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Concerns over extension plan for Our Lady’s College



Galway City’s Heritage Officer and environmental group An Taisce have expressed concerns about a proposed three-storey extension to Our Lady’s College.

Last December, Ceist Ltd (the Catholic Education and Irish Schools Trust) sought permission for the new extension, which will include space for three classrooms, a new science lab, business studies room, technology rooms, preparation rooms and toilets at the school on Presentation Road.

The new building is proposed for the northern end of the 1960s structure on the school grounds and will involve the removal of pre-fab classroom to adjacent to the canal; removal of a storage and toilet enclosure under the 1960s building and removal of a pre-fab classroom adjacent to the primary school building.

However, planners subsequently sought justification from school authorities on why such a large extension was required, and how they intended to reduce car usage among parents and staff.

In its response, Ceist said Our Lady’s College – the amalgamation of the Presentation and Mercy secondary schools – would have a long-term enrolment is estimated at 420 students.

An evaluation carried out in 2014 found existing accommodation of 4,386 square metres, with a requirement for an additional 2,058 sq m to cater for a school population of 500 pupils.

The existing planning application is for 1,127 sq m, and there is a new PE hall planned in a second phase.

“Our Lady College currently operate daily on both school sites and will continue to do so until the proposed building extension is completed. This is a very unsatisfactory position from the school’s standpoint and continues to create significant issues with timetabling, staffing and integration.”

In a Mobility Management Plan, school authorities said that only staff vehicles and vehciles carrying a student with restricted mobility will be permitted to enter the site, and drop-off on Presentation Road in the vicinity of the site will be “discouraged”.

The school has contacted the Council to become part of the Park ‘n’ Stride initiative (allowing parents with special stickers free parking for an hour in the morning and evening at Mill Street carpark) and will be encouraging Drop ‘n’ Hop at Mill Street carpark, 220 metres away.

Following the clarification, An Taisce said it was satisfied when it saw the initial plans that the impacts on the Eglinton Canal were acceptable.

However, the environmental group was “especially concerned” about the indication of Phase 2 – a PE hall and outdoor playing courts – as it would have a negative impact on the canal’s wildlife corridor.

Concerns were also raised about traffic volumes and safety.

“Despite the obvious concerns about the level of parent car drop-offs and the proposals to introduce Park and Stride mitigation. An Taisce must express some concern about the unreality of reducing parent drop-offs, while at the same time increasing pupil numbers.

“The proposed location of the entrance gate is quite close to a ‘blind’ corner and with a footpath on only one side of the road, this even at the present time is a dangerous corner, all the more so when funerals and weddings are on at nearby St Joseph’s.”

An Taisce added that suggestions of a drop-off point and Mill Street carpark are “fanciful and expectations unrealisable”.

Meanwhile, the City Council’s Heritage Officer, Jim Higgins, said he was opposed to the removal of any of the stone wall to the front or side of the school, and also opposed to the demolition of the 1960s shelter “which is an interesting architectural feature with a rarity of value and worthy of retention”.

A decision on the application is expected later this month.

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Six Shinners to contest Galway City local elections in 2024



Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Sinn Féin is planning to run two candidates in each city electoral ward in the next Local Elections in 2024.

Party number-crunchers nationally want to flood local election tickets with candidates to pick up extra seats and capitalise on anti-Government sentiment that is circulating among a cohort of voters.

The Shinners ran too few candidates in the last General Election. It meant they could not capitalise fully from a swing to the party during that campaign. They left seats behind them.

Now they’re planning to run a record number of candidates. In Galway, that would mean two candidates in each of the three areas, City West, City Central and City East.

The thinking is that they need to pick up additional seats in local authority elections, so that they have sufficient councillors to vote for Sinn Féin candidates in Seanad elections. More councillors equals more senators.

Sinn Féin is very much preparing for Government; and while the polls suggest it’s the most popular party (at 34% according to the latest in the Sunday Times last weekend) and would likely win most Dáil seats if an election was held tomorrow, it would still need numbers in the Seanad to pass legislation.

One problem faced by Sinn Féin is the party might find it difficult to source six credible candidates to contest local elections in Galway.

Another problem with running two, rather than one, in each ward in Galway City is that SF could split the vote and end up not winning any seats at all.

In 2019, Councillors Mairéad Farrell, Mark Lohan and Cathal Ó Conchúir all lost their seats after dismal local elections. Farrell was since elected to the Dáil following her Lazarus comeback but the organisation locally is still wary of a fickle Galway electorate.

If Sinn Féin doesn’t win back those three seats lost in 2019, then the next locals would be deemed a massive failure.

Winning more than three seats on Galway City Council would be a success but are the Shinners willing to risk running two candidates in each ward, splitting the vote and ending up with egg on their faces?

Photo: Mairéad Farrell with fellow Sinn Féin members Mark Lohan and Cathal Ó Conchúir (back left) after she was elected to the Dáil in 2020. All lost had their seats in Galway City Council in 2019 after dismal local elections.

This is a shortened preview version of this column. For more Bradley Bytes, see the January 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Galway is seventh-worst city in Europe for car traffic congestion



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Car traffic congestion in Galway is quickly rebounding to pre-pandemic levels, with commuters spending up to 94 hours caught on the city’s gridlocked arteries last year.

According to data compiled by INRIX, a world-leader in mobility data, Galway is the seventh-worst city in Europe for congestion, an 84% increase on its position in 2021.

The data shows that Galway places in the worst 50 cities in the world for congestion – taking 39th place, with Dublin the only other Irish city placing higher at Number 12.

While the figures show that car traffic has not fully returned to pre-Covid levels, the 2022 figures came within 13% of 2019 congestion rates.

This was despite vast numbers continuing to work from home last year, a worrying trend according to the local People Before Profit representative Adrian Curran.

In Cork, Limerick and Dublin, there had been a more lasting effect, showing decreases of 20%, 26% and 29% respectively, he said.

This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the January 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Galway 2020 paid €110,000 for PR while cutting spends on arts events



From this week’s City Tribune – Galway 2020’s bank account statements for five months of 2020 reveal thousands of euro were spent on public relations firms and media advertising when its cultural programme was being cut and ‘revised’ during the upheaval at the onset of Covid-19.

The AIB statements date from April to September of 2020, when Covid-19 had seriously curtailed cultural activities of Galway 2020, the company behind the city and county’s European Capital of Culture. They show more than €110,000 was paid to Dublin-based public relations firm Q4 PR, in three separate payments in April, May and June of 2020.

Thousands more were paid to other public relations firms, radio stations and, to a lesser extent, newspapers.

In March of that year, Galway 2020 announced it was reviewing its programme of events due to Covid-19 restrictions imposed by Government after a global pandemic was declared, curtailing all events.

On April 7, it confirmed it was laying off staff and had ended its agreement with Helen Marriage and Artichoke which was providing creative direction.

Later that month, it issued statements to say it was exploring a ‘re-imagined’ programme of events to take place at the end of 2020 and 2021.

Although the amounts paid to media and PR companies other than Q4 PR are relatively small, compared with expenditure on other headings, the payments suggest the importance Galway 2020 placed on image and public perception around that time.

The bank statements were released to the Galway City Tribune following a protracted Freedom of Information request and after an appeal to the Office of Information Commissioner.

Many of the payees in the bank statements were redacted but the names of several PR and media organisations are listed as having been paid by Galway 2020.

This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article with details of the spending, see the January 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. There is also coverage of this week’s rebranding and new vision of Galway 2020. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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