Up to 150 life-saving lifebuoys are stolen, damaged or are thrown away by vandals in Galway City every year.
And it is costing Galway City Council some €4,000 every year to replace damaged or missing lifebuoys at the city’s beaches, canals, waterways and piers.
The local authority has confirmed to the Galway City Tribune that some €71,230 has been spent replacing damaged or stolen lifebuoys at 60 city locations since 2001.
During that 17-years period, the Council said 1,389 life-rings have had to be replaced. Some of them were replaced due to wear and tear but the vast majority were deliberately damaged or stolen. This figure does not include missing lifebuoys at 20 locations in County Galway that are looked after by the City Council.
A spokesperson confirmed that in recent years the Council is having to replace on average two or three of the lifebuoys every week, which is around 150 per year.
He said that as well as the financial cost of replacing lifebuoys, a lost lifebuoy could amount to a lost life.
“We have incurred a fair amount of cost in replacing damaged or stolen lifebuoys. There are three elements to it: the rings themselves, the ropes, and the holders. Paying about €4,000 a year to replace this equipment is excessive. Leaving aside the financial cost, damaging and stealing lifebuoys puts lives at risk.
“The lifebuoys are there for a reason and are strategically placed at waterways around the city so that if someone gets into trouble in the water, the lifebuoys can be thrown in to save them. I haven’t had any definitive reports that someone has drowned because a lifebuoy was missing but it is reckless behaviour to damage or steal life-saving equipment.
“A lifebuoy is something that doesn’t have to be used for several years and is there in case of an emergency and someone is in the water and needs to be rescued. Ideally that doesn’t happen very often but the lifebuoy needs to be there for times when it does happen.
“We would appeal to people not to damage or steal lifebuoys because you are putting people’s lives in danger. We would also appeal to the public to report to us if they see anyone damaging or stealing lifebuoys,” added the Council spokesperson.
Irish Water Safety at Long Walk said a stolen lifebuoy is a stolen life. It has urged members of the public to report missing lifebuoys at the website ringbuoys.ie and not to presume someone else has reported them missing or damaged.
Galway City Council to ‘review’ Kirwan junction
Councillors are demanding proof that the €5 million spent to transform Kirwan Roundabout into a signalised junction was money well spent – blasting the new junction as having created long delays and worsening rat-running.
A meeting of the local authority last week heard that while there was a general acceptance there would be ‘teething problems’ with the traffic-light junction after it became operational in July, ongoing issues were continuing to draw the ire of road users and local residents.
Cllr Mike Cubbard (Ind) said he was one of five councillors on the previous Council to initially vote against the removal of the roundabout, based on fears that it would increase traffic through local residential areas – a fear that had been realised.
“What changes have been needed to be done since it went live,” asked the former Mayor, indicating that there had been little improvement.
Cllr Alan Cheevers (FF) said he understood that enhancement works were being done, but more were required.
“A lot of drivers are avoiding it and its driving traffic through the likes of Terryland Business Park. The Tuam Road is now gridlocked,” he said, calling on the Council to do a “PR exercise” to encourage drivers back to Kirwan.
Cllr Clodagh Higgins (FG) said the junction continued to confuse people and suggested that “overhead hanging signs” would be of assistance.
Green Party Councillor Niall Murphy said when the roundabout was slated for removal, it was promised that delays would be reduced by 25% and rat-running by 90% – but as yet, no evidence had been provided to show this.
“We need to put some science on this.
“The rat-running has moved to Dyke Road and there are some sections of that road where there are no footpaths, so it is quite dangerous for pedestrians,” said Cllr Murphy.
Acting Director of Services for Transport, Uinsinn Finn, told the meeting he believed there was a silent majority that were satisfied with the new junction.
He said that the junction’s ‘go live’ date was July 19, which coincided with the reopening of many parts of society that had been in lockdown due to Covid, and that had contributed to additional traffic.
“The first two objectives were to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety, and those objectives have been achieved.
“There will be a post project review – that is something that we always do and I would be happy to bring that back to Council for its consideration,” said Mr Finn.
Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath confirmed that review was set to get underway.
“It will go through the various elements and if issues arise following the review, they will be addressed,” he said.
Thieves target cars as owners unload shopping bags
Galway shoppers have been advised by Gardaí not to leave their vehicles unlocked or unattended as they bring their shopping into their homes.
This follows reports in the Newcastle area of opportunist thieves ‘striking’ as the shopping bags were being moved into houses.
One resident told the Galway City Tribune that the thieves waited until the person had taken a bag of shopping from their cars to bring into their home.
“This gives the thieves a minute or two to have a quick look in the car – what they seem to be looking for are purses, bags or wallets that are left behind in the car,” the resident stated.
He added that some of local residents had notices two ‘youngish lads’ – possibly in their late teens or early 20s – hanging around the Newcastle Park Road area over the past week or two.
“I just think that people need to be on their guard for this kind of opportunist theft. They just wait until the driver goes inside the house with the shopping and before they come back out, they do a quick search of the car,” he said.
Galway Garda Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Michael Walsh, said that opportunist thieves would always be ‘on the look out for a handy theft’.
“What I would advise is that either have someone to keep an eye on the car when the shopping is being removed – or else lock the car each time, and don’t leave any cash or valuables in the vehicle.
“It might be an inconvenience to lock the car each time you go back into the house, but it is still far better than having something stolen from your vehicle,” said Sgt Walsh.
He also urged, that as a matter of routine, no one should leave any valuables in their cars when they parked them up.
“Even the coins that some people keep in car pockets for parking or other small payments can attract thieves. Never leave anything of value in your vehicles,” he said.
Councillors back bid to ban city centre parking in Galway
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Councillors have unanimously agreed to ask Transport Minister Eamon Ryan to limit parking to residents only in the city centre.
Pedestrians in the city are being treated like second-class citizens, according to the Mayor, who said cars continued to get the priority on Galway’s streets.
At a meeting of the City Council this week, Mayor Colette Connolly (Ind) said the city had come to a standstill in car traffic, and pedestrians and cyclists were suffering the consequences.
“At junctions, why am I a second-class citizen in my own city as a pedestrian? It rains in Galway for 300 days of the year, but I am a second-class citizen when priority is given to motorists.
“It’s always the pedestrian that waits,” she said, hitting out at the length it took to get a green light to cross at pedestrian crossings.
One way to reduce the number of cars in the city centre would be to limit parking to residents only in the city centre, said the Mayor.
In a motion she proposed, seconded by Cllr Mike Cubbard (Ind), councillors unanimously agreed to write to the Minister for Transport to demand he pass the necessary legislation to enable the Council to do this.
The Mayor said residents were “sick, sore and tired” of people parking where they wanted when they visited the city and said despite a desire to introduce this measure going back almost 20 years, the Council was hamstrung by national legislation that prevented them from proceeding.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.