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CITY TRIBUNE

Brendan bruised by 2020 ‘bailout’ blow

Dara Bradley

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Fianna Fáil’s Peter Keane, along with City Councillors Pauline O’Reilly and Colette Connolly, asked probing questions about extra funding for Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture

Bradley Bytes – A Sort of Political Column with Dara Bradley 

Brendan McGrath is used to getting his own way. The Chief Executive of Galway City Council can be very persuasive. Often, he has city councillors in the palm of his hand. Sure, last week didn’t he get a round of applause from councillors for executing a land deal. And that’s not the first time he’s been clapped.
But not this time. This time, in a small victory for local democracy, at Monday’s Special Council meeting, a majority of city councillors of different persuasions united to defer a decision to grant extra funding to Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture.
Brendan McGrath asked for €2.5 million but this time, councillors didn’t roll over for a belly-tickling. Instead they asked sensible, prudent questions about public money in the interest of openness and transparency. And Brendan, and Patricia Philbin, CEO of Galway 2020, were not great at answering them.
The pair fired out figures but one sticks out: €770,655, the amount of cold cash sponsorship that has been pledged to Galway 2020 from the private sector. Some €480,000 of it has been banked. A further €1.2m was pledged in “benefit in kind”. That’s nowhere near its €6.75m sponsorship target.
Another figure sticks out: €600,000 of the €2.5m ‘bailout’ requested will go towards salaries of Council staff seconded to Galway 2020. And – wait for it – according to Brendan, some of that €600,000 has already been spent, even though councillors haven’t yet approved it!
Brendan had nobody to blame but himself. He was on the back foot from the get-go. That was after a failed attempt to get this funding grant approved towards the end of the Ordinary meeting of the Council on the previous Monday. That got councillors’ ire up.
Brendan was unavoidably late arriving at last Monday’s Special Meeting because of a motorway pile-up, but there was no excuse for not having his homework done – especially given that he told councillors that he had taken a half-day the previous Friday, and hadn’t looked at his emails all weekend.
It was a schoolboy error not to have financial projections and details of the “additional” programme events the money is earmarked for. Brendan was perhaps expecting a rubberstamping; instead he got a bruising. He has another shot to get it right at the next meeting, February 9, two days after Galway 2020’s official launch.

For more Bradley Bytes about the general election campaign, see this week’s Galway City Tribune 

CITY TRIBUNE

Patients moved from Merlin ‘to bolster private numbers’

Enda Cunningham

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Merlin Park: Patients were moved to private hospital.

Health Minister Simon Harris has said he will ask the HSE why patients requiring rehab services were moved from Merlin Park to a private hospital, leaving the state-of-the-art facility idle.

He was asked in the Dáil last week why waiting lists were not being tackled, when capacity at the Galway Clinic and Bon Secours private hospitals is at 15-20%.

Last month, the State entered a deal to ‘take over’ the country’s private hospitals – which has come under criticism in the Dáil with claims of under-utilisation of facilities.

Galway West Deputy Catherine Connolly asked for full details of the agreement with the private hospitals – worth €115m per month nationally – and said nothing about it made sense to her.

“We have major waiting lists and our two private hospitals in Galway City are at 15% to 20% capacity. The hospital itself [UHG] – I must be wrong about this figure but it is what I have been told – was at 30% to 40% capacity as of May 15,” she said.

Department of Health figures for last week show a 39% ‘utilisation’ rate for the Bon Secours and 16% for Galway Clinic.

“The Minister has stood in the Chamber and told us he had to make such arrangements, and certainly I welcomed the narrative at the time that we were taking over the private hospitals to deal with a pandemic. However, we are not utilising them.

“Merlin Park has a state-of-the-art rehab service. It has a gym and all types of therapists but it is now lying idle because, under this deal, the Government transferred the patients from that wonderful facility to a private hospital.

“It took the therapists and patients into the private hospital to allow them to get up to 15% or 20% capacity. It sent the nurses into the public system and left the system empty at Merlin Park, and that is to mention only one service.

“None of the way this has been done makes sense to me. Surely anybody with a bit of sense would know that when the terms and the heads of agreement were signed, it should have allowed for change.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Barriers set to halt groups drinking at quayside

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Access to the green quayside areas off Wolfe Tone Bridge will be blocked from today to prevent large groups of people drinking over the Bank Holiday weekend.

And the message from Garda Chief Superintendent Tom Curley is – enjoy the glorious weekend of weather that’s in store, but diligently maintain the two-metre social distancing rule and don’t consume booze in public areas.

“We are not killjoys and the lovely weather is a boost to everyone’s spirits. People will enjoy the outdoors this weekend but it’s illegal to consume alcohol in public areas and we will be enforcing that bylaw.

“In this kind of weather, there will inevitably be groups of people congregating in outdoor areas – but the message is simple and crystal clear: at all times maintain the two-metre social distancing guideline,” Chief Supt Curley told the Galway City Tribune.

On Tuesday evening last, Gardaí did enforce a dispersal procedure in the Spanish Arch/Claddagh Quay area of the city, after about 200 young people had gathered there, many of them consuming alcohol. They continued to patrol the area yesterday.

A spokesperson for Galway City Council confirmed yesterday that a green area on the Claddagh Quay side of the river – where large groups of young people had gathered this week – would be closed off to the public, probably from today (Friday).
This is a shortened preview version of this article. Please remember that without advertising revenue and people buying and subscribing to our newspapers, this website would not exist. You can read the full article by buying a digital edition of this week’s Galway City Tribune HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Westwood owners plan tourist accommodation usage

Enda Cunningham

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The Westwood student accommodation complex site this week.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The owners of the new Westwood student accommodation in Newcastle are planning to use part of the complex for tourist and business traveller accommodation “in light of the current health pandemic”.

NTM ROI Seed Capital is currently building the five apartment blocks off the N59 and has sought a determination from An Bord Pleanála on whether it would need to apply for planning permission to allow “partial occupation for tourist and visitor use in the academic year from September 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021”.

Under the existing planning permission, the development “shall only be occupied as student accommodation . . . and shall not be used for any other purpose without a prior grant of planning permission for a change of use”.

However, the company has drawn up a contingency plan in the event that construction may not be completed for the coming academic year.

The plan involves allowing tourists and other ‘non-student’ users to be accommodated in the complex – An Bord Pleanála has been asked to determine whether the change would be a ‘material alteration’ of the planning approval or not.

If it is ruled a material alteration, the Board can then invite submissions from members of the public before it decides on whether to approve or reject it.

Already, local residents – who strongly objected to the entire development during the planning process – have expressed concerns about parking issues which they believe would arise if the Westwood is used for tourist use.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. Please remember that without advertising revenue and people buying and subscribing to our newspapers, this website would not exist. You can read the full article by buying a digital edition of this week’s Galway City Tribune HERE.

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