Classifieds Advertise Archive Subscriptions Family Announcements Photos Digital Editions/Apps
Connect with us


Council’s empty houses as homeless crisis spirals

Dara Bradley



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 


Patients moved from Merlin ‘to bolster private numbers’

Enda Cunningham



Merlin Park: Patients were moved to private hospital.

Health Minister Simon Harris has said he will ask the HSE why patients requiring rehab services were moved from Merlin Park to a private hospital, leaving the state-of-the-art facility idle.

He was asked in the Dáil last week why waiting lists were not being tackled, when capacity at the Galway Clinic and Bon Secours private hospitals is at 15-20%.

Last month, the State entered a deal to ‘take over’ the country’s private hospitals – which has come under criticism in the Dáil with claims of under-utilisation of facilities.

Galway West Deputy Catherine Connolly asked for full details of the agreement with the private hospitals – worth €115m per month nationally – and said nothing about it made sense to her.

“We have major waiting lists and our two private hospitals in Galway City are at 15% to 20% capacity. The hospital itself [UHG] – I must be wrong about this figure but it is what I have been told – was at 30% to 40% capacity as of May 15,” she said.

Department of Health figures for last week show a 39% ‘utilisation’ rate for the Bon Secours and 16% for Galway Clinic.

“The Minister has stood in the Chamber and told us he had to make such arrangements, and certainly I welcomed the narrative at the time that we were taking over the private hospitals to deal with a pandemic. However, we are not utilising them.

“Merlin Park has a state-of-the-art rehab service. It has a gym and all types of therapists but it is now lying idle because, under this deal, the Government transferred the patients from that wonderful facility to a private hospital.

“It took the therapists and patients into the private hospital to allow them to get up to 15% or 20% capacity. It sent the nurses into the public system and left the system empty at Merlin Park, and that is to mention only one service.

“None of the way this has been done makes sense to me. Surely anybody with a bit of sense would know that when the terms and the heads of agreement were signed, it should have allowed for change.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
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.


Continue Reading


Barriers set to halt groups drinking at quayside

Francis Farragher



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Access to the green quayside areas off Wolfe Tone Bridge will be blocked from today to prevent large groups of people drinking over the Bank Holiday weekend.

And the message from Garda Chief Superintendent Tom Curley is – enjoy the glorious weekend of weather that’s in store, but diligently maintain the two-metre social distancing rule and don’t consume booze in public areas.

“We are not killjoys and the lovely weather is a boost to everyone’s spirits. People will enjoy the outdoors this weekend but it’s illegal to consume alcohol in public areas and we will be enforcing that bylaw.

“In this kind of weather, there will inevitably be groups of people congregating in outdoor areas – but the message is simple and crystal clear: at all times maintain the two-metre social distancing guideline,” Chief Supt Curley told the Galway City Tribune.

On Tuesday evening last, Gardaí did enforce a dispersal procedure in the Spanish Arch/Claddagh Quay area of the city, after about 200 young people had gathered there, many of them consuming alcohol. They continued to patrol the area yesterday.

A spokesperson for Galway City Council confirmed yesterday that a green area on the Claddagh Quay side of the river – where large groups of young people had gathered this week – would be closed off to the public, probably from today (Friday).
This is a shortened preview version of this article. Please remember that without advertising revenue and people buying and subscribing to our newspapers, this website would not exist. You can read the full article by buying a digital edition of this week’s Galway City Tribune HERE.

Continue Reading


Westwood owners plan tourist accommodation usage

Enda Cunningham



The Westwood student accommodation complex site this week.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The owners of the new Westwood student accommodation in Newcastle are planning to use part of the complex for tourist and business traveller accommodation “in light of the current health pandemic”.

NTM ROI Seed Capital is currently building the five apartment blocks off the N59 and has sought a determination from An Bord Pleanála on whether it would need to apply for planning permission to allow “partial occupation for tourist and visitor use in the academic year from September 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021”.

Under the existing planning permission, the development “shall only be occupied as student accommodation . . . and shall not be used for any other purpose without a prior grant of planning permission for a change of use”.

However, the company has drawn up a contingency plan in the event that construction may not be completed for the coming academic year.

The plan involves allowing tourists and other ‘non-student’ users to be accommodated in the complex – An Bord Pleanála has been asked to determine whether the change would be a ‘material alteration’ of the planning approval or not.

If it is ruled a material alteration, the Board can then invite submissions from members of the public before it decides on whether to approve or reject it.

Already, local residents – who strongly objected to the entire development during the planning process – have expressed concerns about parking issues which they believe would arise if the Westwood is used for tourist use.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. Please remember that without advertising revenue and people buying and subscribing to our newspapers, this website would not exist. You can read the full article by buying a digital edition of this week’s Galway City Tribune HERE.

Continue Reading

Local Ads



Weather Icon