Galway’s bid to become the European Capital of Culture in 2020 represents an opportunity for us to come together as a community – to reflect on the uniqueness of our Galway culture and the richness, vitality and diversity of our shared European culture.
More excitingly, this bid represents an opportunity for us to collectively re-imagine and work together to create a better, more vibrant and creative Galway of the future.
This bid is about and involves all of us. It’s about the way we work, play, laugh, sing, create, learn and write. It is about who we are as people, what we do and what we value. It is about the type of Galway we want to be in the future. Over the past two months people have been gathering at ‘Speak Outs ‘and public meetings all over the city and county to share their inspiring ideas, visions, projects and initiatives.
What has unfolded at these meet-ups has been truly inspiring to witness and be part of. Rarely, are we presented with such an opportunity to collectively come together to openly discuss who we are as a people and what is unique or special about the way we live our lives. The Speak Outs and ideas have been almost exclusively positive, with a focus on transformation, hope and the possibility of what could be.
As the weeks have progressed, it has become more and more obvious that there is an appetite in Galway to do something really special.
Every session and Speak Out brings a renewed vigour to the belief that Galway is starting out on the path of something very significant and, regardless of whether we are awarded the title of European Capital of Culture, this process will lead to something truly transformational for our city and county.
The magic of what is happening around the county is spectacular in its simplicity and profound in its possibility. The process is bringing people together from disparate and disconnected groups, backgrounds and organisations under a common goal or ambition of making Galway the European Capital of Culture.
The message that Galway is sending out to Europe is that we are starting now! We are starting now and when it comes to the decision being made later this year this process will be so alive and so energetic that something special is going to happen in this county regardless of the decision that is made.
The approach and philosophy that is driving Galway’s bid is one that is wildly inclusive and participatory. Over the past three weeks alone, over 380 people have signed up to get involved in the Galway 2020 team.
This group of people came together on Wednesday to form self-organising groups that will work together on organising events, initiating projects and promoting Galway’s bid to become the European Capital of Culture.
The first of these many team meet-ups will take place in the new Galway 2020 community hub which is located in the Cornstore on Middle Street. The new community hub will become the central meeting point and home for the collective dreaming, brainstorming, planning and creating that will take place over the coming months.
Over the coming weeks and months, we are encouraging as many groups, organisations and individuals in Galway to actively get involved in the bid. The Galway 2020 team have created a new online platform that will enable people from all over Galway to upload, organise and promote their own events, projects and initiatives.
The new platform will also enable people who are interested in getting involved in interesting projects or events to sign-up and help make them a reality.
The message we are sending out to everyone, in everything we do is that this bid belongs to each and every one of us. This bid is as much about food, sport, language and innovation as it is about visual art, music or dance.
Challenges and opportunities
One of the greatest challenges for a county that is perched on the geographical periphery of Europe is to constantly remind ourselves of the European dimension to this project.
How can Galway in its own unique way celebrate our shared European heritage and culture? How can we show our European neighbours a better way or a new model?
How can we use our creativity to challenge, highlight and transform the biggest European issues of our time?
As an island nation, we are disconnected physically from our European family and in many ways a similar non-physical disconnect has developed between the people of our city and county.
How can Galway’s bid to become the European Capital of Culture become a uniting force not only for Europe but for the county of Galway itself?
In the coming weeks the Galway 2020 team will be launching a campaign to encourage people to self-organise and create their own Galway 2020 events throughout the county.
We are hoping to kick start a tidal wave of projects and events in Galway which will become living and breathing examples of the ideals of Galway’s new story.
The Galway 2020 project team are looking for projects and events which are bold, collaborative, inclusive, open, European and outward looking.
Together we can make this special. Together we can make this happen.
To sign-up to learn more, stay in touch or get involved, register at galway2020.ie and let your mind and heart run free.
Galway City Council turns down Mad Yolk Farm site
An application to retain farming-related development on a site in Roscam has been turned down by Galway City Council.
The local authority has refused to grant retention permission to applicant Brian Dilleen for subsurface piping to be used for agricultural irrigation at ‘Mad Yolk Farm’ on Rosshill Road.
It also refused permission for the retention of a bore-hole well, water pump and concrete plinth; and two water holding tanks for 6,500 litres; and other associated site works.
In its written decision, the Planning Department at City Hall said: “The proposed development, would if permitted, facilitate the use of the site for the provision of sixty 15.5m high seed beds, which have been deemed by the planning authority not to be exempted development.
“Therefore a grant of permission for the proposed development would facilitate the unauthorised development and usage on the site, contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”
The site has been the subject of enforcement action by the local authority.
A lengthy Appropriate Assessment Screening report, submitted with the planning application, concluded “beyond reasonable scientific doubt, in view of the best scientific knowledge, on the basis of objective information and in light of the conservation objectives of the relevant European sites, that the proposed retention and development, individually or in combination with other plans and projects, has not and will not have a significant effect on any European site”.
A borehole Impact Assessment Report concluded that the proposed retention development “on the hydraulic properties of the aquifer is considered negligible”.
It said that there was “no potential for significant effects on water quality, groundwater dependent habitats or species associated with any European site”.
Six objections were lodged by neighbours, including one from the Roshill/Roscam Residents Association, which argued the Further Information submitted by the applicant did “little to allay our concerns” about the impact of the development on an “extremely sensitive site”.
The applicant has until June 29 to appeal the decision to An Bórd Pleanála.
NUIG student accommodation firm records loss
The property company which operates student accommodation on behalf of NUI Galway recorded a €3.4 million increase in turnover in 2019.
However, Atalia Student Residences DAC (Designated Activity Company), which is owned by the university, recorded a loss for the year of €6,300.
Accounts for the company for the year ended August 31, 2019, show that while there was a loss, retained profits are at more than €1.6 million. The accounts are the most up to date available from the Companies Registration Office.
The previous year, the company made a profit of more than €460,000.
Atalia Student Residences operates the 764-bed Corrib Village apartment complex and the 429-bed Goldcrest Village.
The figures show that the company’s overall turnover jumped by 52% – from €6.4m to €9.8m.
Turnover for accommodation services was up from €5.2m to €8.4m; and from conferences and events was up from €850,000 to €1.1m. Turnover from shops was down from almost €328,000 to €290,000.
Outside of the academic year, both complexes are used as accommodation for conference delegates, while Corrib Village is also used for short-term holiday lets.
The accounts show fixed assets – including fixtures and fittings, plant and machinery and office equipment – valued at €1.5m. Its current assets were valued at more than €7m, including ‘cash at bank and in hand’ of almost €6.9m (up from €5.6m last year).
The company owed creditors €6.9m, including €5.2m in deferred income.
It employed 38 people (which includes its five directors) last year, up from 31 the previous year.
As well as operating the student accommodation complexes, the company also markets conference facilities and services on behalf of the university.
It pays rent to NUIG but the figure is not included in the company accounts. In 2018, the rent figure was just over €2.25m.
In Corrib Village, a single bedroom with a private en suite for the academic year costs €5,950. For Goldcrest Village, the figure is €6,760.
Call for two-way cycling under Galway City outdoor dining plan
Bike users want the local authority to examine the introduction of two-way cycling on one-way city centre streets.
Galway Cycling Campaign has again called for cycling to be allowed both ways. It comes as Galway City Council prepares to cordon-off parts of city centre streets to traffic, and make Dominick Street Lower one-way, to facilitate outdoor dining.
The cycling organisation said that the proposed pedestrianisation plan at the Small Crane, and the one-way system on Dominick Street, will result in lengthy diversions for people on bikes.
It has pointed out that school children and their guardians who cycle along Raleigh Row, and turn right towards Sea Road, will probably continue to do so even when the Small Crane is cordoned off to traffic, because the alternative route – via Henry Street – is too long a detour.
Similarly, it has been suggested that food-delivery services on bikes are unlikely to go the ‘long way round’ via Mill Street and New Road to get from Bridge Mills to restaurants on Dominick Street and would be tempted to cycle the ‘wrong way’ down the proposed one-way street or on the footpath.
Shane Foran, committee member of Galway Cycling Campaign, said now would be an ideal time to introduce two-way cycling on some one-way streets.
“It’s not controversial,” insisted Mr Foran. “It’s a general principle in other countries, if you are putting in new traffic arrangements, you would try and keep access for people on bikes.”
The regulation is contained in the National Cycle Policy Framework 2009; and a specific objective was contained in two of the most recent previous City Development Plans.
He said a former minister and Galway West TD, the late Bobby Molloy, had the vision to change the legislation in the late 1990s – but it hasn’t yet been embraced here.
“Bobby Molloy, who couldn’t be classed as an eco warrior, changed the law in 1998, so that it is available to local authorities to put up a sign granting an exemption from restrictions for people cycling on one-way streets.
“The road stays one-way for cars, and two ways for bicycles. Clearly that’s not going to be a sensible to do everywhere, like Merchants’ Road. In those situations, you might need a cycle track or lane to segregate people from traffic.
“But if it’s a low traffic street, with low speeds or relatively lower volumes of cars, then it should be possible for people on bicycles to cycle in both directions and still have it one-way for cars, without it being a major safety issue. It works in other countries,” said Mr Foran.