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CITY TRIBUNE

Campaign to make Galway one of first National Park Cities

Stephen Corrigan

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The campaign to secure National Park City status for Galway kicked off in earnest on last week, with a launch celebrating the raft of ecological and environmental projects already underway across the city and county.

Spearheaded by veteran environmental campaigner Brendan Smith, this initiative seeks to make Galway one of the first national park cities in the world – something Brendan said couldn’t be more timely as the world faces down the barrel of environmental destruction.

“The world has become disconnected with nature. We have to work together to save ourselves, to save nature and to save the planet,” said Mr Smith.

Launched at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics at NUI Galway, Mr Smith said it was an ideal location to start the campaign, as the connection between technology and environmental action would be key.

“This might seem an unusual place to launch a national park city, but the future is with smart cities and the two have to work together.

“Galway is famous the world over for its arts, and for its science and technology. We have those two big pillars, technology and the arts – the third pillar is the green,” he said.

“We’re more connected than ever before in terms of technology, but in the real world, we’re more disconnected than ever,” he added.

Some 20 speakers from different organisations and groups across the city spoke at the launch, and it was evident that the use of both technology and the arts would be vital to secure national park city designation and promoting the green environment in Galway.

Scientists from NUIG told attendees of their work on citizen science; the creation of a mobile lab with 50 sensors monitoring the atmosphere; an app to identify species of mushrooms; outdoor classrooms and laboratories; managing Ireland’s peatlands; mapping bee habitats; upcycling using 3D printing; and using an app to collect tree data.

Speakers from community and voluntary groups illustrated the importance of Galway’s waterways; the Connemara Greenway as a transport corridor from the west into the city; the urban bee project; and using Merlin Woods as an education centre for flora and fauna.

The Buildings Department at NUIG outlined their work to achieve a green campus, while Scoil Náisiúnta Iognáid (the Jes) showed the work that has gone into their outdoor classroom – with a representation from Our Lady’s College also at the launch.

From the business community, Dangan-based Aerogen outlined how their employees planted 550 trees in Terryland Forest Park during National Tree Week, and have invested in a tree nursery at Ballinfoile Community Garden – a template for businesses to engage with the environmental sector. The tourism sector was also represented with the Nox Hotel in attendance – a hotel located right at the edge of Terryland Forest Park.

This multi-sectoral approach was celebrated by guest of honour, Duncan Stewart, who said Galway was a national leader in environmental issues.

“We should be in a state of panic,” said Mr Stewart. “We should have been in a state of panic 20 years ago.”

“When you look at Ireland, we have the highest greenhouse gas emissions in Europe per person. It’s not just about the little things at the edges – we need to see fundamental change because we are stealing our children’s futures,” added the well-known environmentalist.

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).
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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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