The proposed amalgamation of Galway County and City Councils is much closer than originally thought – after a €1.4 million ‘sweetener’ has been accepted by members as part of the county’s passing of their annual budget.
Councillors have been told in no uncertain terms that the allocation is contingent on a decision of the Oireachtas to merge the two administrations.
The merger is part of the 2018 Local Government Bill which was passed last week and refers to the amalgamation of the two councils in Galway. The full merger is envisaged to take place in 2021 – two years after next May’s local elections.
At the County Council’s budget meeting, several members said that they would accept the €1.4 million next year but with ‘no strings attached’.
While the merger is being viewed as ‘a done deal’, most local councillors are against such a move.
During a discussion on the €1.4 million allocation, councillors were presented with a document stating it was money that would meet ‘one-off costs relating to the merger’.
Fianna Fáil, through Cllr Mary Hoade, proposed that a letter be sent to the Department to address the underfunding to the County Council and that that €1.4 million not be tied to any merger.
But several independent councillors accused Fianna Fáil of being naïve, saying the funding came with a prerequisite that it be used for the amalgamation process and would not simply go into the Council’s coffers.
The day before the meeting, a deputation of seven Fianna Fáil councillors met with party Oireachtas members in Dublin asking them to resist the merger of the two councils.
This was amid fears that the amalgamation of the two councils forms part of the Confidence and Supply arrangement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
Cllr James Charity (Ind) said that this funding was not “an offer” to the County Council and it was being allocated in advance of a merger of the two councils.
The councillor, who is supportive of the amalgamation, said that certainty was needed with regard to this particular line of funding. “We should not be fooling ourselves that this money can be used to simply balance our budget,” Cllr Charity warned.
Various councillors expressed the view that this €1.4 million was due to the County Council being cash-strapped, but even = senior officials could not clarify if it could be spent on day-to-day requirements.
Other independent councillors including Tom Welby, Timmy Broderick and Shaun Cunniffe kept pressing the officials in relation to this particular allocation.
They were of the view that if the amalgamation did not happen, then this funding would be lost and they would be in a worse position than ever.
Fine Gael’s Pete Roche said that there were 57 local elected representatives between the city and county and the vast majority were opposed to the merger.
However, he added that there were eight TDs between the Galway East and Galway West and the majority of these were in favour.
“They are obviously not listening to us and do not care about the concerns we have regarding this merger. It is my own view that it will happen in any event by pure stealth,” Cllr Roche added.
Two arrested following taxi hijacking in Galway
Gardaí have arrested two men following the hijacking of a taxi in Co Galway last night.
Shortly before midnight, Gardaí received a report that two men who were passengers in a taxi had attacked the driver and stole his vehicle.
The driver was ejected from the car on the M18 motorway.
Gardaí were alerted and observed the car in Claregalway.
A managed containment operation to ‘block in’ the taxi was put in place with assistance from the armed Regional Support Unit.
The car was brought to a stop on Bothar na dTreabh and two men fled on foot. The two men, one in his mid-20s and the other in his early-30s, were subsequently arrested.
They are currently detained at Garda HQ in Renmore under the provisions of Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984.
Man arrested after €90,000 drug seizure
Gardai have arrested a man after €90,000 worth of drugs were discovered in a bog near Ballinasloe.
As part of an ongoing surveillance operation, Gardai conducted a search in Poolboy Bog late yesterday afternoon.
They discovered €70,000 worth of cocaine, and a further €20,000 worth of cannabis along with other drug equipment.
A man in his 20s was arrested at the scene and taken to Ballinasloe Garda Station.
He’s since been charged and will appear before Ballinasloe District Court next Thursday.
Waiting lists surge since pandemic
Waiting lists at Galway hospitals have rocketed since the onset of Covid-19, with fears that the situation will only worsen as doubts have been cast over the long-awaited new elective hospital at Merlin Park.
Figures released from the National Treatment Purchase Fund, which covers the cost of outsourcing public patients to private hospitals, show that since 2020, waiting lists locally have surged by almost 25%.
Galway City Councillor Níall McNelis said statistics obtained by the Labour Party showed the numbers waiting for inpatient and outpatient treatment were ever increasing, and little was being done to address the problem.
“Waiting lists have skyrocketed since the beginning of 2020 and have increased from 52,935 in January to 65,548 in March 2021, an increase of a whopping 23.8% in a little over a year.
“In every specialism, the numbers waiting at Galway University Hospitals are growing and growing month after month, with the number of people waiting for general surgery growing from 3,468 to 4,990 – a 43.9% increase; [the list for] cardiology treatment has grown from 2,406 to 3,231, a 34.3% increase in little over 14 months,” said the Labour Party councillor.
This sharp increase in waiting times came as Moycullen-based Senator Seán Kyne (FG) cast doubt over the mooted 200 in-patient beds and new elective hospital at Merlin Park – something that has long been presented as the solution to Galway’s health woes.
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