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Connacht Tribune

Councillors vote down social housing blueprint

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Conamara councillors have voted to defer a masterplan to provide 100 social houses in Moycullen – despite being warned it would be a retrograde step at a time when the demand was at an all-time high.

Cllr Noel Thomas, who proposed the motion to defer the Galway County Council masterplan first mooted almost two years ago, stressed that he recognised the demand for social housing – but he disagreed with ‘lumping’ them all together instead of providing mixed developments of private and affordable housing.

Cllr Thomas said he had spent a long time researching and getting answers from council officials on the matter and he wasn’t going to back down now, adding that in light of other recent announcements on other council housing schemes for the area, going ahead with the masterplan would not be advisable until the local area plan was completed.

That scheme was to be completed within the next decade but the Council has since bought a site on the N59 on the Galway side of the village with the intention of providing 49 social units.

That planning application made originally by a private developer was turned down by the Council but granted on appeal to An Bord Pleanala.

There are further plans to build a social housing estate on the Coillte site on the Church Road, another 39 adjacent to Uilinn closer to the village as well as a housing agency’s plan to build 15 units opposite Sweeney’s Shop and Fuel Station west of the village.

“I am not against social housing but I don’t believe in creating all social housing estates. Have we not learned from our mistakes in the past?” he asked.

“People have already expressed their concerns over these plans. They are going mad that they are being put into big lumps. This is a village with no social housing and now there are plans to provide over 200.

“I don’t understand why it can’t be a mixed development and I believe that the Coillte site should be allocated for affordable housing to help young people to buy their own home instead of putting them into social housing.”

Senior Executive Engineer Rachel Lowe told the meeting she had no housing need figures for Moycullen (two years ago it was over 200) but that there were 3,200 people on the housing list county wide and, for 150 of them, Conamara South was their area of choice.

She told the Conamara Municipal District meeting in Oughterard that there were 14 units under construction in Carraroe, 18 in Ros a Mhíl, eleven in Letterfrack and 13 in Anach Mheáin in Beal a Daingean, with another 26 units being provided in the former St Joseph’s School and Laundry in Clifden.

She also listed the 39 units coming on stream in Moycullen as well as a number of other units in the former post office in Inverin giving the meeting a flavour of how the Government’s commitment to investing in housing under Rebuilding Ireland was going on.

Cllr Thomas said he appreciated that there was ‘a big demand for social housing in Moycullen at the moment’ but hoped the Council would use ‘some common sense and try to keep people in their own area though that’s not always possible’.

He said he thought the plans to build over 200 social housing units in Moycullen was ‘out of proportion’ and that the Council was missing out on an opportunity to provide some badly needed community facilities for the village, reminding the meeting that the primary school was already full to capacity.

“That school is using prefabs with plastic on the roofs to stop water leaking in and there isn’t even a proper bus service. We need to step back.

“It’s ridiculous to ram these all together as it won’t work. We should be taking baby steps to see how it’s managed before moving onto the next step. I don’t think we should be developing that site on the Spiddal Road for 100 units (the masterplan) until the local area plan is completed.”

He said the new poor were the working class who were trying to keep on top of bills and that it would be more in line to provide an affordable housing scheme.

Ms Lowe warned councillors it would be a “big step back” to defer the masterplan at a time when there was a national debate on the need for social housing. She further asked that the vote be deferred to October 4.

Cllr Séamus Walsh seconded Cllr Thomas’ motion – and it was carried, with Cllr Alastair McKinstry voting against it.

Connacht Tribune

Packed like sardines in Salthill and only 200 allowed gather at a game

John McIntyre

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John McIntyre

Inside Track with John McIntyre – sports@ctribune.ie

IN a moment of madness, I decided to take a cycle out to Salthill last Saturday. By the time I got to the Blackrock Diving Tower, I thought I had just come through Torremolinos or one of those sun hot spots on the Costa Del Sol. There were cars and people everywhere.

The first inkling that Salthill would be heaving came when there was a traffic-jam halfway back the Lough Atalia Road leading to the Docks. Such were the number of cars, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Pearse Stadium was hosting a Connacht football final that afternoon.

If the people of Offaly, Laois and Kildare – all currently under partial Covid-19 lockdown – could see the carefree holiday mood in one of the West’s favourite tourist attractions, they’d be wondering had they stumbled on a parallel universe.

As readers will know from previous columns, I have a jaundiced view of NPHET and the Government’s cautious approach to relaxing the coronavirus restrictions. The scaremongering continues at frightening levels and many people are living in a climate of fear – though few of them were in Salthill.

NPHET must be immune to what’s really happening on the ground. If it thinks that there is widespread compliance, the group is living in cloud cuckoo land. All over Ireland’s favourite tourist attractions, there are thousands of holiday makers with little or no observance of social distancing.

My frustration over this scenario is fuelled by the way sport and its followers have been so badly compromised by the Covid-19 restrictions. My club Lorrha was playing in the Tipperary hurling championship last Friday evening and many of our diehard supporters couldn’t get a ticket to the match.

It’s the same in every GAA parish. So much unnecessary agitation and frustration. On Sunday evening, reporting duties took me to Ballinasloe for an attractive derby clash between Tommy Larkins and Tynagh/Abbey-Duniry. In a nutshell, there was nearly as many people inside as outside the wire. The ‘gathering’ limit of 200 annoyingly remains, especially in the context of the throngs in places like Salthill.

NPHET have justified not increasing crowd limits to beyond 200 over fears that people will congregate afterwards and the assumption that individuals from different families are travelling together in the one car. Frankly, it’s a load of nonsense and just irrational justification for not being prepared to compromise.

Of course, if the Government had any backbone instead of acting like a lapdog, it would never have come to this. I am fed up of hearing the line, in the interests of ‘public health’, as if people are dying from nothing else other than the coronavirus. The reality is that there have only been a handful of fatalities from the disease over the past fortnight. In the same period, how many have passed away from cancer and cardiac issues when their standard of care wasn’t what it should have been due to the fixation with Covid-19 over the past four months?

There’s now a genuine health and safety issue at play as well in relation to sporting fixtures. We have all images of fans hanging off trees and ladders, and others on rust-laden roofs, in their desperation to support their local teams. Furthermore, does NPHET have any idea what their draconian approach is doing to the mental health of some people?

There was no justification for stopping sporting activity in Laois, Offaly and Kildare last Friday. Locking down the affected towns where there was a surge of new infections in local meat processing plants would have made more sense. There have been no clusters spread through sport so why should codes like GAA and soccer be punished?

We all appreciate that the virus hasn’t gone away and there is an obligation on all of us to act responsibly, but only making the use of masks compulsory for most indoor settings from last Monday takes the biscuit altogether. Why has it taken so long? The pandemic has been with us since last March and only now is this measure deemed appropriate.

Over the past few weeks, I have observed individuals wearing masks travelling alone in cars, while cycling, and outdoors where there’s hardly a sinner in sight. What’s that all about? It’s not as if you can pass on the virus to yourself! Horse racing is going to extremes altogether. Now everybody at a meeting has to wear a mask outdoors. Suffice to say, they all look ridiculous walking around in what is the equivalent of big open fields.

I have absolutely no issue with our civil liberties being compromised in the ongoing quest to supress the virus, but logic is being repeatedly thrown out the window. NPHET’s ‘one size fits all’ approach must be urgently reviewed and the Government needs to stand back and make up its own mind about what activity constitutes genuine risk.

Though I believe the horse has long since bolted when it comes to wearing masks in indoor centres, I am willingly obeying the rule while as team manager of Lorrha, all our players have their temperatures checked before each training session; there are hand santisers supplied; and the training props are disinfected.

The primary focus should be on sorting out meat processing plants and the direct provision centres, while travel in and out of the country ought to be restricted to emergencies or on compassionate grounds. House parties also need to be clamped down on. Everything else is hardly worth a hill of beans in tackling this pandemic.

Keeping gatherings at 200 and not allowing pubs to reopen are soft targets. I am not proposing anarchy or anything like that, but the powers that be need to wise up and concentrate their efforts on the places where outbreaks of the virus are occurring. Everything else is just window dressing.

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Connacht Tribune

Old mills set for new life as distillery

Declan Tierney

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An artist's impression of the new distillery.

An old corn mill in East Galway is set to be transformed into a €6 million whiskey and gin manufacturing distillery – once planning permission has been granted for the development.

And if approved, the distillery has the potential to create more than 15 new jobs directly in the village of Ahascragh, providing a huge economic boost to the area – and rescuing the old corn mill which ceased operation in the 1950s.

A planning application for the new brewery has just been submitted by Gareth and Michelle McAllister of McAllister Distillers in North Dublin, with a decision due before the end of the year.

Gareth McAllister told The Connacht Tribune that he intended to renovate the old building while retaining some of the old features such as a mill wheel, and utilise the stream that runs through the property.

The complex, as well as producing various styles of Irish whiskey and gin, will also include a visitor centre, rooms for hospitality events, a retail shop and cafe.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also purchase a digital edition here.

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Connacht Tribune

Wait is over for frontman’s first solo venture

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John Martin Tierney

Multi-instrumentalist John Martin Tierney has been a recognisable face on Galway’s music scene for several years – but up to now, largely as the focal point in a band setting.  Comfortable operating as both energetic frontman and rhythm-setting guitarist, he has featured in an array of impressive local outfits; most notably, his work with Dead Horse Jive has seen the five-piece develop into one of the city’s top live acts.

But with all of that experience in a collaborative setting, John’s solo work has sometimes been put to the side.

That’s about to change – if just temporarily – as John releases his debut single, I Will Wait, this Friday; a three-and-a-half-minute ballad, the song incorporates piano and acoustic guitar more than much of his band work has done.

Though the track has existed in some form for a long time, its subject matter was particularly pertinent over lockdown.

“Around the start of June, I started properly putting energy into something that would have an end product,” John recalls.

“I wanted something I could be proud of, even if I wasn’t going to release it while lockd I Will Waitown was going on. I had an earlier version of it but I was never happy with it. I started rewriting it in about May or June.

“It kind of talks about missing people that you love. It’s from the point of view of not being able to see someone physically because of whatever restrictions are in place. That’s where it came from anyway and I think it translates well… I hope it does.”

For full interview, read the Groove Tube in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in all shops now – or purchase the digital edition; full details on this website.

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