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Connacht Tribune

Call for levy on vacant shop units

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New research has shown that one fifth of all commercial units in Tuam and Loughrea are lying empty – prompting renewed calls for a levy to be imposed on such properties.

At the moment, 21.6% of commercial units in Tuam are vacant – that’s a 1.3% disimprovement on a year ago, while in Loughrea, the figure is 18.2% (an improvement of just under 1%).

The stark figures are revealed in a new report from GeoDirectory (a joint service from An Post and Ordnance Survey Ireland) and EY-DKM Economic Consultants.

Tuam area councillor Pete Roche said the situation has been discussed by a sub-committee of Galway County Council and it was learned that the owners of these properties have no interest in leasing them out as it would not be financially      viable for them.

“At the moment, because they are unoccupied, the Council is not getting any commercial rates for these properties so there should be some mechanism in place to encourage the owners to lease them out – such as a levy on these vacant premises.

“Vacant business premises are a rot and a blight on any town centre. Some of them cannot be leased but more often than not it is an unwillingness on the part of the owners to let them and this has to be addressed,” he said.

The report from GeoDirectory, which examines commercial vacancy rates across the country, found that the number of empty business premises in Tuam is the highest in the county at 21.3%.

The research looked at Galway City, Tuam and Loughrea and the average county vacancy rate is 16.2%, unchanged from last year. The city rate is 16.3%, down from 16.7% a year ago.

Other location such as Ballinasloe, Athenry, Gort, Oughterard and Clifden – which also have significant vacancy rates – were not part of this particular survey.

A report presented to the County Council by a senior planner last year showed that Ballinasloe had 31 empty premises which represented 22% of the number of commercial properties in the town.

Cllr Roche said he will be requesting the Galway County Council finance sub-committee to convene a meeting to discuss the high level of vacant commercial properties and that an internal survey be conducted.

“The bottom line is that we have to force the owners of these properties to lease them out rather than sitting on dilapidated buildings and ruining the image of our towns,” he added.

In the GeoDirectory report, Tuam has the fifth highest vacancy rate in the province behind Ballina (22.9%), Sligo (22.5%). Boyle (21.6%) and Tubbercurry (21.4%).

The repot shows that of the 9,414 occupied properties in the city and county, around half are involved in service; 23.4% in retail and wholesale; 9.1% on health; 5.3% in construction; 4.6 in industry; 4.8% in education; 2.6% in financial services and 1.9% in public administration.

The GeoDirectory figures are recorded by 5,600 An Post delivery staff working with experts from Ordnance Survey Ireland. The database is used by many different companies and organisations across a diverse range of applications.

Connacht Tribune

Just the spirit

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Gareth and Michelle McAllister pictured at the old mill in Ahascragh where the new whiskey and gin distillery will be estabished. Photos: Gerry Stronge.

A former grain mill in the village of Ahascragh is being converted into a distillery thanks to Gareth and Michelle McAllister who have big plans to meet growing demand for craft Irish whiskey and gin in the Far East as well as closer to home. They are also developing a visitor centre in the distillery and are currently offering people a chance to invest in their company as DECLAN TIERNEY learns.

A product that will be developed in the East Galway village of Ahascragh will find its way Asia and various other parts of the world following a courageous initiative by a couple who aim to become huge names in the distillery industry.

Given their thirst for the distilling of craft whiskey and gin, Dublin couple Gareth and Michelle McAllister are set to put the tiny village on the international map by transforming an old corn mill into a major employer as well as a tourist attraction as part of a €10 million investment.

Works have already started on giving the old mill, previously an ivy-clad eyesore in the village, a brand-new look and the couple hope to go into full production by the end of next year – ready for the 2022 Christmas market.

Employment has already commenced in the marketing and administration end of the distillery and when it’s in full production, Gareth and Michelle will create around 40 new jobs in the village.

They will be producing two whiskey products and one gin when they’re at full capacity but already they are bottling a single malt under their own product name. This is currently on the market . . . and is proving particularly popular, despite limited availability at the moment.

The distillery is a labour of love for Gareth, a chemical engineer by profession, and Michelle who worked as a psychologist but is now operating the café in Ahascragh that they opened earlier this year to coincide with the launch of the distillery.

Both worked in China for seven years in different roles and while there, they discovered that there was a big demand for Irish-made spirits. They are now determined to explore this particular niche in the market as well as developing outlets across Europe and in the market here at home.

“This has been foremost in our plans and aspirations for some considerable time,” explained Gareth. “Since our time in Asia and Singapore we discovered that Irish spirits were a much sought-after product. As part of my training as a chemical engineer, distilling formed part of this.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Fascinating final in store but St Thomas’ hold most of the aces

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Salthill/Knocknacarra's Niall McGauran on the attack against Luke Murray of Dunmore MacHales during Saturday's County U19 football A final at Tuam Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

ST Thomas’ will be attempting to achieve what has proven beyond three great Galway club hurling teams over the past 30 years when targeting a four-in-a-row of senior titles at Pearse Stadium on Sunday. During their respective periods of dominance Sarsfields, Athenry and Portumna were nearly untouchable on their best days, but winning four consecutive county senior hurling championships proved a bridge too far for each of these former powers.

Athenry went the closest of them all. Heading to Duggan Park in October 2001 – the last senior final to be played in Ballinasloe – Pat Nally’s troops stood 60 minutes away from claiming a fourth title on the trot. The red-hot favourites came mightily close too, only losing by a point (0-18 to 2-11) to a Clarinbridge outfit winning their first ever title.

Portumna pulled off the title hat-trick in 2009, but didn’t make it back to the following year’s final, and while Sarsfields – under Michael Conneely – triumphed in 1992, ’93 and ’95, they came unstuck in the 1994 decider when falling to Athenry (2-6 to 0-9). These three clubs were outstanding ambassadors for Galway club hurling, but there was no four-in-a row for any of them.

It underlines how difficult the achievement is and we must go back to the Turloughmore team of the sixties for a club to enjoy such an extended stranglehold on the county championship. They ended up winning six titles on the trot, but have only won the one since – in 1985 when overcoming Killimordaly (1-14 to 1-4) at Pearse Stadium.

Given that St Thomas’ are only one hour away from a fourth consecutive title, it’s curious that they are not yet held in the same awe as Sarsfields, Athenry or Portumna when they were at the peak of their powers. Perhaps, their lone All-Ireland club success up to now may have some influence in this regard.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

 

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Connacht Tribune

Students see red over in-person exams

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NUIG.

NUI Galway has moved this week to deny accusations that it is ‘playing Russian Roulette’ with students’ wellbeing by proceeding with in-person exams.

The Students’ Union blasted the university for its decision to forge ahead with examinations in exam halls amid sky-rocketing Covid-19 cases.

President of the SU, Róisín Nic Lochlainn, slammed college authorities for what she described as a ‘reckless attitude to students’ health and wellbeing’.

“The stubborn refusal by university management is playing Russian Roulette with the health of students and their families.

“We are talking about forcing people to attend multiple spreader-events right before they go home to their families for Christmas. This is reckless and irresponsible from university management, particularly when there is a tried and trusted alternative available,” said the student leader.

In-person exams for the vast majority of students were cancelled last year as the university remained closed throughout the most stringent Covid-19 restrictions.

However, students have been back attending lectures since September and NUIG plans to proceed with normal exams for the first time since Summer 2019 – albeit with a number of risk mitigating measures in place.

The Connacht Tribune has learned that following applications by in excess of 500 students for ‘reasonable accommodation’ – where certified conditions that increase the risk of adverse reaction to Covid infection – there will be 1,600 instances where exams will be sat in individual rooms.

It is understood that there are 16 exam venues this year – a much greater number than in previous years – and that additional cleaning measures including ‘air fogging’ will be carried out to sanitise large venues.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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