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CITY TRIBUNE

‘Crass stupidity’ to allow Leisureland close

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The looming threat of closure for Leisureland after Christmas amounts to “crass stupidity” and requires an urgent commitment for funding from Government, according to a local TD.

Deputy Catherine Connolly told the Galway City Tribune she had raised the issue in the Dáil with the Minister of State for Local Government and he had expressed an openness to meeting with a delegation from City Hall in relation to the City Council-owned facility’s dire financial situation.

“It’s simply not acceptable that a public swimming pool would close when we have the Minister for Finance announcing a budget of €18 billion this week – that’s Monopoly money.

“We have €18 billion to dispense and the challenge is to do that in a way that ensures a basic level of services below which we cannot go, and that requires funding the local authority. The local authority is fundamental in any civilised society, as are the services it provides,” said the Independent Deputy.

Raising the issue in Leinster House, Deputy Connolly said that Leisureland was an excellent public facility that had been open since 1973 and had broke even for the last number of years, but had run into major funding shortfalls as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.

“It is a fantastic swimming pool. I must declare a conflict of interest as I use it every weekend, It helps to keep me semi-sane and semi-fit.

“No public swimming pool makes money and few of them break even. This pool needed money due to Covid-19 and the difficulties experienced by every public swimming pool in the country. The management in the City Council said it was not in a position to give it money and that the swimming pool would have to close,” said Deputy Connolly, adding that the decision had been made and staff were informed.

Due to public pressure and resistance from local councillors, the decision was reversed and €207,000 in funding had been provided by the Council Executive.

“However, it pointed out that the money was coming out of next year’s budget, so it could not continue, and it would not be in a position to fund it.

“I do not expect miracles, but I expect commitment from the Minister and the Government that, regardless of what happens, we are not going to close public swimming pools or public libraries. They are essential services,” said Deputy Connolly.

She said €2.5 million in funding had been made available for “swimming pools with public access” in the private sector as part of the Government’s July Stimulus package, but nothing for publicly-owned facilities.

“It is very ironic if we are going to keep private swimming pools open once they have some limited access to the public, while we close down the public swimming pools,” she added.

Responding, Minister Peter Burke said his Department was keeping spending and cash flow at local authorities under constant review and would continue to work with Galway City Council to address issues.

“My Department is engaging with representatives of the local government sector and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the financial challenges facing local authorities as a direct consequence of the pandemic, in terms of additional costs incurred as part of the local government response and decline in local authority income streams.

“I will do my very best with regard to the Deputy’s ask. I would be willing to meet a delegation from the City Council in connection with this issue. However, there are going to be significant asks emanating from this crisis. We are doing our very best to make what we have go as far as it can. It presents a major challenge,” said Minister Burke.

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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