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CITY TRIBUNE

Dreaming big – plan to make city an official National Park

Stephen Corrigan

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Kayakers enjoying the tranquility of the River Corrib at Jordan's Island. Achieving National Park status could be a game-changer for the city, according to environmental activist Brendan Smith.

The drive to achieve ‘National Park City’ status for Galway will be stepped-up a notch this month when the campaign is officially launched by a cross-sectoral group of ‘champions’ who have thrown their weight behind the project.

Led by veteran environmental activist Brendan Smith, Galway National Park City has already received the backing of President Michael D Higgins who will serve as Patron, as local groups and organisations strive to make Galway a world-leading city in its commitment to protecting the natural environment.

The mission is to have Galway recognised as a city dedicated to sustainability, where citizens benefit from, and are strongly connected to, nature.

For Mr Smith, the campaign is about building on decades of hard work to protect the city’s greenways and waterway and linking up the various efforts already underway to advance a healthier and safer natural environment – uniting as one to make Galway a better place to live.

“I truly believe this could be a real game-changer for the city. We are at a crossroads; we are witnessing the effects of climate change and biodiversity loss and we have seen the outcome of our abuse of nature, whether that’s through the climate crisis or the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Mr Smith, explaining how diseases were spreading from the animal world to humans as a direct result of our mistreatment of nature.

“The National Park City campaign ticks so many boxes in reversing that – it hits the EU targets on climate change, the UN recommendations and what’s in the Programme for Government. This is a real opportunity for Galway,” continued Mr Smith, who is well-known for his work to protect and promote Terryland Forest Park.

Since the campaign to have Galway designated a National Park City was launched in March 2019, work has been underway to secure a long list of ‘champions’ who will advance the cause in the coming months.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Teenager caught with €20,000 worth of cannabis

Enda Cunningham

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A teenager was stopped and searched by Gardaí in Eyre Square on Monday evening, and found in possession of an estimated €20,000 worth of cannabis.

Members of the Galway Divisional Drugs Unit stopped the man, aged in his late teens, at around 6pm and searched him under the Misuse of Drugs Act. During the search the man was found in possession of a €20,000 of suspected cannabis herb. The drugs seized will be sent for forensic analysis.

He was arrested and detained at Garda Headquarters in Renmore and was released from custody this morning. A file is now being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

 

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CITY TRIBUNE

‘Crass stupidity’ to allow Leisureland close

Stephen Corrigan

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The looming threat of closure for Leisureland after Christmas amounts to “crass stupidity” and requires an urgent commitment for funding from Government, according to a local TD.

Deputy Catherine Connolly told the Galway City Tribune she had raised the issue in the Dáil with the Minister of State for Local Government and he had expressed an openness to meeting with a delegation from City Hall in relation to the City Council-owned facility’s dire financial situation.

“It’s simply not acceptable that a public swimming pool would close when we have the Minister for Finance announcing a budget of €18 billion this week – that’s Monopoly money.

“We have €18 billion to dispense and the challenge is to do that in a way that ensures a basic level of services below which we cannot go, and that requires funding the local authority. The local authority is fundamental in any civilised society, as are the services it provides,” said the Independent Deputy.

Raising the issue in Leinster House, Deputy Connolly said that Leisureland was an excellent public facility that had been open since 1973 and had broke even for the last number of years, but had run into major funding shortfalls as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.

“It is a fantastic swimming pool. I must declare a conflict of interest as I use it every weekend, It helps to keep me semi-sane and semi-fit.

“No public swimming pool makes money and few of them break even. This pool needed money due to Covid-19 and the difficulties experienced by every public swimming pool in the country. The management in the City Council said it was not in a position to give it money and that the swimming pool would have to close,” said Deputy Connolly, adding that the decision had been made and staff were informed.

Due to public pressure and resistance from local councillors, the decision was reversed and €207,000 in funding had been provided by the Council Executive.

“However, it pointed out that the money was coming out of next year’s budget, so it could not continue, and it would not be in a position to fund it.

“I do not expect miracles, but I expect commitment from the Minister and the Government that, regardless of what happens, we are not going to close public swimming pools or public libraries. They are essential services,” said Deputy Connolly.

She said €2.5 million in funding had been made available for “swimming pools with public access” in the private sector as part of the Government’s July Stimulus package, but nothing for publicly-owned facilities.

“It is very ironic if we are going to keep private swimming pools open once they have some limited access to the public, while we close down the public swimming pools,” she added.

Responding, Minister Peter Burke said his Department was keeping spending and cash flow at local authorities under constant review and would continue to work with Galway City Council to address issues.

“My Department is engaging with representatives of the local government sector and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the financial challenges facing local authorities as a direct consequence of the pandemic, in terms of additional costs incurred as part of the local government response and decline in local authority income streams.

“I will do my very best with regard to the Deputy’s ask. I would be willing to meet a delegation from the City Council in connection with this issue. However, there are going to be significant asks emanating from this crisis. We are doing our very best to make what we have go as far as it can. It presents a major challenge,” said Minister Burke.

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CITY TRIBUNE

HSE not paying rent to councils for use of Galway Airport

Dara Bradley

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Galway Airport is being provided to the Health Service Executive (HSE) free of charge, the County Council has confirmed.

The Carnmore facility, jointly owned by Galway’s two local authorities, is being used as a drive through Covid-19 testing centre for the city and county.

It was confirmed to County Councillor Gabe Cronnelly (Ind) that neither the City nor County Council are benefiting financially from the HSE for the use of the facility. And he wasn’t happy.

He said Galway Airport was being given over to the HSE free-of-charge, at a time when the County Council budget was in deficit to the tune of €1.4 million at the latest count.

“The HSE isn’t paying anything to use the airport for testing. If it was the other way round, and the County Council was looking for something off the HSE, do you think that they would give it to the Council for nothing?” asked Cllr Cronnelly.

“They pay zero to us; yet we have a big deficit in the budget and Galway is the second-worst funded county council in Ireland. Why are we being so generous with our assets? Our budget is short again this year. We seem to have become a bit of a charity.”

Cllr Cronnelly said that not only was it not making money out of the airport, the County Council was actually spending money on holding meetings elsewhere, because County Hall cannot facilitate a socially distanced meeting.

He suggested that Galway Airport would be capable of facilitating a meeting of 39 councillors plus officials and media – and it would cost the local authority very little because it owns the site.

“It seems to me that there is an awful lot of waste of money going on,” he added.

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