Bradley Bytes – A sort of political column with Dara Bradley
Galway is in the grips of a homeless and housing crisis. The word ‘crisis’ is bandied about too often, but in relation to housing, the city is indeed at crisis point.
Galway City Council is spending €350,000 monthly on emergency accommodation to house people who are officially homeless.
That’s on average €350,000 every month going to B&Bs and hotels and other accommodation providers to put roofs over the heads of families and people in dire straits.
It sounds glamorous living in a hotel, but the opposite is the case – no cooking facilities, no certainty or security of tenure, nowhere to call your own, drifting from one hotel room to the next depending on availability, fearing you’ll be moved at weekends when a stag party arrives or a crowd of Yanks check-in.
The psychological scarring that the stigma of not having a place to call home will have on a generation of homeless children in our city will be felt for years to come. Try doing homework when you don’t have a home.
The problem is getting worse. In June and July, 120 Notices to Quit were issued to people on the City Council’s housing waiting list. Anecdotally, and from the first-hand experience of wonderful organisations like Cope Galway and Galway Simon, landlords in the private rental sector are fleeing the market, and issuing more eviction notices.
Short-term lettings, such as Airbnb, are adding to the problem, as is high demand from students of the third level institutes, GMIT and NUIG.
The cost of dealing with the crisis is spiralling. Last month, councillors voted to take €280,000 from the Council’s revenue budget – that had originally been earmarked for additional staff – to put towards homeless services. And the Council also approved a €5 million overdraft accommodation budget.
While the homeless crisis continues to deepen, the Council continues to do nothing with houses it purchased a decade ago.
In response to a query from Independent Galway West TD, Catherine Connolly, the Chief Executive of the City Council, Brendan McGrath has confirmed that five properties on Lower Merchants Road in the ownership of the local authority are vacant/derelict.
The Council bought houses 17 and 18 at Lower Merchants Road in 2007, and at 19, 19A, and 20 in 2008. This was after they bought number 15 to build an art-house cinema.
Numbers 17, 18, 19, 19A and 20 were acquired, “with the purpose of developing them as cultural/arts venues”, he said.
In August, Mr McGrath said the Council was progressing a “significant enhancement and extension to the City Museum” with a grant application submitted to Fáilte Ireland.
“It is intended that the City Museum project will copper-fasten the role of this part of the city as a cultural quarter, and the future uses for the houses at Lower Merchants’ Road will be considered in this regard, potentially as studio spaces for artists,” he told Deputy Connolly.
Well, the new museum announcement came and went this September without mention of these empty houses. Using them as “studio spaces for artists” is a lofty aspiration, but it is time the Council used their derelict properties to house homeless artists.
For more Bradley Bytes see this week’s Galway City Tribune
No monkeypox cases recorded so far in Galway
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC) has had no reports of monkeypox infection in Galway so far.
So far, some 97 confirmed cases have been notified in Ireland, including 12 new notifications in the week to July 30.
But none of these cases were notified in the HSE’s CHO2 area which includes Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.
The latest epidemiology report about human monkeypox was released last week.
All of the 97 notified cases in Ireland are males and have a median age of 36.
The sexual orientation of 75 of the men is known, and they self-identify as gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men.
The HSPC said this epidemiology of the infection is similar to other countries.
A total of ten people have been hospitalised with the infection; four of them required clinical care for monkeypox infection while two were admitted for observation.
The HSE said monkeypox is a very uncommon infection that produces a spotty, itchy and sore rash, and sometimes a fever.
It is caused by a monkeypox virus which is naturally found in some animals in Africa. The HSE said it was in the news now because there have been several thousand cases of monkeypox in countries where the virus is not found naturally, including Ireland.
It is spread through close contact, including sexual contact, but it can be picked up through contact with objects touched by an infected person such as sheets.
Monkeypox symptoms can appear in two stages. The first stage usually begins with a sudden onset of fever and chills, followed by a bad headache, swollen glands and exhaustion. There may also be muscle ache, backache, cough and runny nose, and gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea. Not everyone with monkeypox has these initial symptoms.
One to three days after the fever starts, an itchy rash appears. It may first appear on the face and spread to other parts of the body. Some people may only have a rash and not initial symptoms.
Anyone with symptoms is asked to contact their GP.
Law catches up with Galway parking meter thief years later
From the Galway City Tribune – The long arm of the law stretched back through the years, finally bringing a man to justice this week for stealing almost €3,500 in coins from parking meters in the city six years ago.
42-year-old Ioan Costin, a Romanian national with an address at 20 Brewery Court, Ballinrobe, was taken into custody on July 11 on foot of three separate bench warrants issued for his arrest when he failed to appear before courts in Galway in 2017, and more recently Dublin and Castlebar.
He was facing charges in Galway in 2017 of damaging a parking meter at the Long Walk, belonging to Galway/Aengus Property Management on July 6, 2016, and with stealing €669.90 in coins from the meter on the same date.
He was further charged with stealing €932 in coins from another parking meter at the Docks, the property of Paul Sheridan, c/o Port of Galway, on October 2, 2016, and with damaging that machine on the same occasion.
Costin was brought in custody before Galway District Court on July 18 – a week after the bench warrant was executed – where he pleaded guilty to the above charges and to further charges of damaging four other parking meters at or near the Docks area on various dates between July 4 and 19, 2016.
In all, coins totalling €3,451 were taken from the meters over the four-month period, to which he also pleaded guilty.
In one raid alone, Costin and another man, who was never identified or caught, stole €1,800 in coins from one meter at the Dock Road on July 6, 2016.
He was also found in possession of two screw drivers which he used to force the meters open during one of the July raids.
Both men were captured on CCTV, damaging the meters and stealing the coins, following a Garda investigation into the targeted attacks on parking meters in the Docks area at the time.
Costin made full admissions to Garda Ronan Leonard following his arrest on July 11 last.
He claimed he had a gambling addiction and went straight to Salthill on each occasion with his share of the stolen coins, where he lost them all on slot machines.
Defence barrister, Ernie White explained to Judge Gerard Furlong at the holiday sittings of the court this week that his client was first brought in custody before Galway District Court on July 11 last where he pleaded guilty to the charges and sentence was adjourned to this week’s court.
Sergeant Christy Browne, prosecuting, said Costin had 17 previous convictions, all of which were for thefts and for having implements to commit thefts. The most recent conviction, he said, was recorded at Castlebar Circuit Court on July 15 last where Costin received a three-month sentence for a theft which he committed in May 2020. He had also received suspended sentences at a court in Dublin the previous day for similar thefts and for having screwdrivers to commit thefts in 2017.
Noting Costin had made no attempt to repay the money in the intervening years, Judge Furlong sentenced him to five months in prison for damaging the meter at The Long Walk and imposed a concurrent five-month sentence for the theft of the €3,451. Both sentences were backdated to when the Costin went into custody on July 11. The judge took the remaining charges into account and granted leave to appeal the sentence.
Arts building must be provided in any overhaul of Galway Docks
From the Galway City Tribune – A three-storey structure to accommodate the arts in Galway City could become a reality as part of the regeneration plans for the extensive Inner Harbour site at the Docks.
And Galway Harbour Company has stated that as part of any redevelopment of the site, they are very supportive of the provision of arts and cultural facilities on their lands.
Caroline Phelan, Senior Planner with the City Council, told a Galway City Development Plan (2023-29) discussion that they would consider the provision of 1,500 square metres of arts space on the site by the eventual developer.
And she said that this could involve the construction of a three-storey structure and would be embraced as part of the overall Harbour extension and all councillors present at the meeting welcomed such a move.
Ms Phelan added that any such development would be limited to a certain size and would be done in conjunction with the City Arts Officer. An audit of arts and culture requirements would also be carried out.
The City Development Plan meeting was discussing a submission from the Galway Harbour Company which outlined a proposed masterplan for the overall site which it said would be required.
It is envisaged that the site will be ‘built out’ in two phases and should require a separate masterplan for each phase, in the context of the overall planning framework.
However, as part of this massive plan, it is required the provision of an arts and cultural facility at a developer’s expense and with a management regime incorporated into the development delivery that enables the long-term sustainable use of such a facility.
“Galway Harbour Company are entirely supportive of the provision of arts and cultural facilities on their lands as part of the regeneration of the area and will actively accommodate such facilities.
“However, the requirement as set out in the draft plan is considered to be unduly onerous particularly as our client has no involvement in or expertise in this sector.
“The Galway Harbour Company will make a site available for an arts and cultural facility and will work with all relevant parties to ensure that this facility is delivered and that it is sustainable in the long term.”
It was requested by the Harbour Company that that this requirement would be reworded along the following lines: “Provision will be made within the masterplan for an arts and cultural facility and the delivery and management regime for this facility will be devised in collaboration with Galway City Council and other relevant stakeholders.”
Cllr Donal Lyons (Ind) at the outset asked if it would be a small, medium or large artistic facility and inquired if there would be a minimum space available for the arts as part of the Harbour regeneration plans.
But he did express the view that it was a major step towards the provision of such facilities at the Docks and it would “foster artistic purposes”.