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Councillor claims homeless figures skewedby inclusion of Travellers




Families waiting more than 10 years for a local authority home in Galway are being passed over because of a short-sighted Government policy, the head of Galway City Council’s Housing Policy Committee has claimed.

Councillor Declan McDonnell said that while there were many genuine cases among the dozens of people in Galway registered as homeless, a substantial number were using the system to get priority for social housing allocation.

He pointed to new figures showing that Travellers account for more than 80% of those registered as homeless in County Galway and more than 50% of the homeless in Galway City. The figures were obtained from the local authorities by Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish.

“When you consider the fact that Travellers represent just 1.5% of the population of County Galway and 2.2% of the population of Galway City, and yet they make up the majority of those classified as homeless, it doesn’t make sense.

“It’s not like fifty years ago when you had substantial numbers of Travellers living on the side of the road and there was a genuine high level of homelessness among them,” said Cllr McDonnell.

He said that the Minister for Housing had back in January promised a new scheme that would promote the availability of affordable houses.

“We were told that would be published by now, but it hasn’t come. In the meantime, the Government has instructed that priority be given to those registered as homeless in the allocation of new housing.

“All they are doing is fighting one fire, while in the background people are being caught in the middle, people who have been ten years and more on the local authority waiting list are being passed over in favour of others who have only been there for a few months.

“It’s a short-sighted policy, when we don’t have another policy in place to help people who are being caught in the middle.

“Obviously there are many families who are genuinely homeless and urgently need accommodation, but there are a substantial number of others who are ‘gaming the system’, claiming to be homeless when in reality they are not.”

Cllr McDonnell insisted that he was not looking for Travellers to be treated differently that the rest of the community. “I’m looking for equal rights here for everyone.”

He warned that the current policy would lead to the creation of unbalanced housing estates and unsustainable communities.

“We have had this in two instances elsewhere in the county, where in one case four out of seven houses were allocated to Travellers.

“We cannot repeat this mistake in the city – It is vitally important that we continue to have balanced estates in Galway. There has to be integration, certainly, but it doesn’t have to be to the detriment of everybody else.”

Cllr McDonnell said that the current situation was not the fault of the staff of the local authorities. “This the deck of cards they have been dealt, this is government policy that they have to implement.”

He said the Government needed to act quickly to help people caught in the ‘middle income trap’, those earning between €35,000 and €60,000, who would never get a mortgage and they only way they would ever have a home of their own would be to get a subsidised house.

“There are groups of such people in Galway City willing to form a co-operative to build affordable houses for those in the middle income bracket and all they need is a site.

“There are others with low incomes who work with Galway City Partnership and want to build modular timber-frame houses at a cost of about €50,000 to €60,000 each for themselves using their skill, but again they need a subsidised site.

“The Credit Union has agreed to work with Galway City Partnership and to consider loans for these people and this would also take more people off the housing waiting list, but they need a serviced site. These guys are skilled lads, between them they would build the houses themselves – the houses come in packs – and they would bring the costs down by doing it this way.

“We had dozens of homes built in a similar way in places like the Monivea Road, in Glenina Heights and Meadow Grove back in the 1970s when co-ops got land cheaply and built their own homes. This is in its infancy at the moment, but it shows that there are ideas out there that need red tape lifted,” said Cllr McDonnell.


Footfall down by 80% in Galway city centre

Stephen Corrigan



Shop Street on Ladies Day of the Galway Races

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Footfall in the city centre was down by about 80% during what would normally be a bumper three weeks in the city, with this year’s Arts Festival and Summer Racing Festival both falling foul of Covid-19 restrictions.

Data compiled by the Galway City Business Association (GCBA) – which is a measure of mobile phone users at various points in the city centre – shows that there were over half a million fewer movements recorded during Race Week this year, representing around a 77% decline on the same week in 2019.

While the figures are by no means a conclusive count of individuals in the city, they do provide a good guide as to how many people are traversing the main thoroughfares over an extended period.

During the second week of the Arts Festival in 2019, just short of 900,000 movements were recorded in what was the city’s single busiest seven days of the year.

However, with the absence of the Big Top and various other Arts Festival venues this year, just over 150,000 movements were recorded in the same week this year.

Well-known city businessman and GCBA member Anthony Ryan said that the situation was gradually improving, but it was obviously a very different Race Week this year.
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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Galway City Council orders removal of new footbridge

Stephen Corrigan



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The installation of a footbridge over the Middle River at Newtownsmyth has led Galway City Council to warn the adjacent property owner to remove the structure, or face legal proceedings.

Property developer John Curley, who owns the commercial unit involved at Abhainn na mBradán, has received instruction from City Hall to have the bridge removed by today (Friday) in what the Galway City Tribune understands is being treated as a ‘extremely serious breach’ of planning regulations.

Mr Curley told this newspaper that the €25,000 bridge could not be removed this week as his architect was on holidays, and he was still considering what to do about the Council’s order.

Mr Curley said businessman Eric Furey had opened a new café in the building two weeks ago – the building also houses Born Clothing and Papa Rich restaurant.

The bridge had been installed to coincide with the opening of Roots Café and both Mr Curley and Mr Furey argued that it was crucial to the business’ survival that there was access from the busy canal walkway.

“We are going to fight this,” said Mr Curley, adding that it had been their intention to seek retention for the bridge, but that had been ruled out by city planners who refused to give permission to utilise public land on the far side of the canal.

A spokesperson for Galway City Council said: “Immediately on becoming aware of the installation of this structure across the canal, Galway City Council Planning Department requested the immediate removal of the structure.
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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Anger over illegal parking of camper vans in Salthill

Enda Cunningham



Camper vans illegally parked on Rockbarton Road this week.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Galway City Council has admitted that it is difficult to enforce bylaws banning the parking of caravans and camper vans on roads in Salthill.

It follows complaints from elected representatives and local residents again this Summer in relation to illegal dumping and ‘unsightly’ parking on the Promenade and alongside Leisureland.

Under the Council’s own Parking Control Bylaws 2009, parking of ‘temporary dwellings’ (which includes caravans, mobile homes, tents and any structure whether on wheels or not) is prohibited on the Prom; Quincentennial Drive (behind Toft Carpark); Rockbarton Road (adjacent to Leisureland) and on the Western Distributor Road. Council carparks are also off limits.

Local area councillor Donal Lyons said the problem seemed to be worse this year, which he believed is due to holidaying staycationers.

Councillor Peter Keane said that it is a ‘small few’ people that are giving caravaners a bad name.

“We welcome holidaymakers, but let them go into the caravan parks where proper services are provided, such as electricity and water.”

A spokesperson for Galway City Council said that the local authority’s experience was that it has proved difficult to enforce the parking ban over the years.
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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