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Connacht Tribune

County Council faces €1.4m shortfall after amalgamation vote

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Cuts of €1.4 million may have to be made to Galway County Council’s budget this year following the Seanad’s vote against a proposal to press ahead with the amalgamation of the two local authorities.

The fund was committed by the Minister of State for Local Government and Electoral Reform John Paul Phelan in “anticipation of the merger, in order that they can beef up the services they are giving in the towns and rural areas around Galway”.

However, in late December a majority of senators voted to remove all references to Galway in the Local Government Reform Bill 2018.

The legislation had advocated replacing the chief executive of Galway City Council and County Council with a single post of chief executive of both and holding a plebiscite on whether to have a directly elected mayor with executive functions for both local authorities in anticipation of the merger in 2021.

The Junior Minister had warned senators that the €1.4m this year and €1.3m for the following two years would “not happen if the section is not included in the Bill because the fund is dedicated to local government reform”.

During the debate, he admitted that Galway County Council received approximately €5 million per annum less than it should receive.

At this month’s meeting, County Chief Executive Kevin Kelly asked councillors to defer a debate about reforming the municipal districts until he could submit a proposal to the Minister asking for the allocation and setting out plans for the reform of the municipal districts to allow more functions to be carried out at local level.

Mr Kelly said the Minister had stated after the Seanad decision that his door was still open regarding the funding if the Council could show it was serious about reform.

“In that context there’s a clear invitation to Galway County Council to submit a proposal for reform,” he urged.

Sinn Féin and many of the independent councillors berated the Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil councillors for including the €1.4m in the budget.

“You were told not to pass a budget on the basis of money that didn’t exist,” railed Cllr Tom Healy (SF).

A proposal by Cllr Mary Hoade (FF) to defer both the debate on municipal district reform and adjusting the budget to take into account a cut of €1.4m was agreed.

The proposed amalgamation is still set to go ahead and will be the subject of a separate bill later this year.

Deputy Phelan said that Bill would restore a common management structure in Galway that was in place for over 100 years until 1985.

“The reality is that the divorce that took place in 1985 which we will be seeking to reverse next year in a different Bill was never really effective in the first place and the issue of the funding of Galway County Council was never resolved properly,” he told the Seanad.

He said despite the opposition of most of the Galway TDs and 54 of the 57 councillors, “there was no ground-swell of public opinion in Galway against the proposed merger”.

Connacht Tribune

Progress stalls on setting up Eating Disorder Community Health Team

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Despite an increasing number of young people experiencing eating disorders, a new specialist community team has yet to be set up in Galway well over a year after it was announced.

The delay is mainly due to a difficulty recruiting a consultant psychiatrist to lead the team, this week’s HSE West Regional Health Forum meeting was told.

Councillor John Connolly (FF) queried the progress on the new Eating Disorder Community Health Team within the Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) after the HSE revealed in September 2021 that it would be set up in response to the hike in youths presenting for treatment.

Chief Officer of HSE Community Healthcare West, Breda Crehan-Roche, said interviews had been conducted to recruit a clinical lead, but so far none had been appointed. Six other staff had been appointed and these had been assigned to existing teams within CAMHS while a psychiatrist could come on board to manage the team.

“We have difficulty getting locum cover. Interviews were held. It’s a priority. We are doing a running recruitment process,” she told this month’s meeting.

It took between six and nine months to appoint a person to such a senior post.

“There is a lot of work in specialist intervention in the eating disorders team.”

She admitted that there were no records of how much of an increase there had been in referrals to CAMHS Galway for youths troubled by an eating disorder as all records were on paper rather than on computer.

“I can’t ask clinicians and therapists to pull together manual figures,” she stated. But the indication from staff on the ground was that there had been a downward trend in referrals post-Covid.

There was a move to keeping digital records by the middle of next year.

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Connacht Tribune

Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan dies aged 78

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Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan has passed away at the age of 78.

Born in Kilkenny in 1944, Bishop Drennan studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth from where he was ordained in 1968

As a priest, the then Fr Drennan served as curate in both St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish in Kilkenny and then in Ballycallan.

From 1975 he taught Sacred Scripture at St. Kieran’s College, returning to Rome in 1980 to become Spiritual Director at the Irish College there for the next five years.

When Fr. Martin again returned home he became a Lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth where he continued to teach until his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin in 1997.

Following the retirement of Bishop James McLoughlin, Bishop Drennan was chosen as Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora and was installed on 3rd July 2005 in Galway Cathedral serving to his retirement in 2016.

A brief statement released by the Diocese of Galway this afternoon confirmed his passing and offered their sympathies to Bishop Drennan’s family and all those who mourn his loss.

Funeral arrangements for the late Bishop Drennan will be announced later

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Connacht Tribune

Gardaí appeal for help to locate missing man

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Gardaí are seeking help from the public in locating a 66-year-old man who has been missing from Clonbur since Thursday.

Michael Harte is described as being 5’ 9” in height, of slim build with short grey hair. When last seen, he was wearing blue jeans, a blue jumper, a tan / khaki padded jacket and tan boots.

He is understood to have access to a black Renault Megane with a 02 C registration.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Clifden Garda Station on 095 2250,  the Garda confidential line on 1800 666111 or any Garda station.

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