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CITY TRIBUNE

Conflict aplenty at City Hall but no conflict of interest!

Dara Bradley

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Independent City Councillor Noel Larkin . . . in the wars but no conflict of interest

Bradley Bytes – A sort of political column with Dara Bradley 

If the ruling rainbow pact was trying to ‘pull a fast one’ at Monday’s City Council meeting, it backfired.
Councillors in the mayoral pact agreed to take non-contentious items 2b and 2c first and then, rather than reverting to 1a, they jumped to 4c, which proved to be very contentious.
Item 4c involved ‘filling of vacancy on a committee or approved body’; aka ‘jobs for the boys’ – or in this case, ‘girls’, too.
The report that was circulated said Noel Larkin (Ind), had resigned from the HSE West Regional Health Forum. And the rainbow pact had decided that Martina O’Connor (Greens) would take his place. It said Martina had resigned from the Joint Policing Committee (JPC); and the pact said Noel would take her place.
Declan McDonnell, Noel’s buddy, proposed the change; Pauline O’Reilly, Martina’s chum, seconded it. All was well with the world, and they could move on . . . or so they thought.
A number of councillors hadn’t even arrived in the chamber (it started at 11am, far earlier than usual, to facilitate elected members who were travelling to Lansdowne Road for Republic of Ireland soccer match) when 4c was discussed.
So, the fact that the pact tried to take it as the third item, even though there were several, more important items ahead of it on the agenda, aroused suspicion of one councillor.
Ollie Crowe (FF) smelt a rat. And he nearly self-combusted sniffing it out.
Ollie is ten and a half years on the Council, and never before has a councillor stepped down so soon (less than six months) after being appointed to a body, and without saying why. “Can we have an explanation why he’s stepping down?” Ollie requested.
Deputy Mayor Donal Lyons, ‘King of Knocknacarra’, said, “anyone can step down; they don’t have to give a reason.”
“Is there a conflict of interest?” asked Ollie, several times. “It’s undermining the role of the Council.” The King said there wasn’t.
“It’s not for you to decide what’s right or wrong,” snapped Ollie. Councillors from the Left and the Right were uniting to make a change to the HSE – that was the “first mistake”, he said. The second was not getting anything in writing from the HSE.
Niall ‘This is Politics’ McNelis (Lab) said the HSE agreed that Nurse Martina, as an HSE employee, could serve on the forum.
Ollie wasn’t satisfied. “Is there a conflict of interest?”, he repeated.
Now Noel ‘The Drone’ Larkin took umbrage, at “aspersions cast on my character”. Ollie replied: “I’m entitled to ask the question.”
“He said ‘he’, he said ‘he’, he’s referring to me,” said Noel.
The King said he, as chair, was “being very fair” to everyone. Noel didn’t agree and went nuclear – proposed a Section 50, a vote to sanction Ollie for “continuous disruption of the meeting”.
The pact left Noel hanging. He wanted a seconder. None was forthcoming.
Chief Executive Brendan McGrath confirmed there was no conflict of interest, but he hadn’t got it in writing from the HSE.
Ollie took his word for it, but still argued it wasn’t “normal procedure” for a person to resign a position without an explanation. He apologised, sort of, if he’d caused offence, which, sort of, placated, Noel.
Before voting (it passed 8-4), eagle-eyed Eddie Hoare (FG), wanted clarity on whether, “in six months’ time they (pact) can just decide to change again? The HSE is a public body, if we’re changing (members) every six months, where are we going?” Where indeed.

For more Bradley Bytes see this week’s Galway City Tribune 

CITY TRIBUNE

Covid could leave Galway City Council with €25m budget hole

Stephen Corrigan

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Shop STreet this week.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Galway City Council is facing into a “potential crisis scenario” with a forecasted €25 million black hole in its budget, unless the Government comes good on a promise to plug the gap left by Covid-19.

That’s according to City Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath who told councillors this week that the commercial rates waiver introduced by Government and a drop in income from goods and services provided by the local authority could slash their forecast annual revenue by 25%.

Mr McGrath said the last Government, when it introduced the rates waiver for cash-strapped businesses in March, had committed to €260 million to be put aside to bolster local authority finances, but no detail of how that will be rolled out had been provided.

“We are hoping as part of the July stimulus package, the new Government will give us the detail we so desperately need,” he said.

“Our rates standing orders have been wiped out to the tune of 90%.”

Tourism was crucial to the economic success of Galway, he continued, with approximately 80% of city businesses reliant on tourists to stay afloat.

“We have the highest percentage dependency of any local authority on rates from the tourism and hospitality sector,” said Mr McGrath.

It was for that reason that the Executive was seeking councillors’ approval to free up €485,000 of the so-called ‘Marketing Sinking Fund’ to finance a raft of tourism initiatives aimed at boosting the local economy by attracting domestic tourists as Covid-related restrictions are eased, in what Mr McGrath referred to as “temporary internal borrowing”.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read it in full, and more on the tourism promotion plans, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Seafront prom and new train station planned for Murrough

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A vision of a new urban district on GMIT lands at Murrough – including a seafront promenade and new train station – has been submitted to Government for funding approval.

Galway City Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath has outlined a plan to ‘leverage’ land and resources of the third level institute to create a new East City Urban District.

Mr McGrath has included the plans in an application for funding under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF).

The total value of the project would be €61 million, he said, which values the land at Murrough at about €14 million.

“We are seeking URDF investment to activate these sites as catalysts to boost population and economic output for the city and region,” Mr McGrath told city councillors.

He said that by leveraging the lands at GMIT, the Council was delivering on a target in the National Planning Framework 2040, which states there should be “special focus on capitalising on the potential of underutilised and publicly owned and centrally located sites”.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read it in full, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Plans to double size of Galway City student complex

Enda Cunningham

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A computer-generated image of how the new Cúirt na Coiribe would look.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The investment fund which owns the Cúirt na Coiribe student accommodation complex on the Headford Road is planning to more than double the number of bed spaces there to 920.

Exeter Property Group, one of the biggest property investment groups in the world, has applied to An Bord Pleanála for permission to demolish a two-storey building to the front of the development and to remove the existing fifth floor attic level from the next block.

The proposal involves extending upwards and outwards to create a total of 920 bed spaces in 868 bedrooms in a single building with nine linked blocks ranging from two to six storeys.

The project includes a gym/fitness studio in the basement, a games room, library/study spaces, café/restaurant and lounge spaces.

There will be 59 carparking spaces and 656 cycle spaces included. A total of 398 of the 405 existing bed spaces will be retained.

It is proposed that the existing bed spaces will retain their original planning permission which allows for short-stay lets throughout the year, and the additional 515 spaces would only be permitted to be used as short-stay lets during the summer months.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read it in full, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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