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City Hall statement helps spread Coronavirus panic

Dara Bradley



Cllr Owen Hanley’s photograph of the City Council meeting in The Galmont on Monday shows how elected members were separated by at least two metres

Bradley Bytes – A sort of political column with Dara Bradley 

You’ve got to wonder about the wisdom of the statement issued by Galway City Council last Monday.

Galway, like the rest of the country, and the world, was and is on edge about coronavirus Covid-19. And rightly so – it is deadly.

But far from putting the public at ease, City Hall’s email about switching venues for its meeting fuelled fears.

The statement read: “Following a risk assessment of the Council Chamber in relation to the current guidance regarding Covid-19, this afternoon’s ordinary meeting of Galway City Council will now take place in the veranda lounge of The Galmont Hotel, Fairgreen Road, Galway from 3pm.”

That was it; a one-liner that posed more questions than it actually answered.

The public, if the reaction on social media is an accurate gauge, was panicked.

Why the hell are they moving from the Council Chamber; is it infected, everyone wondered?

We hear that the statement even caused confusion among staff working for the local authority – was there a case of coronavirus in their midst that they hadn’t been told about?

Alas, the explanation was simpler and less dramatic. The reason for the change of venue was this. The Council Chamber is small. It is so small that councillors and Council staff sit close together, shoulder to shoulder. The HSE had issued advice to all employers that workers sitting next to each other for periods of 15 minutes or more should be separated by two metres, as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus. In order to comply with this advice, the Council decided to move to The Galmont, which could seat 18 councillors, several staff members and media the required two metres or more apart.

The problem wasn’t necessarily that the Council was engaging in social distancing – although it did spark fears in other workplaces that are tight for space and don’t have the luxury of moving to a hotel. The problem was that the statement was so sparse on detail, it inevitably aroused suspicion and caused unnecessary panic.

Meanwhile, once the hullaballoo online died down, and the real reason for the change of venue became apparent, the meeting proceeded at The Galmont. There was one problem, though. They only had one microphone, unlike in City Hall where each councillor has their own mic. And so, the mic was passed around to each speaker, who made their contribution, inevitably slobbering and spluttering into the device before passing it on. Coronavirus risk assessment how do.


Will and Kate bring out the Shoneens!

‘The most Shoneen town in Ireland’ was the wonderful description of Galway City in 1916 by an Irish Volunteer who was fighting to overthrow English rule in this country . . . *For more Bradley Bytes see this week’s Galway City Tribune


Patients moved from Merlin ‘to bolster private numbers’

Enda Cunningham



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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Barriers set to halt groups drinking at quayside

Francis Farragher



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).
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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Westwood owners plan tourist accommodation usage

Enda Cunningham



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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