City councillors have paved the way for a house on the outskirts of the city to be used as a Muslim place of worship and congregation, despite strong objections from the Council executive and local residents.
Members voted 11 in favour, and seven against, a material contravention to the City Development Plan in which the Council would consider the use of the dwelling house on agricultural land at Mincloon.
There were 17 submissions made since this amendment to the draft plan went on public display in the autumn – all against the change, on the grounds of the area being an inappropriate location for a place of worship, and would lead to increased traffic congestion.
In July, when the matter first came before councillors, they were told that a decision in favour of the proposal would put the planning process head over heels.
Director of Services, Joe O’Neill, warned that it was “effectively saying the use of the property is to be changed.”
Executive planner, Diane Egan, explained to members that the Muslim community had been granted ‘retention of alteration’ in 2010, with restrictions on how the house was to be used.
“It was to protect the residential amenity of that area,” she said.
Galway City Council’s Chief Executive, Brendan McGrath, added: “Condition 2 of this permission stipulates that … the dwelling shall not be used as a place for public assembly, a public hall, place of worship, bed and breakfast, or for any commercial purposes, other than use as a single private dwelling house.
“It wouldn’t be granted if they applied for planning permission,” he told members.
However, a majority of Councillors were inclined to disagree with his recommendation, as was the case when it came back before them last week.
Cllr Cathal Ó Concuir proposed that the alteration be accepted, which was seconded by Cllr Niall McNeilis – the latter said it would be a parish house, in keeping with this being a multicultural city.
On the other hand, Cllr Colette Connolly, supported by Cllr Michael Crowe, proposed the CEO’s recommendations that there be no change.
And so began a very heated debate, fuelled by Cllr Pearce Flannery’s suggestion that the members supporting this were only doing so because they got a free dinner from the applicants.
Cllr Peter Keane described this as “the most appalling thing I’ve heard in entire duration of this Plan.” Cllr Flannery was asked to withdraw his remark, but he refused.
Cllr Frank Fahy, who had received a text message prior to the vote saying “I trust that Galway is a fair city,” said that a vote in favour of this alteration was the right decision for the 3,000 Muslims living here. Furthermore, he said, business and sports clubs had been operating from the area for many years, and the roads had been able to accommodate this usage.
Cllr John Walsh, voting with the submission, said that any issues with the traffic and infrastructure was not the applicant’s problem, but the Council’s or the NRA’s.
Cllr Terry O’Flaherty said that the larger gatherings would be in Westside, and not in Mincloon, so she was supporting the applicant’s submission.
However, Cllr Michael Crowe said that a vote against the applicants should not be seen as being anti-Muslim.
“I’m against it, not because of any religious reason or another, and if Bishop Eamon Casey came through the door wanting to do the same for the Catholic religion, I’d say the same,” he said.
“I get the impression that there may be some offence caused by voting one way or another. But the Mosque in Ballybrit is a purpose-built facility, it met all the requirements. Here, they are looking to change a house into a church, and it simply isn’t suitable.”
Senior planner, Caroline Phelan, agreed that this was a zoning issue, rather than an assessment of something being good or bad.
“The City Council has spent a lot of resources pursuing unauthorised developments,” she said.
“We highlighted all along that they shouldn’t invest money in something that is prohibited. This unauthorised development has been pursued since 2012 … four years of resources have been invested into something that is prohibited. Some of the inspections on this property were done up to midnight. There is a mosque on residential lands in the city.”
The members who voted in favour of the submission were: Billy Cameron, Cathal Ó Conchuir, Padraig Conneely, Mairead Farrell, Peter Keane, Noel Larkin, Declan McDonnell, Niall McNeilis, Terry O’Flaherty, John Walsh, and Mark Lohan.
Against were: Colette Connolly, Michael Crowe, Ollie Crowe, Mike Cubbard, Frank Fahy, Pearce Flannery, and Donal Lyons.
After the vote, Cllr Colette Connolly, said that the decision defied logic.
“It beggars belief, given that the dwelling was granted planning permission, with specific planning conditions attached that expressly forbade the use of the dwelling as a place of worship,” she said.
“This was because of its location in G zoning where all development is restricted to that pertaining to agriculture. The dwelling in Tonabrucky borders onto a very narrow road in close proximity to a junction, where a number of accidents have occurred, according to residents of the area.
She described the rezoning in the City Development Plan to insert the specific objective of a mosque as “a circumvention of the planning laws” and a misuse of the CDP planning process.
“It undermines the Planning Department of Galway City Council, who have effectively now wasted scarce staff resources and taxpayers’ money, thanks to the decision of some councillors, in pursuing enforcement action over the past four years in order to achieve compliance with the original grant of planning permission,” she added.
“I deplore the fact that councillors are portrayed as pro or anti-Muslims, when in fact the issue is simply one of planning.”
She rejected any assertion that she was not for a ‘fair and tolerant Galway’.
Cigarettes, drugs and cash seized in Galway
Officers from the Divisional Drugs Unit seized more than €73,000 worth of cigarettes, cash and drugs after a car and residence were searched in Galway today.
As part of Operation Tara – which is targeting the sale and supply of drugs and related criminal activity in the Galway area – Gardaí searched a car in the Knocknacarra area. Cash and cannabis were seized.
A follow up search was carried out at a residence in Salthill, where cigarettes worth €70,000, along with €3,100 in cash and a small quantity of suspected amphetamine were recovered.
No arrests were made, but Gardaí say they are following a definite line of inquiry.
Eyrecourt tune makes it to Hollywood in Jig time
A tune composed to celebrate the twinning of Eyrecourt in south-east Galway with Gouesnach in France is to feature in a new film.
Written by Niall Crehan, ‘The Eyrecourt Jig’ made quite a splash when it was released in 2013 and is still popular in music sessions up and down the country.
Niall had been commissioned to write the tune for the 20th anniversary of the twinning of the two villages, Eyrecourt and Gouesnach.
So, when he had a small part as a fiddler in a TV film called Royal Rendevouz, he started playing the jig.
The producers were so impressed, they added it to the movie soundtrack and it will appear in the credits.
Niall is a member of a celebrated traditional Irish musical dynasty hailing originally from County Clare.
He is the youngest son of whistle and concertina player Vincent Crehan and nephew of renowned fiddler Junior Crehan.
Niall and his brother Kieran ran the Dublin shop Crehan Musical instruments until his early retirement.
Now living in Kildare, Niall is a cousin of publican Mick Crehan, who runs the renowned folk pub in the west end of Galway, The Crane.
Niall and the large army of musicians in the extended family are regular guests.
His brother Dermot got music playing parts on films such as the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter and he managed to get Niall onto the likes of Downton Abbey.
This latest TV project is the latest foray into the world of film, explains his son Brian.
The story centres on an American chef who is invited to an Irish manor to cook a feast in order to convince the matriarch not to sell the home.
It premieres on Sunday, February 26 at 9pm on the E! Network starring Isabella Gomez, Ruairi O’Connor and Ronan Raftery.
‘No show’ TDs criticised at County Galway policing committee meeting
A county councillor has launched a stinging criticism of Oireachtas members for their repeated failure to attend County Galway Joint Policing Committee (JPC) meetings.
At a meeting of the JPC on Monday, Cllr Michael ‘Moegie’ Maher (photographed) said he believed it was time the three TDs on the committee decided if they wanted to remain, or give their place up to someone who would make use of it.
“I am asking the Council to write out to our Oireachtas members and ask them do they want to be on this JPC or not, and if not, let someone else be on it,” blasted the Fine Gael councillor.
This followed repeated non-appearances from TDs representing the Oireachtas on the committee – the three representatives are Deputy Noel Grealish (Ind), Deputy Anne Rabbitte (FF) and Deputy Catherine Connolly (Ind).
Cllr Maher said the JPC, which sits around five times per year, was deliberately held on a Mondays to facilitate Oireachtas members who were in the Dáil later in the week. He said there were issues being raised regularly that required raising at a national level and it was incumbent on national representatives to bring those matters back to Dublin.
One such issue was the use of CCTV in the pursuit of illegal dumpers and travelling crime gangs, said Cllr Maher who is Cathaoirleach of the County Council.
“I would like our members of the Oireachtas to be taking the message back on CCTV,” he added, as representatives locally were getting no further as a result of data protection laws.
None of the three Oireachtas members were present for this week’s meeting. Chair of the JPC, Cllr Jim Cuddy, confirmed he had received an apology from Deputy Catherine Connolly.