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Connacht Tribune

Documentary highlights scale of housing crisis



Cures for the country’s housing crux have proved worse than the disease, according to a property expert, who described the shortage of homes in Galway as “shocking”.

“The reality is that in Galway, it is horrendous. It’s exactly the same as Dublin in terms of lack of supply. If you go onto now, you’d probably find 20 two-beds in the city. Like, 20, do you know what I mean? A few years ago there would probably be over a thousand,” said Edel O’Brien, series producer on Find me a Home on RTÉ One television.

Ms O’Brien, who filmed in Galway this summer for programme three of the third series, said the “unintended consequences” of Government interventions have made matters worse. Introducing regulations that effectively banned bedsits has increased homelessness, for example.

“You have to have a separate bathroom and separate cooking facility, which means there is no longer a rung on the ladder called a bedsit. And so it’s very, very difficult for the people who are vulnerable, who are either low waged or students, to find accommodation, which is why there are huge problems in Galway.

“Government bring in ideas and legislation to protect tenants. That was the aim. They didn’t envisage that this would happen. A whole layer of bedsits that would have been a safety net is gone. Where’s the safety net now?”

Tenants who would previously be allocated social housing, are now getting Rent Allowance or HAP (Housing Assistance Payments) to find homes in the private rental sector. This is “feeding the demand” for private rentals and “incrementally pushing up rents”.

Meanwhile, the rent caps, which limit rent rises to 4% per year in urban areas including Galway City, are also having adverse unintended consequences, she said.

“Most people out there in rent-controlled tenancies aren’t going to move, they’re going to stay put because they know that if they go up the road to a new place, it might not be bigger, it might not be better but it will be dearer. The only places that come onto are the places that are new, so they can charge whatever they want. People don’t understand how landlords could be leaving the market when rents are so high – it’s a goldmine, they should be raking it in.

“They don’t understand that they’re rent-capped and they’re probably selling-off because they can’t profit from current rental market values. They have what’s called historic rents. It’s not that rent controls are bad. A huge amount of tenancies are protected. But what it has done is stalled the rental market and the new supply coming in.

“Nobody is going to say ‘poor landlords’. It just doesn’t sound right. But they’re feeling a bit hard done by. And we need landlords because we don’t really have a rental sector other than the private rental sector. The rental sector that isn’t private is social housing and there isn’t enough of that,” said Ms O’Brien.

This lack of supply has led to a bear-pit competitive nature of the rental market in Galway, which is laid-bare in episode three of Find me a Home.

With rent-capped landlords exiting the market, leases are being terminated and families face eviction.

In this programme, by Waddell Media, Galway housemates for three years, Robert Landiss, Stewart Killeen and Céclie Robin, have been told that their landlord is selling an entire terrace of houses in the city including theirs.

They receive notice to quit, and are filmed searching for a new place to live.“There’s nothing out there. There just physically aren’t enough houses. People are competing big time. I won’t even say house, apartment or room, the reality is people are evening competing for the bed in the room with somebody else. That’s the competition, there physically are not enough houses,” said Robert Landiss, who described the quality of what is on the market as “shocking”.

The trio eventually did find a property but there’s a sting in the tail since the programme was filmed. They are soon going to lose their new house because their landlord has decided to sell that, too.

Speaking to the Connacht Tribune, Stewart Killeen said: “We haven’t been served notice yet. When the possible sale goes through, we’ll get 28 days’ notice then. We moved-in in June. It’s a nightmare having to leave again. It’s daunting. You definitely feel anger. It’s annoyingly ironic that the property class have so much sway in the country. It seems to be just a chronic situation. Our rent has risen in this place, and I know the prospect is that my rent is likely to go up again, which adds an extra dimension. It’s daunting and it’s dreadful but I am optimistic that we will find a place.”

Connacht Tribune

Paedophile sentenced to a further 17 months in prison



A convicted paedophile, described by a Garda as ‘a prolific child abuser’, has had a 17-month prison sentence added to a 13-year sentence he is already serving for the rape and sexual abuse of children.

Disgraced primary school teacher and summer school bus driver, 69-year-old Seosamh Ó Ceallaigh, a native of Tuirín, Béal a’ Daingin, Conamara, had at all times denied two charges of indecently assaulting a ten-year-old boy at a Gaeltacht summer school in Béal a’ Daingin in 1979.

The offence carries a maximum two-year sentence.

A jury found him guilty by majority verdict following a four-day trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court last month.

At his sentence hearing last week, Detective Paul Duffy described Ó Ceallaigh as a prolific child abuser who had amassed 125 child abuse convictions, committed while he was a primary school teacher in Dublin and while he operated an Irish language summer school in Beal a’ Daingin.

They included convictions for rape and sexual assault for which he is currently serving sentences totalling 13 years.

Those sentences were due to expire in August 2024, but last week, Judge Rory McCabe imposed two, concurrent 17-month sentences on Ó Ceallaigh, before directing the sentences begin at the termination of the sentences he is currently serving.

The judge noted Ó Ceallaigh’s denial and lack of remorse and the lifelong detrimental effect the abuse had on the victim as aggravating factors.

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Connacht Tribune

Dismay as marine park proposal rejected by planners



A lifeline project, with the potential to create around 200 long-term jobs in an area of South Connemara ravaged by unemployment and emigration, has been rejected by planners – primarily environmental grounds.
The proposed marine park or Páirc na Mara, east of Cill Chiaráin village, was viewed by many as a real chance to turn the tide for this unemployment blackspot.
Locals – and the vast majority of Galway West politicians – were supportive of the project which was viewed as one that would revitalise the area.
That said, Galway County Council’s decision to refuse permission for the marine park was welcomed by Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages which had expressed fears that the marine farm would extract huge amounts of fresh water to breed more than 1.5 million salmon smolts.
They said that millions of litres of fresh water would have been extracted on a regular basis by the salmon farm company operating the smolt rearing units – from the same lakes as the Carna and Cill Chiaráin water supply system.
“Local residents can now rest assured that their domestic water supply won’t be hijacked to line the pockets of people who have no regard for the local environment or residents,” said Billy Smyth, Chairman of Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages.
It was proposed to provide a marine innovation park Pairc na Mara on a 60-acre brownfield site at Cill Chiarain.
The development involves the provision of a number of marine-based facilities as well as education and research facilities in the townlands of Cill Chiarain, Ardmore and Calvary.
It involves the abstraction of water from Lough Scannan, its transfer to and temporary storage in Iron Lake along with impoundment and pumping to the Marine Park site with a rising main.
According to the application, Galway County Council has previously granted planning permission for aquaculture-based activities on the site of the proposed marine park back in 2002 while the first phase of the innovation park was built in 2005.
There were a considerable number of submissions supporting the application with many saying that this part of Connemara would benefit greatly from such a development.
But there were others who expressed concern over the potential impact it would have on the environment, and it would be located in a highly sensitive area.
Cllr Gerry King said that it was a valuable opportunity lost to the area given the amount of unemployment that exists. He added that there was local outrage at the decision.
The Fianna Fail councillor met with those behind the project and residents in support of the project. He said that they all agreed that this decision should be appealed to the higher planning authority.
It was refused on the basis that it would adversely affect the integrity and conservation objectives of the European sides in the vicinity of environmental value.
Planners stated that they could not be certain that the project would not adversely affect the integrity of Cill Ciaran Bay, the islands and Connemara bog complex
They also said that the Environmental Impact Assessment Report did not present a sufficient level of information on the impact it would have on human health, biodiversity, land, soil, water along with cultural heritage and the landscape.

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Connacht Tribune

Council rules that honey business is in Special Area of Conservation



A North Connemara beekeeper has expressed his dismay at the County Council’s refusal to issue an exemption to allow him proceed with an apiary on farmlands at Rossadillisk.

Tom Termini, who has lived in the area for the past 25 years, purchased the lands just off the coastline with the intention of beekeeping there, but plans to expand have come to a halt after an enforcement order was issued by the Council last Summer.

Mr Termini said he had been of the understanding that the 20msq agricultural storage building which was portable in nature would not require planning permission because of its agricultural purpose and its location on appropriately zoned lands.

However, after receiving a letter from the Council, he engaged the services of an engineer who recommended seeking a Declaration of Exemption from planning.

“The area is located in a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) so we engaged the services of another engineer who carried out an Environmental Impact Assessment and it was found it would have no impact,” said Mr Termini.

The report, compiled by Delichon Ecology, states that there are 17 sites protected by European SAC status within 15km of the proposed development, but concludes that ‘the completed groundworks and proposed agricultural building, either individually or in combination with other projects and plans, is not likely to have a significant impact on any European site’.

Mr Termini said no explanation as to why his application was refused was forthcoming, but that he had since applied for retention on the partially completed structure.

“After I invested in the property, I started down the route of setting up the apiary because I had one when I was in the States, and I’m a member of the local association. I decided to build a bigger shed so we could expand beyond being a service to have a product offering,” said Mr Termini who owns and operates Bluedog Honey.

He said the company would bring economic benefits to what was a small, rural area and the lands he owned were 90% bog, unsuited to many other forms of agriculture.

“We’d hoped to have it up and running by February 2020, but the pandemic set that back and then we got the letter from the Council as works were progressing towards opening this February.

“This facility would not impact on the area – other than using water to wash natural matter, there is no discharge – I’m perplexed by it all really,” said Mr Termini.

An application for retention of the structure was sent to Galway County Council this month, with a decision due by August 15.

Mr Termini said he would be forced to appeal to An Bord Pleanála if this application was turned down, but said he was being assisted by local Councillor Eileen Mannion, whom he said supported enterprise in the area.

“This has been going on for 18 months and really, what I want to do is get to the next stage where we can grow the business and deal with the stresses that come with that – not this,” said Mr Termini.

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