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Connacht Tribune

€1.4m funding ‘sweetener’ for merger of authorities

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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.

Connacht Tribune

Wave goodbye to City Bypass as long as Greens are in Government

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An artist's impression of proposed Galway Ring Road.

PEOPLE in the West of Ireland should not be ‘fooled’ into thinking that vital infrastructure projects like the Galway City Bypass will get the go-ahead while Eamon Ryan remains in charge of Environment, a former Fianna Fail Minister and West Galway TD has warned this week.

That’s despite Tánaiste Leo Varadkar re-iterating on Galway Bay FM this week that the funding for the project has already been allocated – although he admitted that planning was the final hurdle.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív told the Connacht Tribune that the proposed bypass of Galway city, which has a Bord Pleanála decision due by November 19 next, would end up being choked under the headings of ‘carbon proofing and carbon rating’.

“Make no mistake about it but the word on the ground that’s filtering through to local Green Party representatives is that this project will not go ahead, and will be stopped because of carbon-proofing regulations.

“This is no red herring – over the years, I’ve seen so many road projects in Connemara that were given the go-ahead in principle but have never happened because of so-called processes and procedures,” said Éamon Ó Cuív.

However, he pledged that the six Fianna Fáil representatives across Connacht, would fight ‘tooth and nail’ not to see the West ‘left behind’ with roads projects that were vital for the future of the province.

“We will be meeting directly with Taoiseach, Micheál Martin on Wednesday next [October 20] to stress the importance of a number of roads projects across the West of Ireland, including the Galway City Bypass.

“And I would also stress that we are committed fully to environmental and carbon reduction measures, but the way to do this is not by preventing people in the West of Ireland from using their cars – the cars aren’t the problem – it’s the fuel that’s used to power them,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Connemara coffee couple are now well grounded!

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Aoife Geary and James Elcock on their opening day, with their first customers - and landlords - Roundstone natives Michael John and Catherine Ferrons, sitting outside.

Aoife Geary always felt like one of the locals in Carna. Even though her parents were living in Galway City, she was largely raised by her granny and grandad Barbara and Coleman Geary. Her first job as a 13-year-old was in the local shop in the Connemara village.

“I know it sounds a bit romantic, but I felt like I was raised by the community, not just in the community. I knew everybody in the shop and everybody knew me,” she reflects.

So, when London was about to go into the first lockdown in March 2020, she and husband James Elcock made a split decision to hop on a flight to Galway armed with two carry-on suitcases.

“Granny was terminally ill with cancer, and I wanted to help out with her care and I was worried we wouldn’t be able to travel. Little did we think we weren’t going to leave.”

Aoife was the live entertainment manager for billionaire Richard Branson’s private members club called Roof Gardens in Kensington while James, a native of Shropshire, was running a restaurant in the bank area of London. She had lived in London since 2013, her husband four years longer.

When he was made redundant, he bought himself a vintage sewing machine in Castlebar and taught himself to use it in an afternoon, setting up his first Irish business making and selling cotton face masks.

They then realised that a takeaway unit in Roundstone had become free, which was overlooking the picturesque pier and with views of the Twelve Bens. They opened My Coffee Cottage in mid-August and business was brisk from the get-go.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Budget’s grant break for college commuters

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NUI Galway.

Grants for some third level students living in certain parts of County Galway, who attend college in the city, could more than double as a result of changes in Budget 2022.

Undergraduates and students on post leaving cert courses living in areas such as Tuam, Loughrea and An Cheathrú Rua will all benefit from an adjustment to the eligibility to the non-adjacent rate for maintenance grants.  Some could get a grant boost of €1,800 next year due to the changes announced in the Budget.

People eligible for a maintenance grant are paid at either a non-adjacent rate or an adjacent rate – determined by measuring the distance of the shortest direct route from your normal residence to college.

Currently, the adjacent rate – which is lower – is paid when your college is 45km or less from where you live. The higher non-adjacent rate is paid when the college is more than 45km away from an eligible student’s home. The non-adjacent rate has been adjusted in Budget 2022 to include 30km to 45km.

This means that eligibility for the non-adjacent rate has been widened, and many students who were previously on the adjacent rate may now be eligible for a higher non-adjacent rate. It means that third level students living in Tuam, Loughrea and An Cheathrú could be eligible for the higher non-adjacent rate next September.

Get the full details on this and the impact of Budget 2022 in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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