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Dominican Convent faces wrecking ball



The Dominican Sisters on Taylor’s Hill are to get a brand new convent next year, after city planners heard the plight of their existing 13 year-old convent, which has a litany of structural faults.

The wrecking ball will then be taken to the original building, which contravenes a series of Building Regulations.

The new single-storey convent will not cost the Congregation of Dominican Sisters a cent – it will be funded by legal action taken against architects O’Connor, Keogh, Mulcaire and engineers HGL O’Connor, as well as builders TBD Building Contractors and TBD Group Holdings – all Galway companies. The Galway companies were behind the original three-storey convent built in 2000.

This week, city planners gave the go-ahead for a new 850 square metre building with 12 bedrooms, as well as outline planning permission for three houses on the site at the end of the Mount Eaton cul de sac.

Sr Caitríona Gorman told the Galway City Tribune that – unless there is an appeal against the planning grant – the new convent will be completed before the end of 2014.

As it stands, the convent is in contravention of several elements of the Building Regulations including fire safety and electrical systems.

The existing three-storey convent was completed in 2000, to provide accommodation for between 20 and 30 nuns, and specifically designed for wheelchair users and those with restricted mobility. Fourteen nuns live there at the moment.

However, it emerged that corridors, entrance halls and en-suite bathroom doorways were not wide enough for wheelchair access – a key requirement at the design stage.

There were also serious issues with heat loss, condensation, water ingress, ventilation and windows which were incorrectly installed and which did not open properly.

Cracks and faulty lighting were immediately apparent when the nuns moved into the convent and by 2003, serious structural defects were discovered.

Remedial works were carried out in 2007, but the matter led to a legal dispute.

Among the litany of problems uncovered were: corridors not wide enough; lack of disability access to bathrooms and bedrooms; a step which contravened the idea of ‘universal access’ and entrance lobby that cannot be used by those with a disability.

The engineers uncovered structural issues, fire safety issues, problems with the electrical and mechanical systems, heat loss and condensation.

It was also found that there was no radon barrier on the ground floor.

The engineers told city planners: “By Autumn 2003, serious deterioration in the building fabric was becoming evident in a number of areas. A significant programme of remedial works was undertaken in 2007, which included works to the roof and walls.

“These were not completed in full and the matter became a full legal dispute between the building owners and the contractors and design team that was only recently resolved my mediation.

“Damages awarded in mediation were calculated to provide for remediation of these issues. However, some of the functional design flaws cannot be corrected.

“Furthermore, in the 14 years since the current building was first designed, the size of the Dominican community has more than halved, and the needs of the Sisters have shifted considerably.”

The new convent will be a one-storey structure organised around a central glazed winter garden. Bedrooms and en suite bathrooms are provided for 12 sisters, with dining and living facilities. There is also a chapel planned in the building.


Galway City Council Chief asked to intervene after Kirwan junction ‘near misses’



From the Galway City Tribune – Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, has been urged to intervene and instigate a review of the controversial changeover of Kirwan roundabout to a traffic light junction.

A relative of the Collins’ family, who operate a B&B on Headford Road, has pleaded with Mr McGrath to act to make it safe to enter and exit this house.

Joseph Murphy, from County Galway but living in England, a relative of the owners of the B&B located on the N84 side of the Headford Road, has warned of the potential for a serious collision at that junction.  He wrote to Mr McGrath, and copied all city councillors including Mayor of Galway, Clodagh Higgins (FG), seeking a review of the junction and in particular access to the B&B. Mr Murphy said he has been driving for forty years but this junction was “one of the most difficult and complicated traffic light junctions I have ever experienced”.

The CCTV shows a van stopping in the junction to give way to pedestrians before entering the B&B.

He said he wrote the letter because he nearly had a serious accident, due to no fault of his, when leaving the residence.

An amber traffic lights system is in place at the house, since the junction changeover last year, which is supposed to help motorists exit onto the Headford Road from the B&B.

This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. A one-year digital subscription costs just €89.00. The print edition is in shops every Friday.

He said the lights are complicated and it was unreasonable and unfair on his family and any guests staying at their B&B who may be endangered trying to enter or exit the driveway.

Videos of ‘near misses’ recorded on CCTV footage, and supplied to Councillor Mike Crowe (FF), have been seen by the Galway City Tribune.

They give a flavour of how dangerous it is to exit the residence on an amber light; and indicate an apparent lack of understanding of the system on the part of other motorists.

Cllr Crowe and other elected members raised this safety issue at a Council meeting last week during a discussion on the City Development Plan. It was decided to rezone some land adjacent to Sandyvale Lawn, which would allow for a new entrance to the house to be constructed, although there is no timeframe.

Mr Murphy, in his email to officials and councillors said it was an “extremely busy junction”.

“I do not believe that enough planning or consideration was taken when the traffic lights were installed, especially those that were installed directly in front of my sister’s house.

“My relatives in Galway should not have to worry every time they leave their house nor should anyone coming from the Menlo direction have to worry about getting blocked in by other vehicles when entering my sister’s house,” he said.

Mr Murphy added: “I would urge the Galway City Council to carry out an immediate review to make this busy junction safe before somebody gets hurt in a serious accident.”

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Plan for former pub in Galway to house Ukrainian refugees



From the Galway City Tribune – The former Lantern Bar in Ballybane has been proposed to accommodate Ukrainians seeking refuge in Galway.

The Galway City Tribune has learned that works are underway on the building to advance the plans.

The Council confirmed that they had been briefed on the proposal but refused to be drawn on the details.

“Galway City Council is aware of a proposal to use the Lantern Bar at Ballybane Shopping Centre for refugees,” said a spokesperson.

“The coordination of the development of accommodation facilities such as this is the responsibility of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.”

This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. A one-year digital subscription costs just €89.00. The print edition is in shops every Friday.

The local authority spokesperson said they did not have information on the number of people who would be accommodated, nor did they know when the facility might be open.

The Lantern Bar has not operated as a pub for some time, although its licence was renewed on appeal at Galway Circuit Court in February 2020 when the court was told that it was intended to sell the premises.

The bar, which had been the location of a series of public order incidents in 2019, had previously had its licence revoked following several objections from residents.

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City centre residents’ fears over new late-night opening hours



From the Galway City Tribune – Residents in one of the city centre’s oldest residential areas fear their lives will be turned upside-down by proposed later opening hours for pubs and nightclubs.

Chairperson of the Bowling Green Residents’ Association, Jackie Uí Chionna, told a public meeting of the City’s Joint Policing Committee (JPC) that as city centre residents, anti-social behaviour was part of their daily lives.

However, they expected the situation to worsen if Government proceeded with proposals to extend nightclub opening hours to 6.30am.

“Our concern at our recent AGM was the longer pub opening hours – it will result in an increase in [anti-social behaviour],” said Ms Uí Chionna.

She said it was their belief that this policy went against the right of city centre residents to “exist and live as a community” in the middle of town.

“We oppose increasing opening hours. We won’t have any sleep – we have minimal as it is. And we won’t feel safe to walk on the streets.

“It is regrettable that there has been so little consultation with gardaí and residents,” said Ms Uí Chionna.

Chief Superintendent Gerard Roche said Gardaí were waiting to see what happened with the legislation for later opening hours.

“On one hand, not having 5,000 or 10,000 people coming out at the one time will be a benefit but the question is if they won’t [come out at one time]. And will businesses buy into it?” questioned the Chief Supt.

Meanwhile, another Bowling Green resident and former city councillor, Nuala Nolan, raised concerns about the new model of policing and said rostering, which had gardaí working three days on and four days off was making it difficult to follow up on matters with community gardaí.

“You can’t get that person when they’re off for another four days – the continuity is gone,” said Ms Nolan.

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