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Connacht Tribune

Delay in providing emergency barriers leaves houses at risk

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The delay in providing flood defence barriers for Kinvara is putting houses in the South Galway village under threat as the winter approaches.

Serious damage was caused in the village during Storm Eleanor earlier in the year and there are now fears that the quay area is at risk if there are similar gusts.

There have been promises that Kinvara will benefit from a minor works scheme but Galway County Council have not submitted an application to the Office of Public works.

Two local politicians have clashed on the issue with Fine Gael councillor Joe Byrne saying that Galway County Council were ‘dragging their heels’ on making an application for funding.

And yet Galway East TD Sean Canney has issued a statement saying that he received confirmation from the OPW that they have requested an application for funding from Galway County Council for flood defence barriers to be erected in Kinvara.

But Cllr Byrne has told The Connacht Tribune that this is nothing new. “OPW Minister Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran told me last February that there was funding available but still no application has been made”.

Deputy Canney said that Galway County Council are preparing the surveys and are compiling the cost for the works presently.

“Kinvara village suffered from tidal floods late last year when the high tide came up over the pier and flooded nearby businesses and homes.

“I received a commitment from Minister Moran at the time of the flood event that funding would be provided for flood defences.

“Galway County Council will submit the application to the OPW once the surveys and costings are completed.

“I will continue to monitor progress on this project in the interest of protecting the properties at risk”, he said.

But Cllr Joe Byrne said that Deputy Canney gives the impression that progress has been made on the issue when the opposite is the case.

He said that this has been ongoing for almost a year with the Council telling him that they do not have the resources to make an application.

“In early January, there was widespread damage caused in Kinvara by Storm Eleanor. Minister Moran announced that Kinvara properties wold be protected through a minor works scheme.

“In early February I met with a flood barrier company along with around 20 residents in Kinvara and the detailed specifications and quotations were submitted to Galway County Council”, he explained.

Then in July, he met with Galway County Council officials again and was informed that an application for funding would be submitted. This has not happened.

He contacted Galway County Council again last week and was told that they did not have the personnel resources to submit an application.

“And now Deputy Sean Canney is publicly stating that the OPW has requested Galway County Council to submit an application but they were told this months ago so it is nothing new,” Cllr Byrne added.

Connacht Tribune

Unauthorised developments in County Galway go unchecked for months

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The Planning Enforcement Section of Galway County Council is so understaffed that complaints of unauthorised developments are not being investigated for months, the Connacht Tribune has learned.

In one case, a complaint alleging a house was under construction in a picturesque and environmentally sensitive part of Conamara without planning permission was not investigated by the Council for at least six months.

And it can be revealed that there is a ‘large’ backlog of complaints of unauthorised developments in the county, which the Planning Enforcement Section at County Hall has blamed on staff shortages, according to correspondence obtained by the Connacht Tribune under Freedom of Information (FOI).

In response to repeated requests by a concerned member of the public to intervene and investigate an allegation of unauthorised development in an environmentally protected area of Conamara, the Council’s Planning Department indicated it was too stretched.

“Unfortunately, the planning enforcement section is experiencing a period of prolonged staff shortages and consequently there are a large number of files awaiting investigation/review,” it said.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Access Centre provides pathways to University of Galway for the disadvantaged

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Photo of Imelda Byrne

Great leaps have been made in recent years to make access to tertiary level education a realistic prospect for once marginalised groups in society.

With the deadline for CAO applications approaching next week, the Access Centre at the University of Galway is aiming to reach as many underrepresented groups as possible ahead of next academic term.

Head of the Access Centre, Imelda Byrne (pictured), said research has shown that those who once felt third level ‘wasn’t for them’ are increasing their presence at UG, and bringing a richness to the sector that had for a long time been missing.

In the five years up to 2021, there was a 100% increase in the number of students registering for the Disability Support Service at the university, while those coming from Further Education and Training courses in institutes like GTI had surged by 211% over four years.

“The message that we really need to get out there is that the CAO is not the only route into third level. There are a number of pathways,” says Imelda.

“There are loads of places set aside for students coming from a place of disadvantage,” she continues, whether it’s national schemes such as the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) for socio-economic disadvantage; or the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE); or the university’s own programme for mature students.

Those places are there to ensure those from all backgrounds get an opportunity to reach their education potential, tapping into hugely talented groups that once may have missed that opportunity.

“What we have seen is that when they get that opportunity, they do just as well if not better than other students,” continues Imelda.

For HEAR and DARE scheme applicants, and for those hoping to begin higher education as a mature student, next Wednesday’s CAO deadline is critically important.

But beyond the CAO applications, the Access Programme will open up in March to guide prospective students, whatever challenges they are facing, into third level.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway County Council ‘missing out on millions’ in derelict sites levies

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Photo of Cloonabinnia House

Galway County Council is missing out on millions of euro in untapped revenue due to a failure to compile a complete Derelict Sites Register.

That’s according to Galway East Sinn Féin representative, Louis O’Hara, who this week blasted the news that just three properties across the whole county are currently listed on the register.

As a result, Mr O’Hara said the Derelict Sites Levy was not being utilised effectively as countless crumbling properties remained unregistered – the levy amounts to 7% of the market value of the derelict property annually.

The former general election candidate said Galway County Council was ill-equipped to compile a proper list of derelict sites and called on Government to provide the necessary resources to tackle the scourge of dereliction across.

“There are still only three properties listed on Galway County Council’s Derelict Sites Register . . . anyone in Galway knows that this does not reflect the reality on the ground and more must be done to identify properties, and penalise owners who fail to maintain them,” said Mr O’Hara.

The situation was compounded by the fact that the Council failed to collect any of the levies due to them in 2021.

“This is deeply concerning when we know that dereliction is a blight on our communities. Derelict sites attract rats, anti-social behaviour and dumping, and are an eyesore in many of our local towns and villages.”

“The Derelict Sites Levy should be used as a tool by local authorities to raise revenue that can then be utilised to tackle dereliction, but they are not adequately resourced to identify and pursue these property owners,” said Mr O’Hara.

(Photo: The former Cloonabinnia House Hotel is on the Derelict Sites Register).
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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