An oversupply of alcohol through off-licences in the city is fuelling binge drinking among groups of all ages, a local councillor has warned.
Cllr Níall McNelis (Lab), who is a member of the Galway Healthy Cities Alcohol Forum, said of the 305 alcohol licences in the city, just 117 of those were pubs.
As of August last year, there were 41 retailer off-licences and 29 wine retailer off-licences – with the remainder made up of 90 wine-retailer on-licences (wine bars); 11 special restaurant licences; 15 wholesale dealer; and two manufacturers in the micro-brewery sector.
“I think we really need to have a serious conversation about alcohol in this country and ask ourselves the question – have we too many licences?
“Successive Governments have failed to act on this and, looking at the figures for Galway licences, I think we need to map out the off-licences and look at how many should be in such close proximity to each other,” said Cllr McNelis.
Figures from Revenue show that alcohol consumption dipped by just 7.7% during lockdown, while pubs were closed. Cllr McNelis said this indicated where the problem lay, and it wasn’t with public houses.
“Why were the off-licences allowed to remain open all during lockdown, while the pubs were forced to close? If consumption was only down by 7.8%, you can see where the issue is.
“Don’t get me wrong, the off licences aren’t breaking any laws, but do we have an oversupply of alcohol in our city.
“I would always say that a bar is the safest environment to consume alcohol in – someone having a few drinks in the pub, where there is control over measures and how much you can get served, rather than someone drinking six cans in a short space of time at home, is obviously preferable,” said the Labour councillor.
While the Vintners Federation backed long-mooted legislation to introduce minimum unit-pricing for alcohol, Cllr McNelis believed problem drinking was as much to do with ease of access as it was with pricing.
“I don’t believe that putting 20 cent on a bottle of beer will make much difference – if you look at what the students are drinking, they’re actually buying cheap bottles of wine and mixing it with 7up.
“We have rules about locating fast food restaurants next to schools and yet you can have an off licence wherever you want.
“The City Development Plan for the next number of years will be formulated in the coming months but there’s nothing we can do to change that – it has to come from a national level.
“We have a problem with alcohol in this country – all you have to do is look at all the Communions and Confirmations that were cancelled because of Covid and now that they’re back, we have a return to the drinking sessions afterwards,” said Cllr McNelis.
The delivery of alcohol was also a growing problem, with apps such as Just Eat and Deliveroo now offering the service.
“You can order drink online with no ID, pay by card and it’s delivered to the door. What makes this worse is the only person in breach of the law if it’s sold to an underage person is the delivery driver – the person on a pittance of a wage in the gig economy – not Just Eat or Deliveroo, or even the restaurant who sold it,” said Cllr McNelis.
In a week where student drinking has been in the spotlight, he said binge drinking wasn’t related to any particular age group.
“I was shown CCTV footage of two men in their mid-30s, both langered drunk at 2am on the same night the students were in Spanish Arch, trying to get into a city car park to drive home.
“They were so drunk, they couldn’t actually find the door of the car park and pulled down the barrier instead, doing thousands of euros worth of damage.
“And what’s worse, they came back an hour later and drove out,” he said.
Brave Holly’s battle against leukaemia
A keen young camogie player from Knocknacarra diagnosed with leukaemia at the start of the first lockdown has now learned that she has lost her sight in one eye due to a rare complication.
Holly McAlinney was the picture of health at age seven. Her mother Sharon remembers the day schools were closed last March that her teacher had remarked that Holly had difficulty hearing in class.
She took her to the GP, thinking it was an ear infection and then her jaw swelled up so she thought it may have been her adenoids acting up. When medication did nothing to relieve the symptoms, they sent off a blood test.
“I went to the doctor with her on my own, you were only allowed one parent in at a time. They asked if I could call my husband so I knew things were bad. They confirmed it was leukaemia on a Wednesday and on the Monday we were in Crumlin Children’s Hospital getting chemotherapy – that’s how quickly it’s all been.”
Holly is now in the middle of her fourth round of chemo, which she undergoes weekly one day a week in the Dublin hospital. When she finishes this, she will have a fifth round given over two years to ensure the cancer doesn’t return.
Her medical team are extremely positive about her prospects. There is currently a 98 per cent survival rate with leukaemia, which is of course a huge relief to family and friends.
But things haven’t gone plain sailing throughout the treatment. Holly developed ulcers on her duodenum which left her in intensive care for a spell. And then last week, the family learned that the leukaemia had infiltrated her left eye, leaving a gap which could result in permanent blindness.
“We’re seeing a specialist in University Hospital Galway (UHG) next week but we don’t hold out much hope the sight will come back. Holly’s the most upbeat of all of us because she’s so young – she can’t see the repercussions into the future.
“That’s the way she’s been throughout the treatment. The first two rounds were heavy and the third quite light so she bounced right back. She was in school September and October, you wouldn’t know she was sick, and we felt she was safe because everything was so clean and with all the bubbles.
“It was right back down with the fourth round which was the heaviest so she can’t go see anyone just her brother – it’s heart-breaking.”
Her school friends have been keeping in touch by sending videos and cards to Holly to cheer her up.
While camogie and swimming will be out of the occasion for the foreseeable future, Sharon is confident they can find other hobbies that will enthral Holly, who is a very sociable and sporty girl. Sharon trains Holly with the U-8 camogie team with Salthill-Knocknacarra GAA.
The frequent trips to Dublin and hospital appointments has meant that Sharon has had to give up her job working in the Little Stars Montessori on the Cappagh Road, where son Alex still attends afterschool. Dad Rob works as an alarm engineer.
New mothers that Sharon met in Holly’s parent and baby group in Knocknacarra have organised a fundraiser to help the family get through the financial stress of coping with cancer.
They are planning a hike on December 6 at Diamond Hill, Connemara and have already raised €16,000 in donations.
“Rob and I are both from Salthill, but it’s been amazing the amount of people we wouldn’t have heard or seen in years who have contacted us to offer support. It’s only when you’re in trouble that you realise how good people can be.”
■ To make a donation, log on to GoFundMe
Proposals to change speed limits in Galway City are voted down
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Planned speed limit changes for Galway City are stuck in the slow lane after councillors rejected a proposal for new bylaws.
The bylaws would have introduced a 30km/h zone in the city centre and 19 other changes, including increased speed limits in areas such as Bóthar na dTreabh to 80km/h.
Management at City Hall have now been sent back to the drawing board to draft new speed limit bylaws after a majority of elected members voted against them – it could at least two years before new proposals are ready.
At a meeting this week, several councillors spoke out against plans to increase speed limits to 80km/h on approach roads into the city.
Many of them criticised the system of selecting roads for speed limit changes, lashed the public consultation process and decried the lack of input from councillors, despite speed limits being a reserved function of elected members.
Councillors were particularly peeved that the proposal had to be accepted in its entirety, without amendments, or rejected outright – they could not pick and choose individual changes.
Deputy Mayor Collette Connolly (Ind) led the charge against the bylaws, which she described as “idiotic”.
She lambasted the “incomprehensible decision” not to lower speed limits to 30km/h outside schools and she said it was “utter raiméis” (nonsense) that speeds can’t be lowered to 30km/h, if 85% of the traffic on that road travels at 50km/h.
Cllr Connolly said the bylaws were “flawed”, and cited the decision to leave Rahoon Road/Shantalla Road at 50km/h, despite a crèche and two schools on other roads like Lough Atalia remaining at 30km/h.
(Photo: A speed van on Bóthar na dTreabh on Thursday morning)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, including how each councillor voted and a map of the proposed changes, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Corrib to be opened up as new tourism and leisure blueway
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The first steps are to be taken next year to explore the development of a ‘blueway’ tourism and leisure trail along the River Corrib, from Nimmo’s Pier and onto the lake itself.
This week, Galway City Council Chief Executive, Brendan McGrath, confirmed to the Galway City Tribune, that monies had been set aside to begin exploratory work on what will be known as the Great Western Blueway.
A figure of €65,000 has been allocated in the City Council’s 2021 annual budget to commission an initial study of what’s involved in the setting up a blueway trail on the Corrib.
“The Corrib river and the lake are a most wonderful natural asset for the entire western region and I have no doubt that this project has fantastic potential in terms of enhancing the tourism pulling power of the city and its environs,” Mr McGrath told the Galway City Tribune this week.
Should the project come to fruition, it would be the fifth such waterway attraction to be developed in the island of Ireland.
Already there are Blueways on the Shannon, from Drumshanbo to Lanesboro; the Shannon-Erne project from Leitrim village to Belturbet (Cavan); the Royal Canal at Mullingar; and at Lough Derg from Portumna to Scariff in Clare.
According to Mr McGrath, the attractions developed along the Great Western Blueway would be environmentally friendly, featuring such attractions as kayaking, paddling, adjacent cycle trails as well as scenic walkways and visitor centres.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.