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CITY TRIBUNE

City Council queries Galway’s status under new regional plans

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A proposed regional development plan needs to be overhauled to ensure that Galway City is given its rightful place as the economic hub for the West of Ireland.

That’s according to Galway City Council Director of Services Ruth McNally who told councillors that the Council Executive had serious concerns that Galway was not being given adequate prominence as part of the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) currently being developed by the Northern and Western Regional Assembly (NWRA).

This came as councillors were told it was too late for them to make submissions to the plan as they had failed to reach a report on the matter at their September meeting – and the deadline had since closed on October 11.

However, Ms McNally said the city had two representatives on the NWRA in Cllr Donal Lyons and Cllr Declan McDonnell, who is Chair of the Assembly.

“Our biggest concern is that this is a strategic document and Galway should be in up in lights. We were originally stuck in the middle of the document. We had not got the prominence some of our sister cities had,” said Ms McNally of the first draft, which has since been materially altered.

“From our perspective, the level of consultation with officials was quite poor. The submission came to us as a fait accompli and when we had to work backwards.”

The RSES will dictate the City Development Plan once it comes into force and, now on its second draft, the assembly is currently considering submissions.

Ms McNally said that initially, the plan had limited future uses for Galway Airport – which is owned by Galway City and County Council – by drawing a “red line” through it which would have divided the site and limited its future uses.

She said national policy in the shape of Project Ireland 2040 would dictate the RSES, which would in turn have to be incorporated into the Council’s future plans for the city.

“Our Development Plan will have to be altered to incorporate the regional strategy,” she said.

City Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath said they were seeking to ensure that Galway’s primacy as a key economic driver in the region was evident in the plan.

There was also an issue with the Metropolitan Area Special Plan (MASP) boundary for the city, said Mr McGrath, which he said should have been based on the extent of the Galway Transport Strategy.

“We’re just really anxious to ensure [the RSES] highlights and focuses on the primacy of Galway in the region and as the only city in the Northern and Western region.

CITY TRIBUNE

Voluntary group has taken part in 30 rescues

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Members of Claddagh Watch, Donna Burke, Annmarie Heffernan, Arthur Carr, Jimmy McGovern, Eimear Gullane and Trish Keogh on their first night on patrol in March.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Looking out over the River Corrib on a cold clear November night has a touch of the majestic about it.

Tourists and locals alike are spellbound by its mesmerising rapids and the pulsating surges which characterise this wonderful city river.

However, a group of volunteers at Claddagh watch over the glistening waters at night for an entirely different reason – not to marvel at its beauty but to keep a much-needed eye over people’s safety in the Corrib’s surrounds.

Just over eight months after its inception, Claddagh Watch is going from strength to strength. Starting out as a three-man crew in Spring, the organisation now has a 60-person team of volunteers dedicated to keeping people out of danger around Europe’s fourth fastest-flowing city river.

The group was formed by husband-and-wife team Arthur and Deborah Carr from Galway East Life Support Suicide prevention group, along with a former member of the Irish Coast Guard Séamus Ó Fátharta, following a series of deaths along Galway waterways early in the year.

“Claddagh Watch came to fruition from three ordinary people seeing the number of people losing their lives on the waterways and realising that a simple initiative could help reduce this,” explains Séamus of the motivation behind the group.

Since March, the organisation has taken part in almost 30 rescues, aimed at preventing people entering the water. Volunteers never enter the water themselves, even in emergency situations but are instead on hand to notify and provide vital information to rescue services as soon as an incident occurs.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Rents and rise in costs driving students to seek counselling

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A painful rental market and increasing costs being loaded onto third level students are all contributing to increasing demand on student counselling services, according to Galway’s student leader.

President of NUI Galway Students’ Union, Clare Austick, said additional funding must be allocated to student counselling services at NUI Galway to ensure students in need of help are not turned away.

This comes after it was revealed that there had been a 21% jump in the number of students at the university seeking the support of the counselling service over the past four years.

Ms Austick said the Union of Students in Ireland, in conjunction with national mental health bodies, had run several campaigns in recent years to encourage an uptake of mental wellbeing supports on offer – but it was vital that these supports were accessible if students did take that initial step of seeking help.

“Encouraging people to reach out has resulted in an influx of people looking for counselling services and I think people are now more willing to ask for help.

“When someone finally builds up the courage to reach out for help and they’re turned away, it’s very discouraging and it might not encourage them to do it again,” said Ms Austick.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council boosts spend on homelessness

Denise McNamara

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A homeless man sleeping in the city centre.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A record €12 million boost to the coffers has meant that Galway City Council’s budget will reach nearly €100 million for next year – with the bulk of the increased spending targeting homelessness and housing.

A third of the overall budget has been ringfenced for accommodation for the homeless and local authority tenants costing over €33m; with a €4.3m increase on last year to provide homeless services (to €10.7m).

An additional fund of €200,000 will be used to turn around the 44 vacant Council properties to ensure the local authority has no more than 10 properties ‘void’ at a time – a figure which other councils have managed to achieve.

One fifth of the budget will be earmarked for recreation and amenity, of which €2.8m will be used to roll out the European Capital of Culture programme and a quarter of a million euro set aside to resurface tennis and basketball courts around the suburbs.

The roads and transport sector takes up 15% of the yearly spend at €14.5m – more traffic lights will be connected to the Urban Traffic Control Centre, set to get an upgrade costing €100,000.

The cost of providing environmental services is €12m – or 12% of the funding pot – out of which €90,000 will be aimed at implementing a climate change plan.

Acting Head of Finance, Nepta Moggan, told a budget meeting this week that while there was no increase in the rate to be levied on businesses for commercial rates or householders liable for the Local Property Tax, the Council had an €800,000 bonus from increased and new valuations of commercial premises.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

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