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Connacht Tribune

Council accused of double standards on rental sector

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Galway County Council officials have been summoned to explain their management of tenants and estates in the Loughrea Municipal District amid complaints they were holding private landlords and homeowners to a much higher standard.

At this month’s area meeting for councillors, Portumna Councillor Ivan Canning (FF) demanded to know why Galway County Council was collecting rubbish from a local authority estate in Killimor when they did not run a waste collection service.

He had previously voiced concerns about the estate, where he claimed dead dogs had been dumped and rubbish was being thrown over the wall to the local school.

Administrative officer in the environment unit of Galway County Council Padraig Carroll said he had been told the caretaker of the estate had taken it upon himself to remove rubbish from the green area of the estate, which had been beset with dumping and antisocial behaviour issues.

He said one of the tenants did have a contract with a waste disposal company while two of them did not.

Cllr Canning said he had passed the estate last week and had spotted several bags of rubbish dumped at one of the house’s gates waiting to be collected.

“If I do that I’ll get a fine. I have people calling me about why the rules are different in this case. Why should I do it [pay for waste collection] and somebody else can come along and do what they like? They’re tenants with Galway County Council – they have to tow the line.”

Cllr Jimmy McClearn (FG) said he knew that the dog warden had visited some of the houses on multiple occasions and removed dogs only for the tenants to bring in more dogs immediately afterwards.

“Household waste is being thrown over the school fence while they’re standing in the playground,” he exclaimed.

Cllr Mogie Maher (FG) said there was a similar situation in a Council estate on Bride Street in Gort.

“They’ve caravans outside the houses, horses inside the houses and we’re turning a blind eye to this. We’ve estates in Loughrea town where the grass is as high as the table – the grass wasn’t cut since February or March. I want housing reps to come here and report on the issues at the next meeting.

A local authority tenant in St Lawrence’s Field had a skip outside the house in breach of his contract which went on fire and caused thousands of euro of damage to the house.

“The housing unit has almost collapsed in its function. Michael Owens [director of service for housing] is one of the best civil servants but he needs staff.”

Cllr McClearn complained that there seemed to be two different sets of rules for the private sector landlord.

“For houses let under the HAP scheme, Galway County Council will demand – and rightly demand – the highest spec of property. I had a tenant of Galway County Council where the three-lock system on their door was broken after ten years and he was told it was their own responsibility. Tenants are being told to service their boilers.

“But if the tenant is on the HAP scheme, everything’s the responsibility of the landlord. I have no difficulty demanding high standards of landlords but we don’t demand them of ourselves.”

Director of Services for Infrastructure and Operations, Jim Cullen, said he would request senior housing officials to attend next month’s meeting to answer queries from councillors.

Connacht Tribune

Ethics Officer finds FF councillors did nothing wrong with €180,000 pot

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Four Fianna Fáil councillors in the Tuam area accused by colleagues of ‘hijacking’ a €180,000 fund, have been told they did nothing wrong.

The fund was allocated to Tuam Municipal Council as part of a €1 million allocation by the Government to the county’s five municipal councils in order to “strengthen municipal districts”.

While the other area councils agreed amongst themselves on where the money should be spent, agreement could not be reached.

Instead, the four Fianna Fáil councillors, who have control of the seven-member Tuam Municipal Council, decided where the money should be allocated, which infuriated the other three members.

The matter was referred to the Ethics Officer of Galway County Council who was asked to investigate if this contravened the Minister’s direction as to how the money should be spent.

Now, Fianna Fáil Chairman of Tuam Council, Cllr Donagh Killilea, has been informed that they did not contravene the ethical framework for local government and it was a democratic decision.

He said that it was a needless and expensive route to ask the Council’s Ethics Officer to investigate how they conduct their business as local representatives “given that there was never any clear evidence of wrong-doing.”

When the dispersal of the €180,000 was being discussed by the Tuam area councillors, it was the four Fianna Fáil members who used their majority vote to dictate where the money would be spent – the other three councillors were ‘left out in the cold’.

This infuriated Cllr Andrew Reddington (FG), Cllr Pete Roche (FG) and Cllr Karey McHugh (Ind) who accused the Fianna Fáil councillors of pulling ‘a political stunt’.

They also took issue with the fact that the other municipal districts arrived at a general consensus as to how the money should be spent.

A ‘behind closed doors’ meeting between the seven councillors to discuss the dispersal of the fund that was agreed, but it never took place.

In prompted Cllr Reddington to table a motion at a full Galway County Council meeting that the Ethics Officer investigate the manner in which the distribution of the €180,000 was being handled.

A report from Council Chief Executive Jim Cullen states that the Ethics Officer investigated the claims that the €180,000 was unfairly distributed between the four FF councillors.

But the official concluded that the matter was discussed at length and that the decision on the allocation of the funds was determined by a majority vote of the members.

The officer stated that the decision was based on a motion that was voted upon and duly carried and complied with the Minister’s requirements.

The Chief Executive along with the Cathaoirleach of Galway County Council, Cllr Peter Keaveney, having considered the Ethics Officer’s report, have concluded that no further action is required.

“If every time we call for an investigation when a vote is won or lost, it is my opinion that we will never get any business done as a Municipal.

“It’s time to bury the sour grapes and get on with representing the people who elected us; the distractions of the past six months have to end,” Cllr Killilea added.

(Photo: Cllr Donagh Killilea)

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Connacht Tribune

Coffins have to brought by tractor over flooded North Galway road

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Cllr Declan Geraghty (Ind) and Cllr Peter Keaveney (FG) at the Creggs road out of Glenamaddy where flooding occurs on an annual basis.

Annual flooding on a stretch of road in North Galway requires the necessity for a tractor and trailer to bring the remains of a deceased person from the area to the local cemetery.

This was the claim at a local area meeting when it was demanded that Galway County Council carry out flood relief works on the road near Glenamaddy which is left under several feet of water every winter.

It resulted in Cllr Peter Keaveney tabling a motion at the Ballinasloe Municipal Council meeting that essential drainage works take place along the Roscommon road out of the town now that water levels are low. He wants this carried out within the next two weeks.

During one of the worst winters in recent years, the road was closed for three months and the Fine Gael councillor and agricultural contractor said that he pulled around 20 cars out of the flooded stretch when motorists decided to take the chance of driving through it.

Even in drought conditions, the levels remain incredibly high and this is mainly down to a local turlough that retains water throughout the year.

While he said that Galway County Council officials were extremely helpful, the problem lay with the Office of Public Works who would not allow drainage works as the road is situated in a Special Area of Conservation.

Senior Executive Engineer Damien Mitchell informed the meeting that Galway County Council are in a position to carry out some works but there are certain areas that only the Office of Public Works can drain.

Mr Mitchell said that the best way forward was a co-ordinated approach involving the County Council and the OPW while accepting that there was a major problem with flooding along this road.

In response, Cllr Keaveney said that this was a very acceptable move and added that a joint approach to the flooding in Glenamaddy was required at this stage and particularly with the winter approaching.

Williamstown’s Cllr Declan Geraghty said that residents were living in hell as some of them saw their houses destroyed by rising flood waters near Glenamaddy.

“There are even deceased people being brought by tractor and trailer to be buried which is an absolute disgrace. There is an opportunity to do this now or otherwise we are looking at flooding for the next 10 years.

“People have put everything into their homes only to see them destroyed when it comes to prolonged heavy rainfall.

“There is a solution to this problem and environmental issues should not take precedence,” he added.

The Independent councillor said that raising the level of the road, which leads to Creggs and onto Roscommon, was not the answer to the problem because the levels were so high.

Galway County Council have carried out several surveys of the area around the flooded road and officials told previous meetings that, subject to approval from the OPW, there was an engineering solution possible.

(Photo Cllr Declan Geraghty (Ind) and Cllr Peter Keaveney (FG) at the Creggs road out of Glenamaddy where flooding occurs on an annual basis.)

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Connacht Tribune

Teen arrested over €45,000 cocaine seizure

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Gardaí have seized €45,000 of what they believe to be cocaine in Ballinasloe.

Gardaí attached to Ballinasloe Garda Station conducted an intelligence-led operation in the Dunlo Harbour area of the town yesterday.

During the course of this operation a quantity of suspected cocaine, estimated to be worth €45,000, concealed on derelict grounds was seized.

A male in his mid-teens was arrested at the scene and detained at Ballinasloe Garda Station on Sunday.

He has since been released with a file being prepared for the Garda Youth Diversion Office.

The focus of Operation Tara is to disrupt, dismantle and prosecute drug trafficking networks, at all levels.

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