World of Politics with Harry McGee – firstname.lastname@example.org
Wasn’t it Tipp O’Neill, the US speaker of the House, who once said “All politics is loco”? Well, not quite. It was all politics is local. But there ain’t too much difference between them.
And now, with 2020 spreading out in front of us, I’m going both loco and local with predictions of how the Galway constituencies might pan out.
First to Galway West, the biggest constituency in the province. It was once Fianna Fáil heartland and a bit of a lonely outpost for Fine Gael. All that was reversed in 2011 and Fine Gael still holds an advantage here. I think that status quo will remain.
At the moment, there are two Fine Gael TDs, Sean Kyne and Hildegarde Naughton; one Fianna Fáil Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív; and two Independents, Catherine Connolly and Noel Grealish.
We can say a few things with near certainty. The first is that Éamon Ó Cuív will top the poll – and, of the five seats, one will go to Fianna Fáil, one will go to Fine Gael and there will be an Independent.
The irony in 2016 is that Fianna Fáil actually got a marginally higher share of the first preference vote than Fine Gael but ended up with only one seat. Both parties ran three candidates.
Fine Gael was helped by the fact that all three candidates were relatively even, where Fianna Fáil’s votes were very biased towards Ó Cuív rather than his colleagues, John Connolly and Mary Hoade.
Besides, Fianna Fáil picked up fewer transfers than any other party. If it has any hope of getting two elected, there will need to be a bit of levelling up, and Ollie Crowe will need to be much closer to Ó Cuív in first preferences.
I just don’t see that happening. The two Fine Gael TDs are strong and Naughton is one of those candidates who is a magnet for transfers.
As is Catherine Connolly, who more than doubled her votes during the fourteen counts to edge out Trevor Ó Clochartaigh. Given that she has performed solidly as a TD, she will be there or thereabouts again.
Sinn Féin came within a whisker of a seat in 2016, but it’s hard to see them in contention this time – but the Greens are coming into this in optimistic mood.
Pauline O’Reilly was elected to the west ward of Galway City Council on the first count, one of two Green councillors in the city.
And given the Green surge, she has a fair chance of a seat, but would need to gouge into the vote share of Connolly and Naughton if she were to be successful.
For more, read this week’s Connacht 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.
Anger within GAA community over rejection of €5m plan
There is widespread anger within the GAA communities of Oranmore and Maree this week after planning permission received for the €5 million Renville Sports Project – which includes four playing pitches and a public playground, among other facilities on their 34-acre site – was rescinded by An Bord Pleanála.
The Planning Appeals Board reversed Galway County Council’s decision to greenlight the project ‘in the absence of any specific measures confirmed’ in relation to the junction on the Maree Road leading to the proposed development at Rinville West.
An Bord Pleanála maintains that if the proposed development was to go ahead, this junction ‘would endanger public safety by reason of traffic hazard, due to the additional traffic turning movement which the proposed development would generate’.
It’s understood An Bord Pleanála had sought clarification in relation to this from Galway County Council and that ‘in the absence of any specific measures confirmed as part of the proposed development to address these deficiencies within the existing junction’, it was refusing permission.
Given the scope of the proposed multi-million euro centre of excellence, those associated with the Renville Sports and Community Grounds project are furious that Galway County Council did not address this issue in the initial planning stage – particularly as they originally gave the project the go-ahead.
“The land where they could widen that (junction) entrance to take the right turn, they actually own all that land down the right hand side,” fumed Oranmore/Maree Club Chairman Gerry Rabbitt this week.
“You could put a roundabout in there! They have dropped the ball on this one and they have made a mess of it. We have spent nearly €90,000 on planning and this is just unbelievable.”
The proposed development was to provide three sand-based grass playing pitches along with an all-weather synthetic playing pitch, three warm-up and training areas, floodlighting and a covered terrace for one of the playing pitches, a hurling wall, a looped amenity walkway, 248 carpark and eight coach spaces and a public playground.
Galway County Council granted planning permission last July to Renville Sports Project Committee on behalf of Oranmore Maree GAA Club, subject to 15 conditions.
However, local residents appealed the proposed development under a number of headings.
One of those concerns raised focused on the existing road infrastructure, which residents maintained was unsuitable to take the traffic a development of this magnitude would generate.
It was on this point – restricted sightlines and an inappropriate speed limit at that location – that An Bord Pleanála upheld the residents’ objection.
The decision is a big blow to the Renville project, which operates under the slogan ‘Supporting Renville, Our Clubs, Our Community, Our Future’, and the committee is currently considering its next step.
While a Judicial Review can be sought in the High Court within eight weeks of the planning authority’s decision, the Renville Project Management Committee can only question the validity of An Bord Pleanála’s decision and cite, on this ground only, why the decision is ‘invalid or ought to be quashed’.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the Management Committee considered the issues raised as ‘addressable’ and said they will be ‘doing everything possible to overcome this setback to the project’.
Mr Rabbitt said all concerned remained deeply committed “to bringing this vital project to fruition”.
Whether the Renville Project Management Committee explore the option of a Judicial Review or not, it looks as if the project may have to go through another extensive planning process once more.
“It’s terrible,” stated Mr Rabbitt. “That could be two years down the road. We have €600,000 (raised through fundraisers and donations) already and this is just a massive disappointment for us all.
Ballinasloe Horse Fair officially cancelled for this year
One of the oldest horse fairs in the country has been officially cancelled this year on health and safety grounds – with the organising committee planning to meet at the end of the year to make plans for 2021.
The Ballinasloe Fair and Festival Committee decided to cancel this year’s event – traditionally held in October – because of the continuing uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 outbreak.
The October Fair attracts around 80,000 visitors for the week-long festival – including a major influx from England – providing a huge economic boost for the town, and the pubs and restaurants in particular.
The co-ordinating committee said that the decision to cancel the Fair was taken with regret but that the public’s safety was paramount – because the crowds that throng the Fairgreen would be very difficult to implement social distancing
“The Committee made the decision in the interests of public health and safety and has agreed to meet in December 2020 to prepare for the return of the Ballinasloe Fair and Festival in 2021 and make advanced plans to celebrate the 300th anniversary in 2022,” said the committee in a statement.
“The Co-ordinating Committee would like to thank the local community, sponsors, and all associations involved for their ongoing commitment and support.
“We look forward to welcoming all participants and visitors to Ballinasloe Fair and Festival in 2021,” they added.
The recent meeting of Ballinasloe Municipal Council saw some elected members urge a ‘wait and see’ approach, given that the event takes place in October and that the Covid situation could change considerably in the meantime.
But that suggestion divided members of Ballinasloe Municipal Council with the majority believing that the public’s safety should be the primary consideration and that the event should be scrapped for this year.
The meeting was also told that the HSE’s advice was that the Horse Fair should not go ahead but that all ‘stakeholders’ would be contacted in advance of any decision being taken.
The annual Ballinasloe Horse Fair dates back to the 18th century and there were pleas from some councillors that it be retained on restricted basis but this suggestion was largely rejected by other elected members.
Atlantic Masters swimmers fund radios for lifeboat crews
A group of Galway swimmers – forced to cancel their annual fundraiser for the lifeboats – decided instead to pool their club subs to buy new radios for the service.
And within 24 hours of taking delivery of the four new VHF radios, Galway Lifeboat members used them on three separate call-outs – to save lives on the water.
The Atlantic Masters’ Lifeboat Swim took place for the first time last year, raising over €7,500 in funds for local sea-based organisations.
But Covid-19 restrictions forced the club to postpone the 2020 Atlantic Lifeboat Swim on June 12 – and at the same time club members’ training sessions were unfortunately cancelled as well.
But when offered refunds, members decided to pool their refunds and purchase four VHF Radios for the RNLI – in the hope that this would go some way to fill the gap in funding due to the cancellation of the Atlantic Lifeboat Swim.
Galway Lifeboat Operations Manager Mike Swan expressed his thanks on behalf of the Galway Lifeboat and RNLI.
“Atlantic Masters club members are as passionate about water safety as they are about swimming and that can be seen by this generous donation of VHF radios,” he said.
“Within 24 hours of receiving the radios they were in use on three separate shouts, enabling crew members to respond faster and with greater efficiency. They truly will save lives,” he added
Last year’s event saw over 120 swimmers take on the 2km swim in Renville.
And as restrictions are being lifted and guidelines being created for hosting outdoor sporting events, Atlantic Masters Club have not given up hope of being able to run a version of the Atlantic Lifeboat Swim at some point in the coming months.
Atlantic Masters chairperson Helen Colfer acknowledged that the health and safety of swimmers and local communities was their number one priority – but as the rules changed, they would look at their options.
“We are liaising with all relevant governing bodies to identify what we need to do to hold an event, be it virtual or scaled down, that could support the RNLI,” she said.
“As a swimming community, we cannot stress enough the gratitude we have for the work the RNLI do. Our club members are delighted to be able to help them in any way we can.”
For more information about Galway Lifeboat or to donate, click HERE