The City Council’s Chief Executive has said he was “quite appalled” at the negative response from some quarters in the immediate aftermath of an announcement that €9 million would be allocated to Galway’s flood relief scheme.
Brendan McGrath was speaking at a meeting of Galway City Council. Cllr Niall McNelis, who was personally affected when Storm Eleanor hit the city in early January, had earlier described as “serial objectors” those who were quick to denounce the funding announced by Minister Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran.
Senior Engineer, Uinsinn Finn, had welcomed the €9m, and said that it was right that Galway should be prioritised. A risk assessment had been carried out by the national CFRAM programme (Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management), he said, after which the commitment was given for the process to start.
“It allows us to engage with consultants and get working, ahead of 130 projects to be announced over the year,” he said.
Mr McGrath admitted that he had been quite appalled, after the announcement was made, that people objected to flood relief works for the city.
“The Minister came back to us four weeks later (after his initial visit in January), and made this amazing announcement of a €9m investment,” the Chief Executive said.
“Before a plan was ever made, this was being objected to. Let’s not get a repeat of Storm Eleanor, and the dreadful damage it caused, and the livelihoods destroyed.
“The Minister has come back, and is preparing to give us the money and make it happen. Yes, there are special protection areas, and sensitive environments, but have a little bit of faith in the process.
“We will do the preliminary design, then it will go out to the stakeholders, and we will start discussions, and everybody will get their say.
“The type of solution I saw in Waterford is what I’d wish to see in Galway. As a local authority, we must thank the Minister sincerely, and Sean Canning, his predecessor.
“The CFRAM maps are to be published in the next few weeks. But, instead of saying the first thing is to object, why not come together to make sure that the next Storm Eleanor doesn’t wash away the livelihoods of those affected.”
Mr McGrath agreed with a proposal that a letter be sent to the Minister thanking him for his two recent visits to Galway, and for delivering on his promise of relief. 14 Councillors were in favour, just the Fianna Fáil members (Peter Keane, Ollie and Michael Crowe) voted against it.
Meanwhile, the meeting heard that the Chief Executive had had reason to write to Cllr Padraig Connelly in relation to complaints from staff and unions about comments made in the Council chamber.
The Councillor himself raised the matter, complaining that he had made eight calls to a Director of Services in relation to blocked gullies in the city. He claimed that the letter followed, advising that he should be careful with what he says in the chamber.
Mr McGrath replied by stating that the Councillor should have contacted the relevant staff, rather than troubling a Director of Services about a relatively minor matter.
“This is a workplace for my staff, I have a duty of care for them, they are entitled to be treated with respect – it’s fundamental,” Mr McGrath said.
“I wrote the letter because senior staff have raised issues, as have the wider body of staff, and the unions have raised issues in relation to what’s going on in this chamber.
“Hold us to account, but it’s not personal. We are here to do a job to the best of our ability. These are decent, hard-working citizens, the least they demand is a workplace where they are treated with respect, where Councillors have regard to the code of ethics, SIPA code, standing orders, and how you approach people in this room.
“I will take full responsibility for what happens in this organisation; if it’s wrong, the blame lies with me.”
Cllr Connelly had claimed that his demands that the gullies be cleaned, to relieve flooding, were ignored, despite eight calls to the Director of Services, Tom Connell.
The latter responded to say that the Councillor had contacted him on three occasions over the past two weeks, mentioning just two gullies.
“He was told that there was a programme of works on the gullies, and that those two gullies were part of that programme – you must quote me in a factual manner,” he told Cllr Conneely.
In contrast, some Councillors spoke glowingly of the co-operation received from City Council engineers when problems with gullies were reported.
“Before Christmas, 153 were done over a number of days,” Cllr Donal Lyons said.
“It’s unfair to say things are not being done. Having spoken to the Transport and Infrastructure Department, there is great co-operation from them.”
Senior engineer Uinsinn Finn advised members that all calls received from the public are logged, and a dedicated crew deals with gully cleaning.
“Any representations we get go on the schedule and we tackle them,” he said, but warned that there are sometimes broader issues to blame, such as blocked pipes.
Cllr Declan McDonnell experienced this problem in certain areas in the east of the city, where raw sewerage was coming up from the gullies.
He said that while the Council had responded, it took two or three days to do so.
Mr McGrath asked Councillors to take into account the huge level of rain that had fallen this Winter, along with the age of the infrastructure, and the fact that some drains are combined, which leads gullies to fill up almost as soon as they are emptied.
Cllr Ollie Crowe proposed that the Council should allocate a specialist team from its 200 or so outdoor staff to deal with blocked gullies over a three-month period.
Mr McGrath said that he could not support the proposal as it stood, and asked him to reword it.
He was satisfied with this revised proposal put forward: “The Chief Executive will be asked to undertake and examine a gully team, and bring back proposal to how current issue be addressed.”
Mr Finn said that he will put together a general report on gully cleaning in the city.
“Given the level of complaint here, it’s is obviously an issue, and let’s see how we can improve it,” he said.
Bikers do their bit to mark anniversary of blood service
This year marks the tenth anniversary of Blood Bike West, and the big birthday was marked in style with a sun-drenched afternoon at Galway Plaza’s Bike Fest West.
Galway stuntman Mattie Griffin was the headline attraction; there was face painting, games, plenty of ice-cream – and hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts and families.
The birthday celebrations kicked off with a 160-strong motorcycle spin around the Galway countryside, raising well-needed funds for the volunteering efforts of Blood Bike West.
As a 100% volunteer-run and funded organisation, donations are vitally important for Blood Bike West to continue operating their medical transport in the West of Ireland.
Since its inception in 2012, demand for their volunteers’ services continues to grow: collecting and delivering all manner of urgent medical items regionally and nationally, such as bloods, breast milk, medicines, scans, and equipment.
In 2021 alone, Blood Bike West delivered 983 urgent medical deliveries throughout the country.
As part of Galway City Councils Community, Blood Bike West undertook to operate a 24/7 service, including 165 medication deliveries from pharmacies to the self-isolating and vulnerable during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Since Blood Bike West’s inception in 2012, this increase sees the ongoing need to replace and renew their fleet of motorcycles.
Their motorbikes, Madison, Heather, Margaret, and newly inaugurated bike Cara, are regularly seen on Galway roads, delivering consignments to and from local and regional hospitals.
Park fun to mark Africa Day
On Saturday next (May 28) in Salthill Park, Galway’s African community invites people to join them in a celebration of culture as part of the national Africa Day celebrations.
Africa United Galway, emerging from lockdown and having hosted online festivals for the past two years, will be delivering a family fun day event.
Africa Day 2022 will reinforce a collaboration between Africa United Galway and Galway Africa Diaspora, Shining Light Galway and GoCom Radio (broadcasting live), who have worked to create a festival that will showcase Galway as a city of culture.
Among the performances on the day will be Afrobeat dancer Lapree Lala of Southside Moves, who will show how to dance in African style; Elikya Band will be bringing indigenous African Congolese music; The Youth Performances will be displaying their talent in rap, singing, speaking, and dancing and for the young at heart.
Galway Afrobeat performer Dave Kody will get the crowd moving and there will be poetry through spoken word and cultural displays. There will be a photo booth and face painting and everyone will get to have a taste of African cuisines.
In the spirit of inclusion and integration, The St Nicholas Collegiate Church Parish Choir will be presenting a special African performance as well as a feature presentation by the Hession School of Irish Dance, who will be presenting the famous Riverdance.
Also organised is a football friendly between the African community and An Garda Siochana.
The Mayor, Colette Connolly, will officially be opening the event with a keynote speech and several African Ambassadors are expected to be present on the day to reinforce the culture, beauty and strength of Africa and support for its people.
Africa Day is sponsored by Irish Aid and supported by Galway City Council.
Domestic Violence Response recorded highest number of clients in 24 years under Covid ‘shadow’
BY TIFFANY GREENWALDT-SIMON
A domestic violence support charity in Galway has recorded its highest number of clients in 24 years – “under the shadow” of Covid-19.
Domestic Violence Response (DVR), which is based in Moycullen, also reported its highest level of counselling support sessions in its 2021 annual report published last week.
The charity saw 136 new clients in 2021, and a total of 266 people utilised its services. It also saw a significant increase of return service users.
The support service also provided 51 nights of emergency accommodation through a partnership between Airbnb, Safe Ireland, and Women’s Aid.
Elizabeth Power, Coordinator of DVR Galway, said: “Our 2021 annual report highlights the stark reality of the level of domestic violence in Galway. Under the shadow of Covid-19, DVR recorded the highest number of clients in our 24-year history and delivered the highest number of support services.
“Our staff noted increases in the level of worrying and harrowing experiences of control and abuse. The trauma of these experiences will live with our service users long after Covid-19 fades into memory.
“While Covid-19 restrictions are behind us, domestic violence continues to be present in hundreds of homes throughout Galway.
“As we move through 2022, we will continue to provide our much-needed services to women and men throughout Galway, with an extensive counselling support and advocacy service and a number of new initiatives including a partnership with the HSE which will be launched in the coming months.”
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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