The first steps were taken this week to set up a film, TV and audio-visual studio facility on part of the site of the former Galway Airport at Carnmore.
Galway City Council agreed in principle to lease the hangar buildings on the site – covering a total of 4.4 acres – to Danú Media Teoranta based in An Spidéal, for a 20-year period.
BY FRANCIS FARRAGHER and DARA BRADLEY
Now, Galway County Council – joint owners of the old airport site [115 acres] – must also give approval in principle to the development before Danú will formally proceed with a planning application.
However that might be a tougher battle than envisaged – after one group of County Councillors complained of being kept ‘in the dark’ over plans for the future use of Galway Airport.
A number of elected representatives of the Athenry/Oranmore Municipal District were highly critical of the City and County Council management team for not keeping them updated on proposals for the site in Carnmore.
They were responding after hearing of the report presented to last Monday’s meeting of Galway City Council, when Director of Services, Brian Barrett, said that in 2015 a feasibility study had recommended that expressions of interest be sought from the film industry as regards this site.
“Following the agreement of the Chief Executives, the Galway Local Authorities (County and City Councils) commenced a tendering process in 2017 in relation to the leasing of the hangars . . . Danú Media Teo came through the various phases of the procurement process,” he said.
Danú Media Teo, who were established in 2015 under award winning company directors, John Brady and Siobhán Ní Ghadhra, produce film and TV dramas for a host of production companies.
City councillors agreed to give the ‘approval in principle’ for the leasing deal which will be proceeded with under Section 183 of the Local Government Act, 2001.
However, a number of councillors cautioned that the leasing go-ahead would have to come back before them once the detail of the planning application had been finalised.
Former Mayor of Galway, Cllr. Noel Larkin (Ind.) said that the Council should carefully consider what was a long-term lease deal. “If we agree now in principle with the lease, it will be very hard to row back on it later on,” said Cllr. Larkin.
Fianna Fáil councillor, Michael Crowe, said that the two local authorities owned what was a very important site for Galway and it was important that the right decisions were made.
Former Mayor, Cllr. Mike Cubbard (Ind.) said that while it was a good news story, he was worried about any ‘piecemeal developments’ at the airport site. “We need an overall strategy to plan for the entire site,” he said.
City Council Chief Executive, Brendan McGrath, said that the two hangars were 15,000 square feet each and would involve a significant capital investment from the company [Danú] to bring them into use as film studios.
“All we are looking for is agreement in principle on the leasing deal with the caveat that this will be coming back before the Council when planning is finalised. As well as that, both Councils have to agree,” said Brendan McGrath.
Labour councillor, Niall McNelis and Independent, Donal Lyons, both said that the development had the potential to ‘put Galway on the map’ as a centre for film, TV and audio-visual productions.
But news of the City Council’s discussion angered County Cllr James Charity (Ind), who raised the matter at the latest Oranmore/Athenry meeting, said it was ‘disrespectful’ that elected representatives had to learn of that motion in local media.
He said that ‘as a basic courtesy’, elected members of Athenry/Oranmore MD – where Carnmore is based – should’ve been consulted first.
Ger Mullarkey, Director of Services for Finance at Galway County Council, said he was not aware of what City Council motion Cllr Charity was talking about. “I don’t read the local papers,” he said.
It’s understood a similar motion to the one debated at City Council level, was due to be debated at the County Council plenary meeting next week.
But members of the Oranmore/Athenry passed a motion stating that it should come before them for consideration first.
Cllr Shelly Herterich-Quinn (FF) said she was concerned about protocol and how the Council conducts its business. It was a matter of “manners and courtesy” that elected reps in the area would learn of future plans for the site through the proper channels.
Cllr Jim Cuddy (Ind) said that the site was purchased jointly by Galway’s two local authorities in 2013 from Galway Chamber. Some €1.1m was paid for 115 acres, and a ‘master plan’ for the site was to be drawn up.
He said it was ‘not good enough’ that Athenry/Oranmore County Councillors are not being kept informed about plans for the airport site; and they have not been presented with a master plan.
Cllr Gabe Cronnelly (Ind) said plans appeared to be ‘lost in translation’ and there was a lack of communication.
Cllr Cuddy said that ‘nothing should happen’ to the Carnmore site until the new County Development plan is completed. Cllr Liam Carroll (FG) said that it is unlikely that commercial flights will ever return to Carnmore, given how airports such as Knock, Kerry and Shannon are struggling currently during Covid restrictions.
But Cllr Charity said that an air link in Galway could be vital for attracting future Foreign Direct Investment, and it should be kept as aviation.
Gardaí in Galway operating with fewer patrol cars
Five large Garda stations in County Galway are operating with fewer Garda vehicles now than two years ago – leading to a call for the local fleet to be restored to 2020 levels.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has confirmed to Galway West TD Noel Grealish that the Garda fleet in the Galway Garda Division stands at 116 as of October of this year.
That’s greater than any of the years from 2012 to 2019, but it represents a reduction on the Garda fleet when compared with 2020 and 2021 figures.
Galway Gardaí had a dozen fewer vehicles this year, compared with 2020. There are 13 fewer patrol cars, down from 96 to 83; there was no change in the number of vans and motorcycles, and the division acquired one extra 4×4.
Garda stations in Ballinasloe, Loughrea, Tuam, Clifden and Salthill have all lost patrol cars in the past 24 months, according to the official figures.
Independent Deputy Grealish has demanded a restoration of the Garda fleet in Galway to 2020 levels.
“Gardaí have a demanding enough job to do, but it makes that important work even more difficult if they are not allocated the proper resources,” Deputy Grealish said.
“A reduction of twelve vehicles in less than two years across the Galway Division, down from 128 at the end of 2020 to 116 in October this year, is concerning.
“I have asked the Minister for Justice to explain why this has happened, that the number of vehicles in the Galway Division has fallen by ten per cent, when nationally the total fleet actually increased by 6%. I am demanding that they at the very least be restored to their 2020 levels,” he said.
Deputy Grealish pointed out that almost all areas of the county had suffered a reduction in Garda vehicles since the beginning of last year. Ballinasloe currently has six vehicles, a reduction of two since the end of 2020; Clifden also has six, down one; Loughrea was down three to eleven; Salthill was down three to ten; the biggest reduction in Garda vehicles was in the Tuam area down five to twelve.
Galway City’s fleet increased by two vehicles, for a total of 71.
Minister McEntee said that the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was responsible for the administration and management of An Garda Síochána, including the purchase, allocation, and effective and efficient use of Garda vehicles.
“As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters. I am assured, however, that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review to ensure their optimum use in light of identified operational needs and emerging crime trends,” she added.
Galway City Councillor Donal Lyons (Ind) last month complained that the number of vehicles available to Gardaí in Salthill and Knocknacarra was insufficient.
Progress stalls on setting up Eating Disorder Community Health Team
Despite an increasing number of young people experiencing eating disorders, a new specialist community team has yet to be set up in Galway well over a year after it was announced.
The delay is mainly due to a difficulty recruiting a consultant psychiatrist to lead the team, this week’s HSE West Regional Health Forum meeting was told.
Councillor John Connolly (FF) queried the progress on the new Eating Disorder Community Health Team within the Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) after the HSE revealed in September 2021 that it would be set up in response to the hike in youths presenting for treatment.
Chief Officer of HSE Community Healthcare West, Breda Crehan-Roche, said interviews had been conducted to recruit a clinical lead, but so far none had been appointed. Six other staff had been appointed and these had been assigned to existing teams within CAMHS while a psychiatrist could come on board to manage the team.
“We have difficulty getting locum cover. Interviews were held. It’s a priority. We are doing a running recruitment process,” she told this month’s meeting.
It took between six and nine months to appoint a person to such a senior post.
“There is a lot of work in specialist intervention in the eating disorders team.”
She admitted that there were no records of how much of an increase there had been in referrals to CAMHS Galway for youths troubled by an eating disorder as all records were on paper rather than on computer.
“I can’t ask clinicians and therapists to pull together manual figures,” she stated. But the indication from staff on the ground was that there had been a downward trend in referrals post-Covid.
There was a move to keeping digital records by the middle of next year.
Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan dies aged 78
Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan has passed away at the age of 78.
Born in Kilkenny in 1944, Bishop Drennan studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth from where he was ordained in 1968
As a priest, the then Fr Drennan served as curate in both St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish in Kilkenny and then in Ballycallan.
From 1975 he taught Sacred Scripture at St. Kieran’s College, returning to Rome in 1980 to become Spiritual Director at the Irish College there for the next five years.
When Fr. Martin again returned home he became a Lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth where he continued to teach until his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin in 1997.
Following the retirement of Bishop James McLoughlin, Bishop Drennan was chosen as Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora and was installed on 3rd July 2005 in Galway Cathedral serving to his retirement in 2016.
A brief statement released by the Diocese of Galway this afternoon confirmed his passing and offered their sympathies to Bishop Drennan’s family and all those who mourn his loss.
Funeral arrangements for the late Bishop Drennan will be announced later