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CITY TRIBUNE

Apology means invite ‘snub’ is water under the bridge!

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

As apologies go, this was fairly grovelling. An admission, too, that all is not well in the corridors of power at City Hall.

Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, this week wrote an apology to councillors, who felt snubbed for not being invited to a sod-turning event in the city. Though he took full responsibility, he also confirmed that staff turnover at College Road contributed to the error.

Here’s the low-down. On Tuesday, April 26, Minister Hildegarde Naughton, with shovel in hand for the cameras, officially turned the sod to signify construction was beginning on the new Salmon Weir pedestrian bridge. The City Council was a part-funder of the project, but Councillors were not invited to the ceremony; a big break in tradition.

It’s the custom that the democratically elected representatives of the people are invited to the opening of envelopes. Sod-turnings are big business in the world of local politics and to snub councillors, by not inviting them, is akin to heresy in this game.

Procedure committee meeting minutes show that former Mayor, Frank Fahy (FG), chair of the Council’s Transport Strategic Policy Committee, requested an apology for not getting invited to the bridge bash. And McGrath duly obliged.

“I apologise to you that you were not invited to the event,” Brendan began. “I also apologise to all city councillors who did not receive an invitation. All councillors should have received an invitation to the sod-turning. I apologise for any annoyance that the omission, for which I take full responsibility, may have caused to you and other members of the City Council.”

The CE blamed Covid-19 and “significant turnover in staff” for “an outflow of corporate memory regarding events”.

Sod-turnings haven’t happened since before Covid-19, he said. And the Council hasn’t updated its procedures around such events since Covid-19. “As a direct consequence of staff turnover and the lack of an updated written procedure, councillors, erroneously, were not informed of the event.”

Offering again his “sincere apologies and regret for the omission”, he promised that “where such events take place in the future, councillors will be informed and will be invited to attend”.

The apology means the Salmon Weir saga is now water under the bridge. But some councillors remain miffed about another, separate snub. Elected members claimed not to have been invited to the unveiling of Patricia Forde’s poetry plaque on Church Lane/Market Street during the Cúirt International Festival of Literature in April.

They’re still waiting for the Council to say ‘sorry’ for that, ahem, oversight.

(Photo: Minister Hildegarde Naughton TD with City CE Brendan McGrath as she turned the sod on the Salmon Weir pedestrian bridge. The CE subsequently wrote to the chair of the Council’s Transport SPC Frank Fahy as he, along with other councillors, had not been invited to the event).

This is a shortened preview version of Bradley Bytes. See this week’s Galway City Tribune for more. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

CITY TRIBUNE

Cost of new Emergency Dept in Galway jumps to half a billion euro

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The projected cost for the new Emergency Department and maternity unit at University Hospital Galway (UHG) has now reached half a billion euro.

And the bureaucracy involved in getting it off the ground means its expected completion has been pushed back until 2027 at the earliest.

The project – described by the head of the Saolta University Healthcare Group, Tony Canavan, as the single largest infrastructural health project ever to be built in the West – still has some major hurdles to overcome before a shovel is put into the ground.

In an update at this week’s HSE Regional Health Forum West meeting, Councillor Declan McDonnell (IND) remarked that 2026 was the predicted opening for the new facility, yet the planning application had not even been submitted.

“Could it be ten more years?” he asked.

Councillors heard that a new Public Spending Code was brought in for projects predicted to cost over €100 million after the Saolta group had submitted a cost benefit analysis review which they were required to do under the old rules.

As a result of the change, management had to belatedly prepare a Strategic Assessment Report and a ‘Preliminary Business Case’ report. The first had been submitted to the national HSE last month and the latter was almost ready to send to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Assistant National Director of Estates in the HSE, Joe Hoare, said the final figure for the project would be “four to five times the €100m figure”.

(Photo: The temporary Emergency Dept under construction at the moment at UHG)

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see the May 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Street closures for outdoor dining in Galway challenged to An Bord Pleanála

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – An appeal has been lodged with An Bórd Pleanála challenging the legitimacy of road closures to facilitate hospitality businesses in Galway City this summer.

Galway City Council, following on from last year’s trial of on-street hospitality, introduced street closures again this year.

It is part of the Council’s ‘outdoor living’ strategy to encourage more footfall and to boost businesses – in particular pubs and restaurants – in the city centre.

The local authority has closed Small Crane, Raven Terrace, Dominick Street Upper, William Street West, Forster Street and Woodquay during certain hours in the evenings from May to October.

But a resident of Munster Avenue has referred the closures to An Bórd Pleanála and asked that it determine whether the closures constitute development and whether or not it is ‘exempted development’.

Exempted development does not require planning permission. If the Board finds that the closures are development and that the development was not ‘exempted’, then the street closures and the process they were introduced under, could be undermined and deemed to be contrary to planning laws.

An Bórd Pleanála confirmed the case had been referred to it for adjudication but it said it does not comment on ‘live’ cases. It is due to make a decision by September. The appellant who referred the case could not be contacted for comment.

Johnny Duggan, owner of Taylor’s Bar, member of West End Traders’, and chair of the Galway City Vintners’ Association, insisted the street closures were exempted development did not require planning permission and it was all above board.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see the May 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

 

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CITY TRIBUNE

Two tonnes of waste in canal – ‘the cost of outdoor living’ in Galway

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Two tonnes of waste removed from the Claddagh Basin and Eglinton Canal during a clean-up last weekend is the cost of the pandemic transition to outdoor lifestyles, according to a Galway City Council official.

“Unfortunately, there has been an environmental cost to the outdoor lifestyles adopted during the pandemic. From the recent clean-up, we took out a huge amount of pint glasses, beer and wine bottles, bikes and even shopping trolleys. We all need to do our bit and use the bins provided in the city and not throw anything into the watercourses,” said Tiarnan McCusker, Environmental Awareness Officer for the Council.

Mr McCusker said that during the pandemic there was a “huge increase” in litter across the country, including in Galway City.

In response to this, the Council installed more bins in locations across the city and increased the size of the bins.

Mr McCusker attributed the amount of waste to the groups gathering outdoors during the pandemic.

“A lot of people were out drinking and congregating in the canals and generating a huge amount of waste by throwing things into them,” he said.

Councillor Niall McNelis – who is also chair of the Galway Tidy Towns Committee – said: “We want to make sure that these areas are well cleaned, and it’s not just a matter of the magicians that come in every morning and clean up the city when were all asleep in bed and clean up the mess from the night before. It takes a speciality to go into the water to clean up what they’ve done, and they’ve done an amazing job.”

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see the May 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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