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Connacht Tribune

Flawed speed revisions ‘ripe for court challenge’

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A barrister has predicted that the legal profession locally will ‘have a field day’ challenging speeding summonses in court if the county’s new speeding bylaws are passed next week.

James Charity, who is also a county councillor, said ‘every summons will be challenged’ in the District Court if he and his colleagues passed a report on the draft Road Traffic Special Speed Limits for County Galway Bylaws. “The District Court will have a field day,” he said.

“If I’m doing 62 kilometres (per hour) in a 60km/h zone, I’m going to go back and look for the maps and if there’s confusion (as to where the 60km/h zone starts) then it will be challenged. The proposals (for changes to speed limits) need to be mapped. You can’t say ‘lower the speed limit 200 metres from John Joe’s house to the crossroads’. It needs to be point A to point B and shown on a map,” he said.

Cllr Charity predicted a surge in challenges to speeding summons if the Athenry/Oranmore Municipal District proceeded to make changes to the draft plan without being shown where the proposed new speed limits would be on a map.  Twice during the discussion on speed limits, Leas Cathaoirleach of the Municipal District, Cllr Martina Kinnane (FF) said ‘confusion reigns’.

“At least if we make the changes here, we won’t be doing it in a courthouse down the road,” she said.

Speed limits were also on the agenda at this week’s meeting of the Connemara Municipal District, where a proposal by Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) to reduce the speed limit on parts of the N59 to 80km/h caused outrage among some councillors.

The proposals by TII, includes maintaining the 100km/h limit between Galway City and Roscahill, a reduction to 80km/h between Rosscahill and Lettershea, and maintaining the 100km/h limit from there on to Clifden.

This, according to the TII, is taking into account the dangerous parts of the road where width and bends are most prevalent. Towns and villages along the road will see reduced limits on approach, with a 50km/h speed limit within the boundaries.  There are also proposals to include periodic speed limits at schools such as Rosscahill and Scoil Doire Glinne.

However, local councillor Tom Healy (SF) said the move would make life more difficult for the people of Connemara who have to use the N59 to commute.

“An 80km/h journey already takes an hour-and-a-half. Do you want to throw a gate up somewhere and close the whole bloody place off?” he blasted.

Each of the five Municipal Districts in County Galway have discussed the proposed changes in speed limits for their area.  The changes to each area arise following recommendations from elected representatives and the public following a statutory consultation process where the draft bylaws were out on public display.

Máire Ní Chíonna outlined to the Athenry/Oranmore meeting that there were 56 submission received about the bylaws. Some of the recommendations in these submissions were taken on board and included in the bylaws, and others were not.

Ms Ni Chíonna explained that eleven of the submissions related to Athenry/Oranmore Municipal District area, including one submission from Cllr Jim Cuddy (Ind), who made recommendations to lower the speed limit on 22 roads.

Cllr Cuddy said it was “for the birds” that some of his recommendations were ignored; and because speed limits on local roads was a reserved function of councillors, he wanted to vote through his proposals anyway.

Ms Ní Chíonna said that many of the proposals from Cllr Cuddy were for reduced speed limits on local roads that are rats runs and used by commuters to get to Galway City. She said residents in those areas were understandably frustrated but it would be preferable to use alternative methods to make those roads safer, such as traffic calming, rather than lowering speed limits.

The draft bylaws were due to be discussed at the next full County Council meeting but it was agreed to defer the passing of the bylaws until the November meeting in order that the confusion in Athenry/Oranmore was cleared-up first. They will discuss the matter again at next week’s meeting before it goes to the full Council.

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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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