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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

“It will be akin to the notorious Rahoon flats”

Enda Cunningham

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The Rahoon flats, which were built in 1972 and demolished in 1998, widely regarded as a failed social housing project.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – More than 700 local residents have signed a petition against plans for the construction of 330 apartments in Knocknacarra – which have been likened to “the notorious Rahoon flats”.

Child safeguarding concerns have also been raised by the principal of Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh – who pointed out that the apartments will look directly into 19 classrooms.

A total of 27 objections were lodged against Glenveagh Living’s plans to build 332 apartments in six blocks – ranging from four storeys to seven storeys in height.

Locals have demanded An Bord Pleanála hold an oral hearing into the plans – that planning authority is due to make a decision by March 20, although it can decide to hold such a hearing first.

A computer-generated image of the Glenveagh plans for the site opposite Gort na Bró and beside Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh.

One of the objections – which accuses the developer of designing “tenement style” homes in a “blatant attempt to profiteer from the housing crisis” – was signed by more than 700 local residents.

Another objector said the development was “akin to the notorious Rahoon flats, with people being packed on top of each other”.

Locals have raised concerns about the huge number of apartments planned; overshadowing of homes; inadequate open space, playing pitches and community infrastructure; parking and traffic problems; low quality of design and road safety.

Glenveagh Living did not respond to a request from the Galway City Tribune for comment.
This is a preview only. To read extensive coverage of the Glenveagh plans and objections, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Arts fraternity rallies as Theo faces deportation

Denise McNamara

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Less than a year after being invited by the Arts Council to perform at a conference about diversity in the arts, a musician, DJ and rapper – who is about to embark on a project for Galway 2020 – is facing deportation.

Theophilus Ndlovu left Zimbabwe after what he claims was a lifetime of abuse at the hands of the people who were supposed to mind him.

His mother left when he was just six years old and he never met his father. He was placed in the care of an unofficial foster family but it was never a happy arrangement.

“These people I stayed with were abusing me. They were never my family. I was running away from persecution and abuse and the way I was treated by these people. I had to fend for myself since I was ten years old,” he recalls.

When Theo was 20, he saved up enough money from mowing lawns and selling chickens to escape, arriving in Ireland where he sought asylum. Authorities placed him in a Direct Provision Centre in Finglas for a fortnight before he was transferred to the Great Western Direct Provision Centre off Eyre Square, where he has remained for nearly four years.

Almost immediately, Theo felt at home.

“This is my family. Galway is where I found my voice. It has become my home. It is just where I’m meant to be.”

Theo has immersed himself in the arts community and has become a leading hip-hop artist, known as Touché, performing regularly at venues such as the Róisín Dubh and the Black Gate. He was instrumental in getting fellow asylum seekers and refugees involved in music collaborations.

He is a founding member of the multicultural music project ‘Atmos Collective’ and has facilitated numerous music workshops in Galway, “teaching, motivating and inspiring hundreds of young people along the way”, according to co-founder Alice McDowell, an Australian filmmaker and fiddler.

The collective was recently granted funding by the Galway European Capital of Culture 2020 committee to host community music workshops in the city and county over the next year as part of their ‘Small Towns Big Ideas’ scheme.
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.

The petition is available online HERE

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CITY TRIBUNE

Regeneration funding sought for community centre

Stephen Corrigan

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A computer-generated image of the proposed communit centre in Newcastle

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – With a decision imminent on planning permission to build a new community centre in Newcastle, city councillors will be asked next Monday to support an application for major government funding to proceed with the project.

A motion by Councillor Eddie Hoare (FG) will seek the approval of the City Council to make an application for funding under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) – an overall fund of €2bn available for major infrastructural projects in cities.

Chairman of the Newcastle Combined Community Association (NCCA) Seamus Davey said that they expected a decision on their planning application by the end of January, and were hopeful of getting the support of councillors for this funding application.

“While planning permission hasn’t been granted yet – it has dragged on a bit because of a request for further information – we expect to have it approved soon.

“This project will be shovel ready and as soon as we get planning permission, we’ll have the engineering documents drawn up. As soon as we have funding, we’ll be putting it out to tender,” said Mr Davey.

The Council is set to reach a decision on the application on February 6.

The proposal for funding under the URDF has to come from the Council so it is crucial the project got the full backing of Council members, Mr Davey added.
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.

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