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Connacht Tribune

Broadband impasse hits rural business

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The continuing impasse on the roll-out of rural broadband is having a massive impact on thousands of homes and businesses in rural Ireland.

That’s according to Fianna Fáil TD for Galway and Roscommon Eugene Murphy, who said he is inundated with complaints amid the continuing delay in signing the contract for the National Broadband Plan (NBP).

“We have had nothing but delay after delay with hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses still waiting to be connected to the network,” he said.

The NBP aims to radically change the broadband landscape in Ireland. It intends to ensure that all citizens and businesses have access to high speed broadband no matter where they live or work.

Deputy Murphy brought the attention of the Minister of Communications, Denis Naughten, to the difficulties caused to businesses and communities in Galway and Roscommon by the lack of high speed broadband – particularly in view of the fact that such a high percentage of these counties fall under the scope of the State Intervention Area under the NBP.

The State Intervention Areas are places where there is no existing or planned commercial network and so the State intends on providing these areas with it.

Minister Naughten said in response that he was ‘acutely aware of the impact that a lack of reliable high speed broadband has on people throughout Ireland, including Galway and Roscommon’.

Deputy Murphy said that the lack of high speed broadband is having a serious impact on hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in rural Ireland waiting to be connected to the network and that he’s had a ‘number of complaints’.

“Minister Naughten has failed to give any indications as to when the contract for the NBP will be signed,” he said.

“Communities up and down the country simply don’t believe what the Government is saying about its broadband plans because every commitment to date has been broken,” he added.

He feels a lot of places, especially places outside Ballinasloe in Galway are “very badly affected.”

“It’s a serious issue,” he said, “it’s a huge issue that people are forgetting about because it’s not urban areas,” he said.

Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív has also addressed Minister Naughten on the same topic, asking him when the contract for the roll out of the NBP will be amended and when it is expected that work on it will take place.

Minister Naughten said that his department is in a “formal procurement process to engage a company who will roll-out a new high-speed broadband network in the State Intervention area.” Minister Naughten also said that the process was now in its final stages.

“Accessing quality broadband is a core requirement for small and medium sized businesses across the country,” said Deputy Murphy.

“The provision of quality broadband for rural Ireland is not a luxury, it is a matter of necessity for survival.

“Farmers cannot complete online applications for payments, schools are unable to access educational aids and businesses are unable to operate fully functional online services.

“Minister Naughten needs to announce a date for the contract to be signed so that the scheme can be rolled out to the areas which desperately need it most,” concluded Deputy Murphy.

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Connacht Tribune

Unauthorised developments in County Galway go unchecked for months

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The Planning Enforcement Section of Galway County Council is so understaffed that complaints of unauthorised developments are not being investigated for months, the Connacht Tribune has learned.

In one case, a complaint alleging a house was under construction in a picturesque and environmentally sensitive part of Conamara without planning permission was not investigated by the Council for at least six months.

And it can be revealed that there is a ‘large’ backlog of complaints of unauthorised developments in the county, which the Planning Enforcement Section at County Hall has blamed on staff shortages, according to correspondence obtained by the Connacht Tribune under Freedom of Information (FOI).

In response to repeated requests by a concerned member of the public to intervene and investigate an allegation of unauthorised development in an environmentally protected area of Conamara, the Council’s Planning Department indicated it was too stretched.

“Unfortunately, the planning enforcement section is experiencing a period of prolonged staff shortages and consequently there are a large number of files awaiting investigation/review,” it said.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Access Centre provides pathways to University of Galway for the disadvantaged

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Photo of Imelda Byrne

Great leaps have been made in recent years to make access to tertiary level education a realistic prospect for once marginalised groups in society.

With the deadline for CAO applications approaching next week, the Access Centre at the University of Galway is aiming to reach as many underrepresented groups as possible ahead of next academic term.

Head of the Access Centre, Imelda Byrne (pictured), said research has shown that those who once felt third level ‘wasn’t for them’ are increasing their presence at UG, and bringing a richness to the sector that had for a long time been missing.

In the five years up to 2021, there was a 100% increase in the number of students registering for the Disability Support Service at the university, while those coming from Further Education and Training courses in institutes like GTI had surged by 211% over four years.

“The message that we really need to get out there is that the CAO is not the only route into third level. There are a number of pathways,” says Imelda.

“There are loads of places set aside for students coming from a place of disadvantage,” she continues, whether it’s national schemes such as the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) for socio-economic disadvantage; or the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE); or the university’s own programme for mature students.

Those places are there to ensure those from all backgrounds get an opportunity to reach their education potential, tapping into hugely talented groups that once may have missed that opportunity.

“What we have seen is that when they get that opportunity, they do just as well if not better than other students,” continues Imelda.

For HEAR and DARE scheme applicants, and for those hoping to begin higher education as a mature student, next Wednesday’s CAO deadline is critically important.

But beyond the CAO applications, the Access Programme will open up in March to guide prospective students, whatever challenges they are facing, into third level.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway County Council ‘missing out on millions’ in derelict sites levies

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Photo of Cloonabinnia House

Galway County Council is missing out on millions of euro in untapped revenue due to a failure to compile a complete Derelict Sites Register.

That’s according to Galway East Sinn Féin representative, Louis O’Hara, who this week blasted the news that just three properties across the whole county are currently listed on the register.

As a result, Mr O’Hara said the Derelict Sites Levy was not being utilised effectively as countless crumbling properties remained unregistered – the levy amounts to 7% of the market value of the derelict property annually.

The former general election candidate said Galway County Council was ill-equipped to compile a proper list of derelict sites and called on Government to provide the necessary resources to tackle the scourge of dereliction across.

“There are still only three properties listed on Galway County Council’s Derelict Sites Register . . . anyone in Galway knows that this does not reflect the reality on the ground and more must be done to identify properties, and penalise owners who fail to maintain them,” said Mr O’Hara.

The situation was compounded by the fact that the Council failed to collect any of the levies due to them in 2021.

“This is deeply concerning when we know that dereliction is a blight on our communities. Derelict sites attract rats, anti-social behaviour and dumping, and are an eyesore in many of our local towns and villages.”

“The Derelict Sites Levy should be used as a tool by local authorities to raise revenue that can then be utilised to tackle dereliction, but they are not adequately resourced to identify and pursue these property owners,” said Mr O’Hara.

(Photo: The former Cloonabinnia House Hotel is on the Derelict Sites Register).
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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