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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

€3bn plan for new hospitals at Merlin Park

Denise McNamara

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How the 200-bed elective hospital may 'fit' into the grounds of Merlin Park Hospital.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A 1,150-bed acute hospital and a separate 200-bed elective hospital at Merlin Park – costing in the region of €3 billion and taking up to 15 years to deliver – are included in a new report on health infrastructure needs for Galway.

A review of hospital requirements has produced ambitious proposals for the elective hospital – costing around €1.2bn and taking a decade to build – and acute hospital to replace UHG which would take 15 years to deliver.

The so-called ‘options appraisal’ conducted on behalf of the Saolta University Health Care Group concluded that separating acute and planned services – through the development of a purpose-built elective facility – will greatly improve efficiency and patient access by reducing waiting times and cancellations.

It will allow the Saolta Hospital Group to significantly increase the level of day surgery and reduce length of stay for patients.

Currently there are 46,000 people on a waiting list between the two hospitals with a further 14,000 patients travelling to Dublin from the Saolta region every year for treatment.

“The demand capacity gap will grow to a shortfall of 276 beds at Galway University Hospitals [UHG and Merlin combined] alone. Do nothing is not an option,” consultants KPMG wrote.
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, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Minister gives go-ahead to army accommodation plan

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The USAC complex in Renmore, which is set to be redeveloped.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A 50-year-old building at Dún Uí Mhaoilíosa in Renmore is to be renovated to provide additional accommodation for members of the Defence Forces, the Minister for Defence has confirmed.

Minister Paul Kehoe (FG) told the Dáil that the former University Students Administrative Complement (USAC) complex would be redesigned to accommodate 120 persons living in single rooms.

“The rooms are fitted out to a basic standard and ablution facilities are provided communally. The building is nearly 50 years old and does not meet current standards with respect to building constriction methodology, fire prevention measures and energy efficiency,” said Minister Kehoe.

While currently in its early design stages, it is expected that construction work would commence late next year, he added.

USAC is a purpose-built facility constructed in the 1970s to accommodate Officers of the Defence Forces undertaking courses at third level institutes in Galway.

While located adjacent to the barracks in Renmore, it is outside the confines of the barracks and is self-contained with its own access and parking.
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, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Taskforce gets down to work in Ballybane

Enda Cunningham

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Aoife Tully having fun in Ballybane Playground.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Ballybane Task Force is on a mission.

Since the cooperative made up of all major stakeholders set up two years ago, they have set themselves the goal of highlighting the positive work in train in the eastern suburb while providing support for community, voluntary and residents’ groups that currently operate.

They also want to encourage the participation of all locals – new and long-term – in activities while giving support to developing projects and initiatives.

Already the Task Force has spearheaded some tangible results. Last week, a homework club for secondary school students opened and an afterschool service for primary students will begin in January following the recruitment of staff.

There was further good news earlier this year with the redevelopment of the derelict Ballybane Neighbourhood Centre. It is set to be transformed into a revitalised enterprise centre, scheduled to be open in January.

One of the first tasks the group pursued was to identify gaps in resources and services across Ballybane and lay out a blueprint for action.

They secured funding to appoint a consultant to review this in depth and make recommendations.

The results of that needs analysis have just been published. Its overview of the area’s deprivation makes for stark reading.

Ballybane is described as the area where the older housing estates are bordered by Ballybane Road, Monivea Road and the Dublin Road, but excluding the Doughiska development.

It has a male unemployment rate of 25% or over – compared to a 15% average in the city – a lone parent rate of 35% or higher (24% in the city) and a 35% rate of children leaving school in the early years of secondary school (17%). Just one fifth go onto third level, compared to half elsewhere in the city.

This is a preview only. To read the rest of this feature on the regeneration of ballybane, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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