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Connacht Tribune

Aran air impasse remains unresolved ahead of deadline

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The State plans to acquire Na Minna Airport in Indreabhán to ensure long-term air connectivity from the mainland to and from the Aran Islands – but there was still no breakthrough this week in the impasse between Aer Arann and Roinn na Gaeltachta over the airline’s threat to withdraw its services to the islands as of December 6.

Islanders had expected a satisfactory outcome this week but the legal teams of both sides in the negotiations remain deadlocked.

The SOS Committee for the Aran Islands Air Service met with Minister Seán Kyne and his officials in Na Forbacha on Monday, and they are due to meet again early next week.

The airline, controlled by Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh, will withdraw its four-years PSO contract that it signed two years ago unless there is a breakthrough in talks. An emergency service is being put in place, at the behest of islanders, that will result in flights operating out of Shannon Airport.

Minister Kyne, in a statement to the Connacht Tribune, said: “There is ongoing engagement between the legal team of Roinn na Gaeltachta and that of Aer Arann. The Roinn has expressed a wish to purchase Na Minna Airport and are happy to draw up the heads of an agreement to that effect. I understand that this is under consideration by the owners of Na Minne.

“My main concern is that there is a service to the main land for the Island communities. As it stands there is no available airport or air strip in Galway. Therefore, my officials have engaged with Shannon Airport with a view to that airport facilitating a service on a temporary basis from December 7 onwards. Consultants have been appointed to prepare contracts for such a temporary scheme. We continue to work to find a resolution to this issue and to ensure that there is a service for the islands.”

The plans to purchase Na Minna can also have a knock-on beneficial effect on two airstrips at Cleggan and Inishbofin which have lain idle since they were developed at a cost of €10 million eight years ago.

They have been the subject of controversy from the start – and even though they have yet to host flights, it is estimated that another million has been spent on their maintenance since then.

However, Galway West TD Eamon O Cuiv is now asking the Minister for Transport and the Minister for the Gaeltacht to fund an air service from Na Minna that would serve not only Inishbofin but also the Aran Islands and Cleggan airstrips. Deputy O Cuiv told The Connacht Tribune that improved transport to the islands was crucial to keep them alive.

The airstrip on ‘Bofin is used by the Sikorsky helicopter for emergencies – but not for the purpose for which they were intended.

However the airstrips cannot be brought into use until they boast terminal buildings and, while planning permission was granted for this purpose back in 2011, there has been no progress on these projects in the meantime.

It is estimated that it would take another €1 million to provide the airport terminals at the two locations which the Government is so far not willing to commit to.

A number of years ago, consultants were engaged to design the terminal buildings at both Cleggan and Inishbofin but they could not say when work would begin.

At the time, the Government said that the terminals would be ‘completed shortly’ but no work was undertaken. In fact the areas surrounding the two airstrips have become overgrown with weeds and ragwort.

It was also revealed that there were around 60 private small plane pilots across Ireland and Britain who would readily fly into Inishbofin if the airstrip was completed.

Connacht Tribune

Thousands on waiting list for student accommodation in Galway

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The student housing crisis is ‘the worst it’s ever been’ – with thousands on waiting lists for rooms; hundreds relying on hostels and friends’ sofas; and countless more facing deferral or dropping out altogether.

The President of NUI Galway’s Students’ Union, Róisín Nic Lochlainn, told the Connacht Tribune that students had been left in a desperate situation, as she called for mass protests to have the issue addressed.

According to Ms Nic Lochlainn, 3,000 students were currently on the waiting lists for NUIG’s on-campus accommodation – Corrib Village and Goldcrest Village – with around 500 in line for any bed that might come up in the Westwood.

“Gort na Coiribe and Dunaras have told us their waiting lists are well into the hundreds too. I’ve only got to contact two of the hostels around town, but Kinlay and Snoozles have almost 200 students between them already – and they’re expecting more.

“The first years haven’t even arrived yet, and on top of all that, you have people in B&Bs and staying on their friends’ sofas,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn.

Pressure on the student rental market had been building for years, she said, but it had gone off the cliff edge this year as a perfect storm was created by increased student numbers and reduced bed availability.

“[Minister for Further and Higher Education] Simon Harris created new places on courses this year and talked about maximum access to education . . . I’m not sure how that works for students who are homeless.

“Because there weren’t many students around last year, some private landlords might have moved on. There was no new purpose-built accommodation delivered, and then Simon Harris creates new places with no new beds,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn of the causes of this year’s problems.”

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Government asked to “do everything” to ensure Intel chooses Oranmore as base

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The Taoiseach and Tánaiste will be asked to do “everything in their power” to ensure technology giant Intel selects Oranmore as the location for its new microchip manufacturing plant – which could create 10,000 jobs and transform the West of Ireland economy.

The 540-acre site is owned by the Defence Forces and was selected by IDA Ireland as the preferred site for the company’s new EU ‘chip’ base.

BY STEPHEN CORRIGAN
AND DARA BRADLEY

Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany and Intel confirmed to Taoiseach Micheál Martin that the site is under consideration.

Galway East TD Ciarán Cannon said the development would be “transformative” and would be Intel’s largest microchip manufacturing plant in the world.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District this week, councillors backed a proposal from Cllr Liam Carroll to write to Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar to urge them to push forward the plan.

“This would be a game-changer, not just for Oranmore but for the whole of Connacht. Imagine 10,000 directly employed at some stage in the future, and the spinoff from that,” he said.

The Oranmore site is reported to have been selected ahead of three other locations in Ireland.

It is on Intel’s short-list for the proposed project, which would involve building eight factory modules on a single campus at the site off the M6 motorway, northeast of Oranmore, the newspaper reported.

The American multinational tech company has whittled down its short-list to 10 finalists; Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany.

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that if it proceeds, the new Oranmore ‘mega-fab’ would dwarf Intel’s existing site in Leixlip, which employs almost 5,000.

Galway East TD, Ciaran Cannon (FG) said: “It would put Galway on the map internationally as a place for high-tech investment and it would serve to rebalance the economic imbalance that exists in our country where all of the weight is on the east coast.

“The IDA has a formula where every one new job created in that industry creates about eight or nine more jobs downstream in terms of the supply chain and services. They’re saying 10,000 jobs on site – twice the population of Athenry – on one campus and then another 80-90,000 jobs off site. The figures are phenomenal, mind boggling,” said Deputy Cannon.

The demand for the facility arose during Covid-19 when the supply chain between Asia and Europe broke down.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Fraudsters ‘spoof’ Galway Garda Station’s phone number

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Fraudsters replicated the phone number of Galway Garda Station and used it to call a local woman to demand money.

Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Michael Walsh, said that the number ‘091 538000’ was somehow used by criminals who attempted to extract money – in the form of the online currency Bitcoin – from the victim.   Despite the phone call appearing to come from the Garda station at Mill Street, the woman became suspicious and reported it to Gardaí.

Sgt Walsh said it was the latest in a series of ‘spoofing’ phone calls to have occurred this year.

Spoofing is where fraudsters change the caller ID to ring unsuspecting members of the public to try to extract money or personal information off them.

He said that the number of spoofing incidents reported to Galway Gardaí has more than doubled in the past year.

“It is top of my agenda,” he said.

He pointed out that criminals can obtain a ‘ready to go’ phone and SIM card, relatively cheaply, and it was “very difficult” for Gardaí to trace the caller.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and more details on fraud figures in Galway, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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