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Connacht Tribune

County Council passes anti-social behaviour strategy

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A strategy to tackle the growing problem of anti-social behaviour has been adopted by Galway County Council – despite the fact that a number of councillors felt it didn’t go far enough enough.

They told a Council meeting that it didn’t have sufficient power to combat the few neighbours from hell who were making life miserable for others.

They said that they felt the Council didn’t have the will – or the staff – to monitor and carry out measures aimed at punishing those involved in this behaviour.

Nonetheless the policy, which has been put together to reduce incidences of anti-social behaviour and bullying on council estates, will now be rolled out among all social housing tenants.

Michael Owens, Director of Services for Housing, told the meeting that the number of tenants involved in anti-social behaviour was small but that it affected many.

He said the Council was adopting a multi-agency approach to work together to minimise the problem.

Councillor Jimmy McClearn said the matter was quite simple — that the tenancy agreement had to be enforced by ensuring every tenant signed up to it and afterwards that the Council had to have the strength to take appropriate measures to deal with problems as they arose.

“We are refusing to listen to those making the complaints about their neighbours from hell and we are not dealing with those causing the problems. If it’s only a small number of people, let’s deal with the problem instead of shuffling papers around a table,” he said.

He added that the behaviour shouldn’t be tolerated at any level and that tenants should know they would be out the door if they continued behaving in such a manner as to make life miserable for their neighbours.

Cllr Tom McHugh recalled the situation in Tuam and Ahascragh were dozens of council houses were wreaked by tenants.

He said the few involved in anti-social behaviour were bullies who played music loudly well into the early hours of the morning, brought their fights out onto the green and caused disruptions safe in the knowledge that they could get away with it.

“We should have strong deterrents to stop this. No point in bringing them to Court if the judiciary can’t do anything about it. Their benefits should be reduced. It’s not fair to others who are paying their rents,” he said.

Cllr Shaun Cunniffe said he wouldn’t be supporting the strategy as it lacked any teeth and that those who lived a ‘life of benefits and didn’t engage with education or employment’ should face ejection if they didn’t comply with their tenancy agreements.

Many people were afraid to lodge a complaint against an unruly neighbour, said Cllr Dermot Connolly, and even when they did, they were very reluctant to sign a complaint or give evidence if the matter went to Court.

It was often the case, he added, that it was vulnerable people whose lives were ruined by the anti-social behaviour of others.

Another councillor, Pete Roche, reminded the meeting that it wasn’t as if they hadn’t a similar strategy before now and wondered if the Local Authority had the will or the staff to police unruly tenants.

He said that a local court heard the case recently of a tenant physically and verbally assaulting Council staff, something he described as torture and wondered what assurances could be given that this would not be repeated.

Cllr Roche said the Council had to be prepared to be unpopular and tackle these unruly tenants.

Councillors around the chamber had their own stories about unruly tenants and most voiced their concerns that no strategy could tackle the problem.

It was also noted that as well as being a landlord, the Council was also the housing agency with the responsibility of housing the very people that might be evicted under the anti-social behaviour strategy.

But despite the many concerns raised, it was adopted.

Connacht Tribune

Adults and young pupils collaborate on children’s book now in the shops

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A new book – a collaborative collection of stories and poems written by the Oughterard Writers Group and the children from the local primary school – was officially launched in style last week.

Tell me a Story was officially launched at Scoil Chuimín agus Caitríona, Oughterard, by the principal, Micheál O’Domhnaill – to the delight of the children, parents, friends and writers in attendance and those watching live on zoom.
by Jess Walsh and Barbara Dunne
Tell Me a Story is a collaboration between the Oughterard Writers Group and the children of last year’s 4th class from Scoil Chuimín agus Catríona. It had its genesis in January when the writers applied to Galway County Council for funding for the story book.

The book is the culmination of several months’ work, where stories and poems written by the writers, were sent to the children.

The group was unable to meet the children in person, due to Covid restrictions, but met them several times on Zoom, facilitated by Pete Mullineaux, and James O’Donnell, their teacher. And after months of hard work by the children, their handwritten work and illustrations were then passed back to the writers for design and completion.

Each story in the book tells a different tale. The children responded to the story they liked best, and the book is interspersed with wonderful drawings from the children, with new story endings and poems, along with some of the children’s own handwriting.

It was a special night for all to finally meet in person at the official launch.

The children were presented with their contributor copy by the writer of the piece they worked on, and guests were treated to some selected readings from the book by the children themselves.

The evening was rounded off by Muinteoir J O Donnell reading his poem, Last Night’s Wind from the book, and it was a very fitting ending to a wonderful evening.

The book costs €10 (with 50% of profits being donated Scoil Chuimín agus Caitríona) and can be bought online from Kenny’s and Charlie Byrne’s bookshops in Galway, and from Moycullen Bookshop and shops in Oughterard.

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Connacht Tribune

Landowners see red at poor greenway dialogue

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A decision on the route chosen for the greenway between Athlone and Galway City is expected to be announced before Christmas – despite the vehement opposition of a group of landowners.

Opponents staged another protest outside County Hall last Monday to up the pressure on councillors to continue to voice disquiet over the way the project is being pursued by Galway County Council and RPS consultants.

Jean Molloy from Stoney Island outside Portumna, a member of the East Galway Action Group, said there was a complete lack of respect by the project team for the major stakeholders who had the most to lose – those whose land would be taken by the greenway.

Her family, who run a small farm on the land earmarked for the route, had received two letters from the team and not a single phone call over their concerns. She had attended public meetings to outline their preferred route but believes the consultants are not listening.

“We’re expected to give up everything but yet we don’t see a real benefit in the way the route is going as it doesn’t connect villages or neighbours, our kids can’t use it to cycle to school,” she insisted.

“The preferred route is in remote areas off-road, which may suit tourists a few times a year but won’t be safe for us. Why can’t they go along the road, as long as it’s segregated? Yet, we’re expected to give up our livelihoods, our privacy, our security.”

The campaigners allege the process has been flawed from the start.

They accuse those driving the project of “underhanded” tactics and adopting a “divide and conquer approach” and say consultants have failed to engage with every landowner and resident affected in the route corridor. They allege the team is refusing to meeting landowners in groups.

“They have told landowners that a final route is to be released before Christmas, but this is just not feasible. It’s important that the general public is made aware of how the individuals at the centre of the proposed cycleway are being treated.”

Director of service in the infrastructure and operations unit of Galway County Council, Derek Pender, has refuted claims of intimidation and a lack of engagement.

Last September he insisted they had undertaken well over 1,500 face-to-face or phone call consultations with 350 potentially impacted private landowners over 15 months.

The preferred route starts near Ballyloughane Beach, east of Galway City, passing through Oranmore, Rinville, Clarinbridge, Kilcolgan, Kinvara, Gort, Woodford, Portumna, Meelick, Clonfert, Ballinasloe, Shannonbridge, and finishing at Athlone Castle before linking with the cycleway to Dublin.

He claimed there was support for approximately 90% of the route and that the so-called hybrid model – where the cycleway would go along a national or regional road – would only be used in discreet isolated areas that were specific pinch points.

Cycleways beside long stretches of road were not safe, he has previously contended.

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Connacht Tribune

Clifden roster dispute escalates despite HSE recruitment

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Staff at both a hospital and nursing home in Clifden are balloting for industrial action over changes to the rosters – despite a targeted recruitment campaign for nurses that has resulted in over 20 applications.

Last week Clifden District Hospital – beset by critical staff shortages – closed for four days with the HSE claiming that no patients were booked into the facility with respite and step-down beds for recuperating patients who can be medically discharged from an acute hospital but deemed not well enough to go home.

This was the same week when the HSE admitted that 4,662 bed days were lost at University Hospital Galway (UHG) and Merlin Park and 1,295 at Portiuncula Hospital in the first nine months of this year due to delayed discharges.

The HSE said the four days could be used by staff at Clifden District Hospital and St Anne’s Community Nursing Unit to take leave accrued due to overtime they had built up over filling in shifts due to a lack of workers.

Anne Burke, Galway industrial relations officer for the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), said the union did not accept there was no demand for beds in a facility such as the Clifden District Hospital.

“They have orchestrated this downgrading of the hospital because we believe they want it for another purpose which they have not yet revealed. If you don’t advertise you’re open for business you won’t get the business. We think they don’t want it to be a viable option,” she exclaimed.

“They have always told us that staff weren’t interested in coming to Clifden. But there was no meaningful recruitment. Now, finally, they advertised specifically for jobs in Clifden, and we have been told that 29 applications were submitted and 21 are deemed eligible for interview, which we understand will take place next week.”

The INMO and SIPTU [Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union] are to ballot members from the two facilities for industrial action next week over changes to the rosters.

They claim the HSE is breaching the Building Momentum public service agreement which requires changes to rosters to be done by agreement between management and staff. A previous memo withdrawing the staff right to seven uncertified sick leave days was rescinded following lengthy talks at the Workplace Relations Commission.

Over 700 people attending a public meeting last September over fears Clifden District Hospital was being closed by the HSE. The hospital has had 12 beds for patients since the Covid pandemic, down from 30 some years ago.

After meeting with local politicians, the organisation issued a press release stating the facility would not close but said the respite and step-down services “remain on a day-to-day footing” due to staff shortages.

“The HSE has agreed to meet with GPs in the Clifden area to discuss the needs in the community for respite and step-down beds.”

They also announced they would run a ‘bespoke’ recruitment campaign for nurses.

The INMO estimates that seven additional nurses are needed for the hospital and a further six are required for the nursing unit to maintain rosters.

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