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Connacht Tribune

€2.5m restoration of Meelick Weir Walkway approved

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One of the hidden tourism gems of the River Shannon – the Meelick Weir Walkway that links Galway and Offaly – is set to be restored to life next year after being out of commission since the floods of late 2009.

A figure of almost €2.5 million has been allocated by Waterways Ireland for the revamp of the Weir, which will once more, link the villages of Meelick in East Galway and Lusmagh in West Offaly.

The ‘good news’ that the €2.5 million project had received the go-ahead was given on the banks of the Shannon beside the weir to a local committee last Thursday by Waterways Ireland Regional Manager, Eanna Rowe, who confirmed that the project would be going out to tender later this month.

President of the local restoration committee, Nancy Reilly, also presented Mr. Rowe with a letter stressing the importance of completing the works during the coming Summer season of 2019.

Charlie Killeen, Chairman of the Meelick/Lusmagh Walkway Restoration Committee, told the Connacht Tribune that confirmation of the project going to tender was very welcome news for the local communities.

“We have the two Martello towers, the Red Bridge, and the Victorian Lock, among other attractions, that will be brought back to life with access restored for locals and tourists who want to use this beautiful walkway across the Shannon.

“This is wonderful news for the area but one point I want to stress is that we need this work to be completed during the ‘Summer window’ of May 1 to September 1, 2019 – otherwise the re-opening would slip back another year to Autumn of 2020,” said Charlie Killeen.

Work on the Meelick Weir can only be carried out during that Summer period because of fisheries protection measures relating to the salmon spawning season.

Earlier this year, the campaign to get the Meelick Weir restoration project back on the priority list, was stepped up by community representatives from the Meelick and Lusmagh areas.

Over recent months, the Meelick Walkway Restoration Committee embarked on an extensive lobbying campaign, involving communications with Waterways Ireland, local politicians and Government departments.

Disaster struck for the Weir back in November of 2009, when the severe flooding of that period resulted in damage being caused to the walkway and its supports – since then, it has been closed to public access.

Charlie Killeen said that it was ‘the dream’ of local people in the Meelick and Lusmagh areas that the re-opening of the walkway would coincide with a local feast day in the Meelick area.

“Traditionally, August 2 of each year has been a prayer day at Meelick Church, which we believe is the oldest church in Ireland in continuous use, dating back to the Middle Ages.

“There has been a tradition of people from Lusmagh walking across the Weir to the old monastery and it really would be something special to the local communities if the walkway was reopened to coincide with this tradition,” said Charlie Killeen.

He said that the opening date for the walkway – and the need for a commitment that the work be started in early May of next year – were now the only concerns that local people had.

“But at least the money is there; the job is going to tender – now the priority is to get it done on time,” said Charlie Killeen.

He said that the restoration job itself should only take in the region of five to seven weeks. “The starting date is the only outstanding issue now,” he added.

Connacht Tribune

Unauthorised developments in County Galway go unchecked for months

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The Planning Enforcement Section of Galway County Council is so understaffed that complaints of unauthorised developments are not being investigated for months, the Connacht Tribune has learned.

In one case, a complaint alleging a house was under construction in a picturesque and environmentally sensitive part of Conamara without planning permission was not investigated by the Council for at least six months.

And it can be revealed that there is a ‘large’ backlog of complaints of unauthorised developments in the county, which the Planning Enforcement Section at County Hall has blamed on staff shortages, according to correspondence obtained by the Connacht Tribune under Freedom of Information (FOI).

In response to repeated requests by a concerned member of the public to intervene and investigate an allegation of unauthorised development in an environmentally protected area of Conamara, the Council’s Planning Department indicated it was too stretched.

“Unfortunately, the planning enforcement section is experiencing a period of prolonged staff shortages and consequently there are a large number of files awaiting investigation/review,” it said.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Access Centre provides pathways to University of Galway for the disadvantaged

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Photo of Imelda Byrne

Great leaps have been made in recent years to make access to tertiary level education a realistic prospect for once marginalised groups in society.

With the deadline for CAO applications approaching next week, the Access Centre at the University of Galway is aiming to reach as many underrepresented groups as possible ahead of next academic term.

Head of the Access Centre, Imelda Byrne (pictured), said research has shown that those who once felt third level ‘wasn’t for them’ are increasing their presence at UG, and bringing a richness to the sector that had for a long time been missing.

In the five years up to 2021, there was a 100% increase in the number of students registering for the Disability Support Service at the university, while those coming from Further Education and Training courses in institutes like GTI had surged by 211% over four years.

“The message that we really need to get out there is that the CAO is not the only route into third level. There are a number of pathways,” says Imelda.

“There are loads of places set aside for students coming from a place of disadvantage,” she continues, whether it’s national schemes such as the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) for socio-economic disadvantage; or the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE); or the university’s own programme for mature students.

Those places are there to ensure those from all backgrounds get an opportunity to reach their education potential, tapping into hugely talented groups that once may have missed that opportunity.

“What we have seen is that when they get that opportunity, they do just as well if not better than other students,” continues Imelda.

For HEAR and DARE scheme applicants, and for those hoping to begin higher education as a mature student, next Wednesday’s CAO deadline is critically important.

But beyond the CAO applications, the Access Programme will open up in March to guide prospective students, whatever challenges they are facing, into third level.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway County Council ‘missing out on millions’ in derelict sites levies

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Photo of Cloonabinnia House

Galway County Council is missing out on millions of euro in untapped revenue due to a failure to compile a complete Derelict Sites Register.

That’s according to Galway East Sinn Féin representative, Louis O’Hara, who this week blasted the news that just three properties across the whole county are currently listed on the register.

As a result, Mr O’Hara said the Derelict Sites Levy was not being utilised effectively as countless crumbling properties remained unregistered – the levy amounts to 7% of the market value of the derelict property annually.

The former general election candidate said Galway County Council was ill-equipped to compile a proper list of derelict sites and called on Government to provide the necessary resources to tackle the scourge of dereliction across.

“There are still only three properties listed on Galway County Council’s Derelict Sites Register . . . anyone in Galway knows that this does not reflect the reality on the ground and more must be done to identify properties, and penalise owners who fail to maintain them,” said Mr O’Hara.

The situation was compounded by the fact that the Council failed to collect any of the levies due to them in 2021.

“This is deeply concerning when we know that dereliction is a blight on our communities. Derelict sites attract rats, anti-social behaviour and dumping, and are an eyesore in many of our local towns and villages.”

“The Derelict Sites Levy should be used as a tool by local authorities to raise revenue that can then be utilised to tackle dereliction, but they are not adequately resourced to identify and pursue these property owners,” said Mr O’Hara.

(Photo: The former Cloonabinnia House Hotel is on the Derelict Sites Register).
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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