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Connacht Tribune

Bay energy test site objectors up in arms over ‘flawed’ bid

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Objectors have cast doubt on the legality of the foreshore lease application for a planned test site off the coast of An Spidéal.

Residents living in the seaside village in South Connemara have appealed to the authorities to “urgently investigate” why certain key environmental documents were not included in the Marine Institute’s application.

A recently formed environmental group in Spiddal, 1Guth Comhshaoil, has questioned whether the foreshore application has complied with Irish and European law.

The group has written to a whole host of organisations and state agencies, including Inland Fisheries Ireland and National Parks and Wildlife Service, and to government departments, demanding answers.

“There is no Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or Natura Impact Statement (NIS) included with this foreshore lease application. There is no statutory environmental assessment of the development. There is no ecological impact assessment of the project,” the group said, in letters to various organisations.

Campaigners believe these omissions from the application make it a “flawed” foreshore lease application, and claim that the omission of and EIS and NIS “undoubtedly bring into question the legality of the Minister’s final determination regarding this application.”

They argue that the “legality of the whole application process must surely be in doubt” due to the “irregularities”.

The group has heaped pressure on local politicians, too, and has written to Seán Kyne, the Galway West TD, and Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs and Natural Resources.

In it, they have demanded answers from Minister Kyne, as to why some organisations within his remit have failed to answers questions about “serious concerns” the group has over the process.

“How is it possible that your department’s officials in Inland Fisheries Ireland, failed to advise Minister Simon Coveney that a statutory environmental assessment would be necessary in order to comply with environmental legislation, considering the various possible negative environmental impacts outlined in their submission on the above mentioned foreshore lease application?

“Can you please confirm that Minister Simon Coveney and his department’s officials, have been made aware of the need for a statutory environmental assessment in order to comply with European legislation,” Minister Kyne was asked.

The lack of an NIS was confirmed on February 21 by an official in Minister Simon Coveney’s department.

The official confirmed that not only was there no NIS with the application, but that the Appropriate Assessment screening process “has not been completed yet”.

The Marine institute’s original application stated it was seeking permission to deploy three turbines of 60 metres in height.

However, it subsequently corrected its application and insisted the “devices” will be half that height.

“A prototype floating wind turbine being tested on the site could have a blade tip at maximum 35m above sea level while wave energy converters would be up to 5m above sea level,” it said. It has applied for a 35-years lease, and the wind turbines will be on site “intermittently”.

The application states that there will be a limit of three ocean energy test devices deployed at any one time for a period of testing “no greater than 18 months”.

A total of 557 submissions were lodged as part of the public consultation on the Galway Bay marine and renewable test energy site.

Among the concerns raised, which are summarised by the authorities, include: incorrect information, vague information about economic benefits, misleading information, a conflict of interest and lack of impartiality of Minister Simon Coveney, lack of transparency, no Environmental Impact Statement,  inadequate information about the impact the site will have on the environment, confusion over whether it will be connected to the national grid, the length of the 35-years lease is too long, it is too close to the shoreline, it will create noise pollution, it will cause general pollution, there was insufficient consultation with the public, there was a lack of information during the consultation process, it will impact on tourism along the Wild Atlantic Way, and it poses risks to birds, marine mammals, fish and general wildlife.

Minister Coveney will be advised by the Marine Vetting Licensing Committee, and will then make a decision on the application.

Connacht Tribune

Community fights back on hospital ‘downgrade by stealth’

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Raw emotion, sadness and some anger filled the air at Clifden Town Hall on Sky Road last Sunday afternoon as a shaken community gave honest, personal accounts of the impact the closure by stealth of Clifden District Hospital would have on the people of North Connemara.

The public meeting was hastily organised after fears emerged on Friday that the HSE may transfer respite services from Clifden to Merlin Park Hospital, 50-plus miles away in Galway City.

Families were told their loved ones in Clifden Hospital may have to move home, or go to Merlin Park the following Monday, due to ‘issues with staffing’.

An axe has hung over Clifden Hospital for some years, but this latest move stirred the community to fight back to retain services locally.

Galway County Councillor Eileen Mannion (FG), who organised the public meeting with Senator Sean Kyne, said 625 people signed the attendance sheets and an estimated 650 people attended.

“The community effort spreading the word was unbelievable; the turnout was unbelievable,” she said.

“It wasn’t just anger; it was raw emotion in the room. Sadness. Family members spoke about the calls they got on Friday. The feeling that their elderly person was being rejected; that they weren’t being respected.

“One man stood up, three years waiting for respite care for a family member, and then to be told after a few days in there that she’d have to be taken home or to Merlin Park.

“We’re 50 miles from Galway. If there’s no traffic you might get to the outskirts in an hour but with the traffic in Galway, you could be another hour to get to Merlin Park. Not everyone has transport either and they’ve to rely on buses.

“A young woman stood up at the meeting and said her dad was dying in Galway. And she had to go to Saint Vincent de Paul to get money to pay for a B&B so that the family would be close to him when the end came. People gave their personal stories, and it was just heart-breaking.”

(Photo by Carmel Lyden: Teresa Conneely from Roundstone addresses people at the public meeting in Clifden Town Hall).

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

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Connacht Tribune

Pilgrim took to his feet to realise dream!

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Clifden man Breandan O Scanaill, who is on a pilgrimage from his home town of Clifden to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, received a Mayoral welcome and a memorial crest when he arrived at the Asturian town of Navia last week.

Breandan, whose walk from his home outside Clifden to the reputed burial place of St James in Santiago, began in April, was walking through Navia in Spain when a local man came over to chat to him.

“He asked me about my journey and was interested in the fact that an Irish man had turned up in the town,” says Breandan, who had been admiring the Chapel of San Roque at the time.

The local man outlined the history of the building and the town to Breandan and they began chatting more generally about history and architecture – topics dear to the pilgrim’s heart.

Breandán’s new friend introduced himself as the Mayor of Navia, lgnacio Garcia Palacios, who invited the visitor from Clifden to visit the Town Hall.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Local Property Tax rate to stay unchanged despite Council chief’s plea

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Councillors have agreed to keep the Local Property Tax (LPT) rate unchanged – despite pleas from management that Galway County Council is predicted to spend at least €22 million more than it brings in for the next two years.

County Chief Executive Jim Cullen had recommended an increase of 15% on the LPT rate for 2023 and 2024 – amounting to €2.1m extra in the coffers annually – which would bolster its case when it came to pleading for a greater share of funding from central government.

In an estimation of income and expenditure for the Council, taking into account “unavoidable” expenditure and income changes set to hit, the Council would run a deficit of €9.04m in 2023 and 13.2m in 2024 – well over €22m unless there was a change in finances.

“I am hopeful of an uplift in baseline [funding] levels . . . we cannot continue to ignore the fact that other councils have raised LPT and their citizens enjoy a better standard of services that in Galway,” he stressed.

He told a meeting this week that €9m would be needed to maintain services next year at the same level as 2022. This was due to significant cost increases given that inflation is reaching 9.6% currently. Pensions, gratuities and payroll increases from the national pay agreement, increments and additional staff were all adding to bigger outgoings.

Without that extra funding, it will be necessary to reduce spending by that amount with a negative impact on service and staffing levels, he said.

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

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