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Connacht Tribune

Councillors’ anger over social housing in private estate

Enda Cunningham

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County councillors vented their anger at a meeting this week over the local authority’s purchase of 14 houses in a private estate in Athenry for use as social housing – which neighbours claim will knock a total of €1.5 million off the value of their homes.

A clear message was delivered from Council officials – they cannot and will not engage in public consultations when buying private houses for use as social housing because they are commercial transactions requiring confidentiality.

The Council also rejected the claim that it was competing with first-time buyers for properties, stating that it queries whether offers have been made on properties by such potential buyers. The local authority said it will “withdraw” in such cases.

Councillor Jim Cuddy told the Council executive that the manner in which the 14 houses in the Lorro Gate development in Athenry were purchased was “underhand” and they should have been placed on the open market.

The matter was raised by Tuam area councillor Shaun Cunniffe said people had voiced concerns to him about the deal, including one lady who intended to purchase there, but had now decided not to.

He said that people were coming to him when a house in their estate came up for sale saying: “Please tell me the Council aren’t going to buy it.”

Cllr Cunniffe said that when a bad tenant goes into an area, there is nothing anybody can do about it.

Cllr Michael Connolly said that one of the things the Council executive is obliged to do when selling or disposing of a property is to engage with elected representatives, but there was no requirement when buying a property.

“There is a very genuine concern that properties are being devalued, and homeowners will be in negative equity as a result,” said Cllr Connolly.

Cllr Martina Kinnane said she was inundated with queries over the previous few days because of rumours that the Council is buying land for social housing in Oranmore.

“As a local councillor, I couldn’t answer them. They think I’m just not telling them. Everyone has a right to be house, but people have a right to have information,” she said.

Director of Services for Housing, Michael Owens, said the houses in Athenry were for sale as a single lot, and the local authority was therefore not competing with first-time buyers.

He said that in that instance, the only bodies which could have purchased the homes were the Council, an approved housing body with the Council’s backing or an institutional investor.

Mr Owens said housing acquisition is an executive function, and he could not engage in public commentary or debate on a purchase deal because it is a commercial transaction and he must respect requirements in terms of confidentiality.

He explained that he did not attend a meeting organised by local residents on Good Friday but outlined the Council’s position in a letter. He said locals had chosen to have legal representation, so any representation from the Council would now be through them.

Mr Owens said that other opportunities have arisen for multiple units to be purchased in single lots, and where appropriate and if the price represented value for money, the Council engaged.

“We acknowledge there are issues with antisocial behaviour. Of our 2,500 tenants, there’s a very small minority,” said Mr Owens, adding that the local authority has taken action in the past and had a number of successful outcomes in court; a number of cases are under appeal and a number are before the courts.

“It is important to note it is a very small minority of tenants [causing problems],” Mr Owens said.

Cllr Gabe Cronnelly said the houses in Lorro Gate should be allocated under an affordable housing scheme but was told there is no such scheme at the moment.

He said that when homes already allocated as social housing in the development (under Part V planning requirements from developers), 45% of the houses in the estate would be social.

“What is going on in Athenry in totally and utterly unforgivable. Why were the houses not put on the open market? First-time buyers could have gone in and bought them at the same price the Council was buying them at. This is totally underhand what’s going on here.

“Local people were prevented from buying individual houses here. They were sold en bloc. This is totally unacceptable. People who bought their houses in what was supposed to be a private housing estate have had auctioneers value them and have been told in no uncertain terms that if social housing goes ahead at the rate proposed, their houses will be devalued up to €100,000.

“This is going to put people in negative equity at a time when we’re trying to help people struggling with houses. People are genuinely fearful.

“We have a big problem. The vast majority of people in social housing are very decent people. But you will have the odd one. There is a fear factor among people that if they get an unwelcome neighbour coming into the area, they’re going to have a big problem. Their houses will devalue overnight,” said Cllr Cuddy.

Connacht Tribune

Increase exam grades this Christmas at Kilmartin Educational Services

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Second level students are making the most of their Christmas holidays by attending the ever popular Intensive Revision Courses in Kilmartin Educational Services, Limerick Ennis and online.  These courses are designed for Junior Cert and Leaving Certificate students sitting exams next June 2021 and who want to maximize their grades. Courses will be available onsite and online this year. All courses are taught by experienced teachers, many of whom are state examiners.  Class sizes onsite are limited in line with our Covid-19 health and safety policies 

The courses will provide effective and efficient revision by concentrating on the vital examination topics within a subject. These Intensive One Day Revision Courses are excellent value at €80 per course and are now better value than ever!  All courses run from 9.153.15pm. 

Students who simply wish to avail of daytime supervised study will also be catered for over the Christmas period from 9.45-4.30pm dailySupervised study pods are bright, spaciousdistraction free and well ventilated 

Due to a policy of limited enrolment on all courses, immediate booking is advisable. This Christmas, give the Gift of Exam Success by booking your revision Courses at Julie Kilmartin’s. Pricing information and timetables are available online at www.kes.ie. To book a place on any course, call Kilmartin Educational Services on 061-444989. 

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Connacht Tribune

Cherish every moment; hug and kiss your loved ones every night

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Happier days…Geraldine Mullan with her husband John and their children Tomas and Amelia.

Last August, GERALDINE MULLAN (née Connaughton) endured an unfathomable nightmare, losing her husband and two children in a crash that she herself was lucky to survive. Here the Williamstown native writes of life since – and how the support of so many has helped her over the last three months.

My husband John was a fan of Bruce Springsteen. In normal circumstances he would be currently enjoying Bruce’s latest album “Letter to You” and taking particular interest in the songs, especially the one entitled “House of a Thousand Guitars” (given John’s love of that instrument).

But these are not normal days and instead it is me appraising the new offering from The Boss and taking poignant note of some of the other lyrical melodies on the album, particularly those entitled “One Minute You’re Here” and “I’ll See You in my Dreams”.

These two songs in particular speak to my situation and have become musical reminders of my beloved departed, my husband John and our children Tomas and Amelia, who were cruelly taken from this world in late August of this year.

Since the tragedy unfolded, I have been surrounded by many wonderful people and wrapped up in their familial and communal embraces, all united in offering me solace, comfort, assistance and no end of love, understanding and compassion.

I stand each day and get through it, in no small part, due to the continuous support you provide to me.

Such is the outpouring and swell of sympathy and empathy alike, and many are the calls, messages, cards, letters, flowers, gifts, acts of service and human kindness which have reached my Moville doorstep, that I am truly overwhelmed, very much humbled and ever-grateful.

I am genuinely appreciative of it all and your love and caring has taken root in my heart and in my head. That being said, I am unable to respond to everyone individually, therefore this is my “Letter to You”, my simple way of acknowledgement and sincere thanks.

You can read Geraldine’s full, heart-breaking letter in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Early Christmas box for 13,500 Galway farmers

Francis Farragher

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CLOSE on 13,500 Galway farmers should be getting an early ‘Christmas Box’ this week with the final tranche of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) monies being paid out – ‘bang on schedule’, according to Agriculture Minister, Charlie McConalogue.

Back in October, farmers got the 70% advance payment in BPS with a commitment given at the time that the balance would be paid out in early December – balancing payments under the Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) scheme are scheduled to commence next week.

Total BPS payments to Galway’s 13,500 farmers come to just over €82 million, according to figures released by local TDs this week, with the average individual payment per farmer working out at just over €6,000.

East Galway TD and Minister of State, Anne Rabbitte, said that the final tranche of the BPS payments was a most welcome one for thousands of farmers across the county after a most difficult year.

“The really important thing about these payments is that they are being made on schedule and they will help a lot of farmers to ‘balance the books’ for 2020,” said Minister of State, Rabbitte.

The Minister for Agriculture also confirmed this week that payments under the 2020 National Reserve and the Young Farmers Scheme will also commence alongside payment of the 2020 BPS balancing payment – this will also benefit a significant number of Galway farmers.

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.

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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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