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Connacht Tribune

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

Dara Bradley

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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

First pub in County Galway to be convicted over Covid breach

Declan Tierney

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A County Galway publican has become the first in the county convicted of breaching Covid-19 regulations after 70 customers were found on his premises during the partial lockdown last year.

Tuam Court was told that when the Gardaí entered the premises at Tierney’s of Foxhall, there was very little social distancing – and no food being served, as was the requirement at the time.

Proprietor Tom Kelly was prosecuted for the breach of Covid-19 regulations which carries a maximum penalty of €5,000.

After Judge James Faughnan was informed that it was an extremely large premises in rural North Galway, he remarked that when so many people are allowed into a pub, no matter how big, it is extremely difficult to control them.

Prosecuting Sergeant Christy Browne explained that several months ago there had been opposition for the renewal of the publican’s licence on the grounds of alleged breaches of Covid regulations.

He said that, on August 30 last, there were 70 people on the premises, at a time during the pandemic when there was the requirement to purchase a €9 meal before being served a drink.

Sergeant Browne explained that when the premises was inspected, there was no social distancing, there was no food being served and no evidence of food receipts.

Defending solicitor Gearoid Geraghty said that his client ran a huge premises that can accommodate 227 customers and added that his customers were spread among three separate sections of the premises.

While there have been objections to the renewal of publicans’ licences by the Gardaí for breaches of the guidelines, this was the first criminal prosecution that has taken place in County Galway.

Tom Kelly with an address of Corohan, Tuam, the proprietor of Tierney’s of Foxhall, was charged with breaching a regulation to prevent, limit, minimise or slow the spread of Covid-19. It relates to an alleged breach that occurred on August 30 last year.

The same defendant had been the subject of an objection to his licence by Garda Inspector John Dunne a number of months ago. He was ordered to pay €500 towards a charity at the time.

The Inspector had opposed the renewal of the licences for what he said were breaches of Covid guidelines during the course of inspections carried out when the situation was relaxed during the course of 2020.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway recycling company run by Travellers fronts national campaign

Denise McNamara

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Richard McDonagh and Edward Ward working at the Bounce Back Recycling social enterprise, based in Ballybane, and operating nationwide.

A Galway company which employs Travellers to recycle mattresses and wooden furniture has been picked to front a national campaign urging the public to support their local social enterprises which are seen as crucial in the post-Covid recovery.
Bounce Back Recycling has this month also been nominated for top green company in the country.
Social enterprises are businesses that operate mainly to improve people’s lives and achieve a social or environmental impact. While they trade in goods and services like other businesses, the difference is they reinvest their profits to achieve core social objectives.
Bounce Back Recycling provides a mattress and furniture recycling service to domestic and commercial clients as well as several local authorities from its base in Ballybane.
There are currently twelve members of the Traveller community who manage and run the social enterprise, with plans to employ a further four workers as it expands.
Workers deconstruct the mattresses and furniture by hand, a labour intensive and time-consuming process.
The steel from mattresses is sold on to a local steel recycling company while the foam is sent to a UK company to make carpet underlay. The textile or covering is compressed and sent to landfill.
Manager Martin Ward explains that between 75 and 80 per cent of the mattress is recycled.
Mattresses that normally end up in the landfill only start to decompose after 15 years – elements such as polyurethane foam and steel springs can take up to 100 years and 50 years respectively to break down.
Since 2017, the company has diverted 50,000 mattresses from landfill.
“In Galway we dispose of 30,000 mattresses annually and they’re going to landfill through a waste company or are illegally dumped. We identified a gap in the market for Connacht and Ulster as there was nobody recycling mattresses here,” he reveals.
The company received funding to set up but is dependent on users to cover ongoing costs such as wages.
It started off with 3,000 items in its first year collecting from around Galway. Last year it processed 20,000 pieces, operating across ten counties, with plans to expand nationwide. They are also preparing to open a unit in Sandy Road where they will upcycle and reupholster furniture and sell directly to the public.
“We’re happy to be part of this ‘The Future is Social’ campaign by Rethink Ireland to support social enterprises which deliver so many other positive impacts for every euro spent.
“Everyone is much more aware of doing their bit for the environment and we hope to be recycling 100,000 items by 2025,” says Martin.
Bounce Back Recycling charges between €15 and €25 for a mattress and €10 for collection.
“We run a collection service and only charge one delivery fee, regardless if it’s one or ten items. We’ve a big demand in Connemara because there is no civic amenity site so people who want to do the right thing for the environment don’t have any access to a facility.”
Bounce Back Recycling has been nominated as a finalist in the Green NGO (Non Government Organisation) of the Year.
It is among 40 companies which have received money from the Social Enterprise Development Fund. Nationally they employ 500 people, mainly from minority groups, generating €22 million in turnover.
The ‘Future is social’ campaign will provide regional webinars, information and resources about social enterprises.

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Connacht Tribune

Headford’s plans for public park and gardens

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Michael Harte aged 6, very excited by the idea of an exciting new park and gardens proposed for Headford town centre. Photo: Aengus McMahon

Plans to create a new public park and gardens in the heart of Headford were unveiled this week.

Headford Community Garden and Headford Men’s Shed have submitted a proposal to the Headford Development Association to create the park on the lands adjacent to their gardens in Balrickard.

A rewilded, multi-habitat park would transform outdoor living in the town and provide a much-needed greenspace that would be accessible to all – offering a relaxing setting for all ages and abilities.

The promoters also hope that the project would act as a model for other Irish towns, with Headford becoming a leading example of how parkland and greenspace can help to revitalise rural settlements.

“This proposal for a park and gardens in Headford will create a quiet natural space in the centre of town for all to access and enjoy. It is a project that will benefit the people and the businesses of the town and surrounding areas for generations to come,” said Aengus McMahon, spokesperson for Headford Park and Gardens.

Within the park the emphasis will be on biodiversity; the planting of native trees, introduction of biodiverse meadow spaces with mown paths, walking trails, picnic and play areas.

The existing gardens and new parkland will serve as an outdoor classroom for use by local schools.

There are existing plans for Presentation College Headord’s Seomra Seoda to utilise Headford Community Garden for outdoor classes. The park will be fully inclusive and accessible to all.

The space will also include an outdoor cultural space for concerts, theatre shows and special events.

“During the Covid lockdowns, it was our walks in the rural countryside and wild landscapes that provided therapy for both mind and body,” said Brendan Smith of the Galway National Park City initiative.

“So, in a post Covid world it is important that, for the health of human society and of the planet, we integrate green and blue spaces into the fabric of our cities, towns and villages,” he added.

Recently Galway’s County Councillors unanimously supported a proposal to fund a feasibility study to examine the development potential of a cycleway and greenway from the Galway city to Headford. The park would be the perfect landing site for a future greenway.

Groups already sharing the existing garden area include Tidy Towns, environmental groups, Scouts, Headford Lace Project, Yarn Bombers, Meals on Wheels and Ability West.

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