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Connacht Tribune

Cost forced local authorities to consider pulling out of 2020

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Galway’s two local authority chiefs discussed ‘pulling out’ of running the city’s European Capital of Culture 2020 programme because they can’t afford it.

Brendan McGrath, Chief Executive of Galway City Council, described pulling out as a “doomsday scenario”, as he made the suggestion to Kevin Kelly, Chief Executive of Galway County Council.

The Culture Capital programme is a joint initiative of both Councils but is being led by the city.

However, Mr McGrath suggested they might have to reduce the local authority involvement or “pull out altogether” due to budget fears.

He warned the Councils weren’t going to meet the 2017 targets they’d set-out in the bid book that won the designation, which would have negative implications for pilot projects and partnerships.

The explosive email exchange was released to the Connacht Tribune following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

“I think we need to definitively agree if we can collectively meet the budgetary challenge to run ECOC 2020 (European Capital of Culture),” Mr McGrath said in an email to Mr Kelly.

He added: “If we have any concerns in this regard, notwithstanding the implications, we would be better making an early call to this effect and notifying the Department and the EU to let them make alternative arrangements, if they chose to.

“I know this is the doomsday scenario but if we have any doubt at all, the sooner the better we grasp the nettle. It would, in my opinion be better, however undesirable, to pull out early rather than to try produce something that would not reflect well on either authority.

“Other options might be to let a body such as the university (NUIG) lead out as annunciated by their president at the recent final meeting of the steering group.

“If we have to reduce our LA (local authority) involvement or to pull out altogether, we should explore all other options soon before coming to such a conclusion. However, we need early clarity in principle on where we think we are going in the next week or two,” Mr McGrath told Mr Kelly.

The email was dated last October, and was sent as both Councils were preparing budgets for 2017.

Mr McGrath warned that the 2017 budget position will mean “telescoping three years of preparation into two years”.

“This is a retrograde step . . . but though necessary it is highly undesirable. It will also mean having to make significant and additional catch-up budgetary provision in 2018 to make up for lost ground,” he warned.

Mr McGrath said the City Council like the County Council was “struggling with balancing its budget for 2017”.

“After much effort we had struggled to propose the inclusion of €1.2 million to provide funding for 2017. This would have been considerably less than the minimum needed to drive the project forward at the required and desired pace.

“The second Bid Book envisaged that a budget of €44.2m would be needed in 2017 for the project. It was expected that this sum would largely come from both LAs (local authorities) as neither the State nor the EU funding would start to flow until later in 2019 and into 2020 itself.”

He pointed out that the bid up to that point had cost €1.8 million, all bar €20,000 of which was paid for by the City Council.

He said he was “concerned at the absence to date of any definitive arrangement surrounding the funding regime”.

Mr McGrath warned that the budget for 2017 would be €4 million less than what they said it would be in its bid book.

This would result in “very negative repercussions for later in the process, delaying many critical aspects of the bid”.

He further warned in the email: “Major concerns will be not being able to drive forward business engagement to any significant extent and also not being able to put a communication strategy and communication team in place. Our ability to engage with national institutions will be badly impacted upon as well as our capacity to develop further pilot projects. Lastly, but by no means least, there will be a large negative impact on building and developing the European partnerships.”

Mr McGrath’s email was in response to Mr Kelly requesting that the ECOC team give presentation to County Councillors.

“My hope is that the presentation will provide sufficient information to enable me to subsequently undertake a conversation with the members in order to facilitate a decision of the members on the amount of the County’s financial input to ECOC,” Mr Kelly said.

In a follow-up email in November, Mr Kelly said: “While the members have given a firm commitment regarding part funding of ECOC the actual amount/share has to be determined”.

He gave a commitment to work on that “subsequent to agreement” from councillors. The pair agreed to meet to discuss the issues.

Last week marked the first anniversary of the day Galway was announced as the 2020 European Capital of Culture. There had been murmurings about the financial outlay for the event but this is the first time the chief executives of the Councils were so explicit about the implications a lack of money will have.

Connacht Tribune

Record crowds pack Ballinasloe to celebrate Fair’s 300th anniversary

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Crowds flock to the Fairgreen at the Ballinasloe Horse Fair.

RECORD crowds packed into Ballinasloe last weekend for the return of the famous October Fair – but it turned to be a ‘dry day’ for the punters with most of the pubs in the town taking the decision to close their doors on Sunday.

Hotels in the town also adopted either a ‘food only’ or ‘residents only’ policy through Sunday but Gardaí reported a trouble-free weekend in the town.

“There were huge crowds around and especially so on Sunday, but we had no reports of any trouble – it was practically an incident free weekend,” said a Garda spokesperson.

Many visitors to the Fair on Sunday expressed disappointment at the decision of the pubs to close  – although a few establishments did open their doors with special security arrangements in place.

The last ‘official fair’ took place in October, 2019, and while there was an unofficial event last year, it was only a small gathering due to the Covid restrictions.

An estimated 3,000 people turned out for the free open-air country music concert with Mike Denver in the Square on Sunday afternoon and Fair organisers also reported a very busy sales day with many horses changing hands.

Trustee of the Ballinasloe Showgrounds, Gerry Stronge, told the Connacht Tribune, that after a three-year break, the crowds had really thronged back into the town on Sunday.

“Most people I know that have been attending the Fair for years said that it was biggest crowd they had ever seen there on the first Sunday of the event.

“It was an incredible day – the streets were absolutely jammed with people – and it was most enjoyable with no trouble whatsoever,” he said.

Get the full story with loads of photos in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

A remarkable rally sees St Thomas’ reel in the ’Bridge

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Clarinbridge's Conor Lee tries to shake off the attentions of St Thomas' Victor Manso during Saturday's Senior A Group tie at Kenny Park. Photos: David Cunniffe.

St. Thomas’ 4-20

Clarinbridge 4-17

DARREN KELLY AT KENNY PARK

NOTHING at ‘stake’ but pride and last year’s two senior hurling championship finalists had plenty of that on Saturday as St. Thomas and Clarinbridge served up a thriller in their final group game.

Both teams were already guaranteed places in the knockout stages but for the winners, a path straight through to the quarter-finals proper was the reward and they played like that meant everything.

Obviously, neither side wanted to show weakness ahead of a potential showdown later in the year. The contest even had a half-time scuffle that resulted in yellow cards for St. Thomas’ duo John Headd and Conor Cooney.

Despite all that and the changing weather, the hurling was the only item for discussion afterwards. Three first half Clarinbridge goals gave them a 3-10 to 0-11 interval lead.  Four green flags for St. Thomas in the second period reminded the county that they still are the team to beat.

And that was the talking point before throw-in following their 22-match unbeaten streak ending with a heavy defeat to Turloughmore two weeks previously. And it wasn’t looking any better for St. Thomas’ when TJ Brennan struck a second minute goal for Clarinbridge.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Country Living

Recalling strange times that ‘shook up’ our lives

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

THE other day while doing another of those clear-outs of old documents that are well past their sell-by-date, I came across a couple of letters from my employer, which jolted me back into another world . . . but still a quite recent one.

Their purpose was to indicate that I needed to show up for work in-person (an essential employee if you don’t mind!) and if I was stopped at a Garda Covid checkpoint, then I could produce this piece of paperwork. We really did go through some strange times.

There are occasions too when I leave my desk and just for a split-second think that I’ve forgotten to don my mask. That same feeling also crosses my mind at times as I enter shops or other public places but then I realise that’s all very much of ‘yesterday’s news’.

Reminders still persist of those black days across the country mostly on visits to healthcare settings like pharmacies, GP surgeries or nursing homes, where staff still wear masks, and visitors are encouraged to do the same.

It takes me back to a Sunday evening on March 15, 2020, in my local watering hole less than 48-hours before the arrival of St. Patrick’s Day, when we were all highly sceptical about any pubs closing down.

We reassured ourselves too that such a development could never happen in a country noted for ‘the craic’ as our traditional day of national celebration approached. In our innocence, we thought we were wise old sods . . . but we had gotten things spectacularly wrong.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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