and it is not addressing the major Traveller accommodation crisis in Galway city.

“There is no political will to address Traveller accommodation and no accountability for eighteen years of failed targets. Within the LTACC and Galway City Council meetings there is a strong anti-Traveller discourse and the Traveller community’s voice is not valued.”

But Councillor Mike Cubbard says: “I understand their frustrations. But if you leave the room, you don’t have a chance at finding a solution.” Cllr Cubbard has also decided to step down from the LTACC.

The City risks losing €1 million in government funding to build Traveller-specific accommodation due to delays in choosing a suitable site.

But many councillors blame the City Executive for mismanaging Galway’s current halting sites.

“If you look at the budget, there is over half a million spent on maintenance of the halting sites . . . if they’re spending that amount of money, then you’d expect to eat your dinner off the floor,” said Councillor Colette Connolly before Monday’s meeting.

She believes that issues with current hardstands “have to be addressed, and they’ve never been addressed because of the failure of the Executive.”

The local authority has failed to deliver on many of its previous Traveller accommodation goals. Unmet targets include seven group housing units and two permanent halting sites, none of which were built. And out of 66 planned housing units, only 18 were completed.

The city government is finalising a mid-term review of its current four-year plan – one year before it is set to expire.

A spokesperson for the City Council says that “the timescale on the mid-term review has been overextended, and is past due,” adding that the Council is “committed to implementing the Traveller Accommodation programme” and “the health, safety, and welfare of the families is a main priority.”

The Galway Traveller Movement has said they will work with the Cúl Trá families to resist the evictions. A protest will take place at the site on June 5.

But Kathleen doesn’t want to move to emergency accommodation while waiting for the Council to fulfill its obligations. “They have no respect for Travellers,” she says. “I will stand my ground.”

CITY TRIBUNE

Matriarch of Scotty’s Diner donates kidney to her son!

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A well-known family in the Galway restaurant trade have swapped chef whites for hospital gowns after the matriarch donated a kidney to her son.

Jenny and Andrew Ishmael, synonymous with Scotty’s Diner in Cúirt na Coiribe on the Headford Road in Terryland, are recovering in Beaumont Hospital after the marathon live donor operation.

It took place last Monday and staff are so impressed by the quick recovery of mother and son that they could be discharged as early as this weekend.

“It went really well. I’m still a bit sore. We’re still on the mend. It’s working perfectly,” says Andrew from the isolation ward of the hospital’s Kidney Centre.  “My creatine was over 1,000 when I came in and it’s already around 260.

“I felt weak after the surgery, but I could feel that bit of life in me again straight away. It’s amazing how quick it works. Mom wasn’t too great after the surgery – it was her first ever. She was quite sore, a bit iffy, but she’s good now.

“We have rooms back-to-back. We’ve been going for walks, going for breakfast together. It’s nice to spend that time together.”

Andrew – or Drew as he’s known to family and friends –  was diagnosed with kidney disease when he was just 16.

Berger’s Disease occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin builds up in the kidneys and results in inflammation, which over time, can hamper the kidneys’ ability to filter waste from the blood.

He managed the condition well for over a decade without too much impact on his life.

The son of classically trained chefs who studied together at Johnson and Wales College in Rhode Island, he grew up working in his parents’ American-style diner, trading since 1991.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the February 3 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

New River Corrib rescue boat to be deployed following ‘significant donation’

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The provision of a specialist rescue craft on the Corrib – upstream from the Weir – could now happen over the coming weeks or months following a ‘significant voluntary donation’ in the past few weeks, the Galway City Tribune has learned.

Water safety issues on the Corrib were highlighted last month when up to 10 rowers had to be rescued after their two boats were sucked in by the currents towards the Weir.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board has launched an investigation into the circumstances of the potentially catastrophic incident which occurred around midday on Saturday, January 14.

A specialist D Class lifeboat is now being sourced as part of a multi-agency approach to try and improve emergency rescue operations upstream from the Weir which would be accessible on a 24/7 basis.

While the cost would be in the region of €40,000 to €50,000, the overall figure would rise to around €80,000 to €90,000 when specialist personnel training costs were included.

Galway Lifeboat Operations Manager, Mike Swan, told the Galway City Tribune that he was aware of a lot of work going on behind the scenes to try and get the Corrib rescue craft in place as soon as possible.

“I suppose we’re all trying to work together to ensure that a full-time rescue craft is provided on the Corrib and I believe that real progress is being made in this regard. This would be very good news for everyone,” said Mr Swan.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the February 3 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Three years on and ‘Changing Places’ facility on Salthill Promenade still not open

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Mayor of Galway, Cllr Clodagh Higgins at the site of the Changing Places facility, for which she had ring-fenced money. Work on the project only began last February, despite initial predictions that the facility would be open in January last year.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The wait for accessible, specialised toilet facilities at Ladies Beach in Salthill goes on – three years after they were ‘prioritised’ by city councillors.

Galway City Council has confirmed to the Tribune this week that the ‘Changing Places’ facility at Ladies Beach is still not open.

Construction of the facility began almost a year ago, at the end of February 2022.

The local authority confirmed that some €135,600 has been spent on the unit, which is not yet open to the public.

“The initial stages of construction went well, with the facility now largely in place. There are a number of outstanding snags to be completed before the facility can open.

“Galway City Council is liaising with the contractor to complete out these snags, with a view to opening the facility as soon as possible,” a spokesperson said.

The local authority did not elaborate on what ‘snags’ were delaying the project.

But in January, Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, suggested that staffing issues were to blame for the delay.

(Photo: Mayor of Galway, Clodagh Higgins, at the site of the Changing Places facility, for which she had ring-fenced money).
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the February 3 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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