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CITY TRIBUNE

Council’s concern over proposed Merlin Park nursing home

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The site of the proposed new Community Nursing Unit in Merlin Park.

Plans to construct a new 60-bed Community Nursing Unit on the grounds of Merlin Park Hospital – with dining rooms, family overnight room, treatment rooms and internal courtyard – have hit a stumbling block over traffic safety and parking.

The HSE proposal on the 4.4-acre site is for 25 bedrooms (with 50 beds) and a 10-bed dementia unit, all to be located behind Unit 10 at the far end of the Merlin Park campus.

However, the City Council wrote to the HSE earlier this month and said that a Traffic Impact Assessment included with the planning application did not take Merlin Park Lane (the access point behind the hospital) into consideration.

The Council has sought a revised traffic assessment, which must also address rat-running through the hospital and how it will be controlled.

The HSE has also been told to take into account their own masterplan for Merlin Park – which includes a new 1,150-bed elective hospital and a new ambulance base – and the fact that the main access on the Old Dublin Road “is not suitable in its current format and signalisation needs to be considered”.

Clarification has also been sought on parking in general and how spaces would be managed.

According to the HSE, the reason for the proposal is the replacement of Units 5 & 6 (community care) at the hospital, as they are out of date and do not meet the current requirements of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) for patient quality.

The plans are part of a nationwide HSE proposal to deliver Community Nursing Units (CNUs) nationwide and is part of a specific bundle to construct nine units under a Public-Private Partnership programme.

“In general, a CNU is a residential care centre, providing modern in-patient accommodation and a variety of services/facilities for its residents, i.e., en suite bedrooms, family overnight rooms, communal day rooms for residents (sun rooms, activity rooms, quiet rooms), therapy rooms, hairdressing salon, pharmacy, kitchen/catering facilities and associated support, back of house and staff areas,” the application reads.

The plan involves the demolition of a carpenter’s workshop, storerooms and a former nurses’ accommodation building.

There are 91 parking spaces proposed on the site, including 28 south of Doughiska Road.

An objection on behalf of nine residents of Merlin Park Lane – the rear entry point to the hospital – pointed out that the use of the road for construction traffic would create “calamitous implications on an already catastrophic situation for residents and pedestrians”.

The objection notes that the cul de sac is a low-density residential area and was only ever intended to provide access to the hospital at designated peak times.

“The proposed development will result in the intensification of traffic flow through Merlin Park Lane which will be hazardous to residents and pedestrians alike.”

According to the application, the access gate is open 8am to 10am and 4pm to 6pm on weekdays only.

Residents added that the lane is four metres wide at a point just 100 metres from the rear gate of the hospital, and a 400-metre stretch has no footpaths or lighting.

Residents already have much difficulty in accessing and leaving their homes because of the volume of traffic, the objections said.

Rock-breaking would also “cause great upset, potential liability for residents and will interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of all residents”.

A separate objection signed by three residents of Merlin Park Lane said they were not against the development “as it seeks to deliver much-needed facilities to the greater community”, but traffic concerns had not been adequately addressed within the application process.

The objection noted that the Merlin Park Lane was not assessed as part of the Traffic Impact Assessment included with the application.

“No traffic monitoring calculations or projections for this access road are included. This is totally misleading in relation to the current traffic difficulties associated with this entrance and also the impact of the proposed development. It is strange that the closest access point to the development receives no detailed analysis whatsoever.

“The reality is that Merlin Park Lane has become a rat run for city-bound traffic in recent years. The intended restricted use for staff members of the hospital, whilst well intended, is not controlled in any way and this lack of control has resulted in the current situation. A combined analysis of traffic at both entrances would clearly evidence this,” the objection reads.

It adds that residents met with senior hospital officials on a number of occasions and a simple solution of installing an automatic managed traffic barrier was dismissed due to lack of funding.

The HSE has until October 1 to respond to the Council or the application will be deemed to be withdrawn.

CITY TRIBUNE

Six Shinners to contest Galway City local elections in 2024

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Sinn Féin is planning to run two candidates in each city electoral ward in the next Local Elections in 2024.

Party number-crunchers nationally want to flood local election tickets with candidates to pick up extra seats and capitalise on anti-Government sentiment that is circulating among a cohort of voters.

The Shinners ran too few candidates in the last General Election. It meant they could not capitalise fully from a swing to the party during that campaign. They left seats behind them.

Now they’re planning to run a record number of candidates. In Galway, that would mean two candidates in each of the three areas, City West, City Central and City East.

The thinking is that they need to pick up additional seats in local authority elections, so that they have sufficient councillors to vote for Sinn Féin candidates in Seanad elections. More councillors equals more senators.

Sinn Féin is very much preparing for Government; and while the polls suggest it’s the most popular party (at 34% according to the latest in the Sunday Times last weekend) and would likely win most Dáil seats if an election was held tomorrow, it would still need numbers in the Seanad to pass legislation.

One problem faced by Sinn Féin is the party might find it difficult to source six credible candidates to contest local elections in Galway.

Another problem with running two, rather than one, in each ward in Galway City is that SF could split the vote and end up not winning any seats at all.

In 2019, Councillors Mairéad Farrell, Mark Lohan and Cathal Ó Conchúir all lost their seats after dismal local elections. Farrell was since elected to the Dáil following her Lazarus comeback but the organisation locally is still wary of a fickle Galway electorate.

If Sinn Féin doesn’t win back those three seats lost in 2019, then the next locals would be deemed a massive failure.

Winning more than three seats on Galway City Council would be a success but are the Shinners willing to risk running two candidates in each ward, splitting the vote and ending up with egg on their faces?

Photo: Mairéad Farrell with fellow Sinn Féin members Mark Lohan and Cathal Ó Conchúir (back left) after she was elected to the Dáil in 2020. All lost had their seats in Galway City Council in 2019 after dismal local elections.


This is a shortened preview version of this column. For more Bradley Bytes, see the January 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.


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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway is seventh-worst city in Europe for car traffic congestion

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Car traffic congestion in Galway is quickly rebounding to pre-pandemic levels, with commuters spending up to 94 hours caught on the city’s gridlocked arteries last year.

According to data compiled by INRIX, a world-leader in mobility data, Galway is the seventh-worst city in Europe for congestion, an 84% increase on its position in 2021.

The data shows that Galway places in the worst 50 cities in the world for congestion – taking 39th place, with Dublin the only other Irish city placing higher at Number 12.

While the figures show that car traffic has not fully returned to pre-Covid levels, the 2022 figures came within 13% of 2019 congestion rates.

This was despite vast numbers continuing to work from home last year, a worrying trend according to the local People Before Profit representative Adrian Curran.

In Cork, Limerick and Dublin, there had been a more lasting effect, showing decreases of 20%, 26% and 29% respectively, he said.


This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the January 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway 2020 paid €110,000 for PR while cutting spends on arts events

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From this week’s City Tribune – Galway 2020’s bank account statements for five months of 2020 reveal thousands of euro were spent on public relations firms and media advertising when its cultural programme was being cut and ‘revised’ during the upheaval at the onset of Covid-19.

The AIB statements date from April to September of 2020, when Covid-19 had seriously curtailed cultural activities of Galway 2020, the company behind the city and county’s European Capital of Culture. They show more than €110,000 was paid to Dublin-based public relations firm Q4 PR, in three separate payments in April, May and June of 2020.

Thousands more were paid to other public relations firms, radio stations and, to a lesser extent, newspapers.

In March of that year, Galway 2020 announced it was reviewing its programme of events due to Covid-19 restrictions imposed by Government after a global pandemic was declared, curtailing all events.

On April 7, it confirmed it was laying off staff and had ended its agreement with Helen Marriage and Artichoke which was providing creative direction.

Later that month, it issued statements to say it was exploring a ‘re-imagined’ programme of events to take place at the end of 2020 and 2021.

Although the amounts paid to media and PR companies other than Q4 PR are relatively small, compared with expenditure on other headings, the payments suggest the importance Galway 2020 placed on image and public perception around that time.

The bank statements were released to the Galway City Tribune following a protracted Freedom of Information request and after an appeal to the Office of Information Commissioner.

Many of the payees in the bank statements were redacted but the names of several PR and media organisations are listed as having been paid by Galway 2020.


This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article with details of the spending, see the January 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. There is also coverage of this week’s rebranding and new vision of Galway 2020. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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