Data protection red tape is blocking those trying to tackle the scourge of illegal dumping, a meeting of County Galway Joint Policing Committee (JPC) was told.
According to Cllr Shaun Cunniffe (Ind), councillors have been told that new bylaws to regulate the collection of waste will be restricted due to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – as waste collectors will not be able to divulge the names of those who have contracts with them.
Furthermore, Cllr Cunniffe said a list of those who are disposing of rubbish correctly would be useless, adding that until there is a “TV licence-style” waste collection register, there would be a reliance on community clean-ups to stop the countryside becoming a haven for fly-tippers.
“If the waste disposal companies were to inform us of those who have a waste disposal contract, you would only have a list of those who are compliant.
“We need to confirm how people dispose of waste and ensure that it is compliant with the waste disposal regulations,” he continued.
Cllr Cunniffe said that having been involved in various community clean-ups, and bearing witness to the work that community groups like Tidy Towns do, he was often left wondering if he was “mad” to be cleaning up other people’s rubbish.
Senior Executive Scientist with Galway County Council, Ann Dolan, said Council resources were stretched to the limit dealing with illegal dumping and said there was to be a move away from community clean-ups – with local authorities tasked by the instructions from Government to come up with more effective means of eliminating fly-tipping.
“The Department has said . . . they don’t want funding used for cleanups. They don’t see the value in it and personally, myself, I don’t either.
“We’re just moving the problem – moving it from one road to another,” said Ms Dolan.
Chair of the JPC’s Illegal Dumping and Litter Awareness sub-committee, Cllr Michael ‘Moegie’ Maher (FG), told members that GDPR was also making it difficult to secure the erection of CCTV cameras at dumping hotspots – but the message that those caught would be “crisply fined” was getting out.
The Council has not yet appointed somebody to monitor CCTV and that was something he said was a priority for the sub-committee.
Cllr Maher suggested mirroring a community effort in Limerick where Good Friday would be used as a county-wide clean-up day.
“It is a great initiative for Galway to follow suit,” said Cllr Maher. “If we all came together for two hours that day, we could clean the county.”
Cllr James Charity (Ind) said that while community efforts were great at promoting collective responsibility, it was not good enough that the many were expected to clean up for the few.
“This is wanton and deliberate vandalism,” said Cllr Charity, adding that the confusion over GDPR were making it impossible for CCTV to be effective.
Taking the N84 Headford Road as an example, he said there were 10,000 cars per day travelling that road – and if GDPR required the permission of every driver to record their data because of the dumping site’s position next to the road, CCTV could not be used.
“This is a legislative issue and the Oireachtas needs to deal with it,” he added.
Chair of the JPC, Cllr Pete Roche (FG), said where there is currently CCTV installed, a more concerted effort needed to be made to extract the footage when illegal dumping occurred.
“The company that installed the CCTV cameras are not efficient enough in coming out and removing the chip to identify the perpetrator,” said Cllr Roche who explained the footage “eats its tail” after a relatively short period of time.
Adults and young pupils collaborate on children’s book now in the shops
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.
Landowners see red at poor greenway dialogue
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.
Clifden roster dispute escalates despite HSE recruitment
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.