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Department accused of ‘landgrab’ for school

Enda Cunningham



Plans for the doubling in size of the Education Together primary school in Newcastle could involve an illegal ‘landgrab’ by the Department of Education, it has been claimed.

And the Department has been criticised for failing to consult properly with the neighbouring Croí Heart and Stroke Centre over traffic measures.

Neil Johnson, Chief Executive of the heart foundation, said he is not opposing the extension of the school in any way, but said there has been a lack of consultation, and he has safety concerns over a proposed roundabout and roadway to a new carpark, which will be located outside the Croí centre.

He said the existing traffic plans are dangerous because of the age profile and levels of mobility of patients in the centre.

He told the Galway City Tribune: “A substantial part of the work on the roundabout will be on our grounds, and we have not given consent.

“There are also safety concerns – the profile of people walking out of our centre will be older, possibly having had a stroke, with limited mobility. They will walk out onto a roundabout, so where are the protection rails and pedestrian crossings.

“We have no problem with the proposed building or the idea of an extension. Our issue is with the significance of a roundabout of that size and the lack of consultation.

“How can they expect to build on land which is ours? You don’t just go and build on somebody’s land without consent,” said Mr Johnson.

In a submission on the planning file, Mr Johnson wrote: “The current application will involve significant alterations to property under our control. While discussions with respect to this aspect of the school extension commenced shortly in advance of lodging the planning application, these discussions were not finalised and there are a number of aspects of the proposal which have significant implications for Croí.

“We were not aware that the Dept. was lodging the application in advance of reaching agreement with us, following which we were prepared to provide a letter of consent for the progress of the planning application.

“Without the [letter of consent] from us, the applicant does not have sufficient legal interest for the purposes of making this application,” Mr Johnson wrote.

The plans for the two-storey extension include eight classrooms, teachers’ rooms, library and set rooms.

There will also be a new access road to a carparking and drop-off facility with 32 spaces, a further 10 spaces in the existing carpark, a new ballcourt, junior play area and landscaped garden.

There will also be a new access road and roundabout to cater for both the new extension and a proposed community centre on an adjacent site.

A decision on the application is expected at the end of this month.


Galway City school relocates to the Races after flooding

Dara Bradley



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Winner alright! Winner alright! When a city Gaeltacht school effectively became homeless overnight due to flooding hell at Halloween, it turned adversity into opportunity by temporarily relocating to Galway Racecourse, which has been a massive success.

Disaster struck for Scoil Bhríde in Menlo during the October mid-term break when water from a suspected burst pipe flooded through the ceiling, damaging woodwork, electrics and equipment in classrooms.

Principal Máire De Brún, assistant principals Siobhán Ó Neill and Deirdre Ní Cheallaigh, and the board of management, chaired by Patricia Coleman, were faced with two options. The first was an emergency closure of the school for a week to fix the problem, which they ruled out.

“We took the bull by the horns and decided to go hell for leather and find another venue to house us so that the repairs could be done without pressure and so that the kids could continue school on the Monday after mid-term,” explained Ms De Brún.

The leak probably occurred on the Wednesday, and was discovered on Thursday, which gave only a few days to find a new school.

“When I look back on it, I don’t know how we did it,” laughed Ms De Brún.

First, she tried the Menlo Park Hotel, whose management was “extraordinarily helpful”. But because of Covid-19 restrictions, it couldn’t accommodate all 190 pupils in the school, pre-school and 10 staff.

Ballinfoile Community Hall was “absolutely fantastic” too, and agreed to house temporary classrooms. Those two venues still couldn’t cater for all students, and so Ms De Brún had to find another venue for two more classes.

“Someone suggested the Racecourse and we went out and met Michael [Moloney, Racecourse Manager] and said we just need it for two classes but when we were standing in the Killanin Stand, we said, ‘What are we thinking, let’s just move the whole lot out here and they’ll be under the one roof, they’ll have four floors, they’ll have plenty of space, they can run around outside?’,” she recalled.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Some Galway City pubs ‘will never reopen’

Stephen Corrigan



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – There are several pubs in Galway that will never reopen their doors as a result of the “bitterly disappointing” decision to keep pubs closed under Covid-19 restrictions.

That’s according to the new Chair of Galway City branch of the Vintners Federation of Ireland, Johnny Duggan, who said there were a number of pub owners who had already given up their leases and many more who found themselves in “serious difficulty” after being forced to stay closed for the best part of eight months.

From today (Friday), restrictions have been eased to allow for the reopening of restaurants and pubs that serve food. However, so-called ‘wet pubs’, which do not operate a kitchen, have been forced to remain closed for the foreseeable future.

Mr Duggan said there were a number of publicans under severe pressure to meet rent and loan commitments, and without adequate support, the future remained very uncertain.

“What the Government has given is three double payments of the CRSS (Covid Restrictions Support Scheme), but that comes nowhere near what you would normally turn over at this time of year. It’s welcome, but it’s just not enough.

“There are an awful lot of people who won’t survive this,” he said.

Mr Duggan said publicans found it “very strange” that they had been allowed bring food in from off-site premises to satisfy the need for a substantial meal when restrictions were eased in the summer, but that option was not available this time around.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Galway Garda chief appeals for ‘special’ Christmas effort

Francis Farragher



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Galway’s most senior Garda has appealed to students and young people to make ‘one special effort’ over the Christmas holiday season to keep contact and travel to a minimum.

Yesterday (Thursday), some groups of students had organised mock ‘Christmas Day’ celebrations in keeping with the custom of recent years in the week before the end of the first semester at the city’s third-level colleges.

Gardaí had extra patrols on duty through the course of the day and last night to keep tabs on any improvised gatherings as part of their Covid-19 campaign in the run-up to Christmas.

Chief Superintendent Tom Curley told the Galway City Tribune that the last thing the Gardaí wanted to do was to adopt what some people might describe as a ‘heavy-handed’ approach to gatherings of young people.

“The last eight months or so have been tough for all of us, but it has to be acknowledged that there has been a very high level of buy-in from everyone, including students and young people.

“We are at the point where a lot of progress in terms of containing the spread of Covid-19 has been made, but I suppose the key message we want to get out there now is to ‘stick with it’ over the coming weeks and months,” said Chief Supt Curley.

However, he did caution that if students or young people did break the law in terms of not abiding by the coronavirus regulations, they would be facing prosecution and a potential criminal conviction. “This is not what we want, or indeed what any student needs, as they look ahead to their career prospects,” he said.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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