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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

Council to consider new pedestrian ‘plaza’ for Galway City

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Councillors will be asked next month to consider a sweeping overhaul of traffic flow in the city centre as the local authority seeks to create a more pedestrian-friendly core in the wake of Covid-19.

Currently under proposal in City Hall are major alterations to traffic flow which will allow for restricted car access to Middle Street – creating additional outdoor seating space for businesses in the area struggling to cope amid social distancing requirements.

Senior Engineer at City Hall, Uinsinn Finn, said they are currently considering three different proposals to alter traffic flow on Merchants Road, Augustine Street and Flood Street to reduce the need for car access to Middle Street, while still maintaining access for residents.

“We already pedestrianised Cross Street and we will be maintaining that, and there will be a proposal for Middle Street and Augustine Street.

“Businesses in the area are very much in favour of pedestrianisation – one business has objections but the others are supportive. Another consideration is that there are residents there with parking spaces and we are trying to encourage people to live in the city centre,” said Mr Finn.

The Latin Quarter business group submitted proposals for the temporary pedestrianisation of Middle Street and Abbeygate Street Lower but Mr Finn said the proposals the Council were considering were more in the line of creating adequate space for pedestrians while still allowing residents vehicular access.

This would involve creating a circuit for car traffic moving through Merchants Road around onto Augustine Street and exiting at Flood Street.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Residents want laneway closed following pipe bomb scare

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Residents in part of Knocknacarra are calling for the closure of a laneway and for more Community Gardaí to be put on the beat following the discovery of a ‘viable’ pipe-bomb type device in the area last weekend.

Up to 13 homes in the Cimín Mór and Manor Court estates had to be evacuated on Friday evening last when the incendiary device was discovered by Gardaí concealed in an unlit laneway, leading to the emergency services being notified.

An Army EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) unit was called to the scene and removed the device – according to local residents and councillors, the Gardaí have confirmed that the device was viable.

Gardaí have declined to comment on the detail of the case but have confirmed that the matter is being ‘actively and vigorously investigated’.

Chairman of the Cimín Mór Residents’ Association, Pat McCarthy, told the Galway City Tribune that the discovery of the viable device on the narrow laneway that links their estate to Manor Court was extremely frightening for all concerned.

“For the best part of the past 20 years, we have been seeking action to be taken on this laneway which has been used for dumping and unsociable behaviour on a repeated basis.

“But what happened last Friday evening was really the last straw for us. This could have resulted in serious injury to innocent people and what is also of concern to us is how close this was to the two schools in the area,” said Mr McCarthy.

He said that over the coming days, the residents’ association would be petitioning all residents in the three estates concerned – the other two being Manor Court and Garraí Dhónaill – for action to be taken on the laneway.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway designer’s necklace is fit for a princess!

Denise McNamara

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Kate Middleton wearing the necklace designed by Aisling O'Brien

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A Galway jewellery designer is the latest to experience the ‘Kate effect’ after fans tracked down the woman who created a necklace for the Duchess of Cambridge which she has worn several times since it was gifted to her during her trip to the city last March.

Aisling O’Brien’s website crashed on Wednesday night when orders poured in for the piece from around the world. The necklace costs €109 with initials, while the earrings retail for €49.

“I’d never sold more than two things outside of Ireland before. I only had three of Kate’s necklaces in stock – and now I have orders for at least 50. I’ll have to start recruiting some elves,” laughs Aisling, who only set up her website during lockdown.

The 14-carat gold necklace and earrings set was designed by Aisling specially for Kate after examining her style – “understated, elegant, simplicity” is how the Tuam native describes it.

She was contacted about the commission by physiotherapist Thérèse Tully, who wanted to give the future queen a gift as she was using her room to change at Árus Bóthar na Trá beside Pearse Stadium when the royal couple were meeting with GAA teams.

(Photo: Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton wearing the necklace)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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