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Councillors agree to ‘bailout’ for airport – if viable plan produced



Date Published: 07-Jan-2013


The members of Galway City Council voted in favour of a €50,000 ‘bailout’ to save the troubled Galway Airport last night, but only on condition that the Airport Board comes back with a viable business plan before next month’s meeting of the local authority.

Councillors voted 11-2 in favour of providing rescue funding for the Carnmore facility provided the €50,000 is matched by their counterparts in the County Council, €100,000 comes from the Dept of Transport, and the Airport Board can produce a viable plan to stay open.

The members of the local authority spent almost three hours debating the issue, with many complaining that the Chamber of Commerce and Industry – the majority owners – had not provided written documentation for the future of a facility which lost State subsidies early last year.

With the members of Galway County Council having already agreed to provide €50,000 from their Budget last month, the pressure was on the City Council to give the airport a lifeline last night.

Chamber CEO Michael Coyle told the elected representatives that the funding was badly needed for a facility which owes over €6 million to the Bank of Scotland and Bank of Ireland.

Following a debate which was heated at times, the Councillors agreed to back a motion from Cllr Declan McDonnell (Independent) who is the Council’s representative on the Galway Airport Board of Directors. The majority agreed to match the County Council’s funding, but only if a viable business plan is in place by February 11 next.

“I don’t think it is fair that we have not seen any plan before we are asked to make a decision on this,” said Cllr Peter Keane (FF).

“My concern is that we have not seen any plan. You have no plans in place to extend the runway by 400 metres, which would allow jet planes to land at Galway Airport. How do you see it functioning as an airport for Galway City when it is too short to bring in a jet engine?”

Cllr Keane pointed out that Galway Airport had a payroll of €3 million when it employed 54 staff in 2011. He pointed out that the M6 motorway meant the city was now just two and a half hours by car from Dublin Airport, while the proposed M18 would bring Shannon Airport much closer to Galway.

“You are looking for money off us at a time when we are looking at closing graveyards on a Sunday,” he told Mr Coyle.

A number of Councillors questioned the validity of putting a ‘park and ride’ facility in place at Carnmore, while Cllr Colette Connolly (Lab) said €50,000 was “not a huge amount of money” to safeguard such a vital piece of infrastructure.

Mr Coyle said the airport was 90% owned by the Chamber of Commerce. It had been a feature of Galway life for 27 years, but had to be downsized after the Public Service Obligation subsidy was withdrawn from the Dublin route at the end of 2011.

He said that the Board had put a business plan in place, based on leasing out assets such as the two hangars, using the 600-plus car parking spaces, and providing facilities for private aircraft and emergency services.

Mr Coyle admitted that the facility would not be a viable commercial airport for at least the next three to five years.

“The airport as a business needs to bridge a gap in its funding,” he said. “We believe it’s a strategic site on the east side of the city. Every effort should be made to retain it in community ownership if at all possible.”

Read more in today’s Connacht Sentinel

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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