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Galway City Council u-turn on operation of Christmas market

Dara Bradley



The annual Christmas market will be run again this year by a private operator – and not Galway City Council.

City councillors last November agreed to set aside €150,000 in the 2018 budget so that the Council would take over the running of the market.

But management of the local authority have poured cold water on the idea, claiming they do not have the resources in-house to run the Continental market in Eyre Square.

In the absence of the Chief Executive, Brendan McGrath, and his Deputy, Tom Connell, it was left to Acting Director of Services, Gary McMahon to break the bad news to elected members at a local authority meeting.

“Galway City Council does not have the capacity to run the market – we don’t have the staff, the resources, the equipment. We just don’t have it. It will have to be contracted out,” he said.

Councillor Mike Cubbard (Ind) was incensed with the statement and questioned what the €150,000 set aside in the 2018 budget to take over the market would now be spent on. He said: “Why didn’t the executive admit that we couldn’t manage the market from the outset?”

Cllr Ollie Crowe (FF) said it was “completely unacceptable” that the Chief Executive and Deputy Chief Executive were not in the Chamber to answer questions from elected members.

Cllr John Walsh (FG) was one of several members who criticised the executive for presenting only an interim report on the 2017 Christmas Market.

It was May, he said, and at this stage, midway through the year, the City Council should have had a full report prepared on the last Christmas market so that they can make informed decisions about the next one.

Mayor Pearce Flannery (FG) shouldered some of the blame for the full report not being prepared yet. He said that due to commitments of the office of mayor, it hadn’t been possible for him to meet with taxi operators about how the 2017 market was for them.

Mr McMahon said the Council hadn’t yet met with other public transport representatives including Bus Éireann to get their feedback either. They will endeavour to do so in the coming weeks and the feedback from taxis and bus operators will be included in the final report to be presented to councillors at the June meeting, said Mr McMahon.

In the interim report, Chief Executive Brendan McGrath said: “The live-review feedback indicates significant concern expressed by the traders surveyed, following media reports at the time with regard to the possibility of the Council taking over the running of the Christmas market. The review also highlights that many traders said they were very unsure if they would be involved if this happened as they felt the market in its current operation was well managed and run”.

Cllr Pádraig Conneely (FG) again criticised the Christmas Market, which he said was poorly run. He said the City Council was hypocritical for allowing a beer tent to serve alcohol in the market, which was contrary to the Healthy Cities initiative, which the city had signed up to.

Cllr Conneely said there were 281 licensed premises in the city, including 34 off licences, and having a beer tent as the focal point of the market was wrong and encouraged drunkenness and anti-social behaviour.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) said €150,000 was set aside in this year’s budget for the Council to run the market – it was not, under any circumstances, to be given to a private operator. He shared the concerns of others about the beer tent and said he passed by one night at 9.15pm and there were 250 people queuing to get into the tent which was supposed to close at 10pm. Cllr Terry O’Flaherty (Ind) and Mayor Flannery agreed that the beer tent should close earlier.

Cllr Ollie Crowe, a publican, said it was wrong that the beer tent was serving tankards of beer, which equate to five units of alcohol or two and a half pints. “It should not be served that way. If there’s going to be a bar in the market it should operate under the same conditions we operate under,” he said.

Mr McMahon said part of the €150,000 could be used this year for outdoor screenings of Christmas movies as part of the market, a suggestion that was made by Cllr Peter Keane (FF)

Many councillors said there was too much food in the market and not enough crafts or local produce but Mr McMahon pointed out that “only” 29% of the stalls were food. The interim report, dated April 9, 2018, did not give any details on the number of visitors to the market. It cited the licence application, which said “an attendance in excess of 250,000 people was expected” but it did not say whether or not this target was met.

Mayor Flannery, citing a book entitled ‘How To Lie With Statistics’, wondered who collated the figures “because they can be manipulated”.


WATCH: The Olivers to the rescue … again!

Enda Cunningham



Father and son rescue team Patrick and Morgan Oliver were back in action in Salthill this morning, when they helped a swimmer who got into difficulty.

A member of the public raised the alarm at around 10.30am and the Coastguard sought the assistance of Galway Lifeboat who launched from Galway Docks.

Two members of the lifeboat shore crew made their way to the promenade to assist in the rescue.

Patrick and Morgan Oliver were fishing off Salthill at the time and spotted the man taking refuge on Palmers Rock about 200 metres from Salthill shore. They took him on board their fishing boat and brought him back to Galway Docks. Galway Lifeboat in the meantime was stood down. 

The man was taken into the Lifeboat station where he received treatment for symptoms of hypothermia until an ambulance arrived.

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Assurances given on progress of road, bridge and bus projects

Francis Farragher



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – It will take time and a lot of money, but the city’s network of major transport projects will proceed on schedule – that was the assurance given this week to councillors by City Council Chief Executive, Brendan McGrath.

Councillors had expressed concerns at their meeting on Monday about the slow rate of progress being made with major capital projects including two new pedestrian bridges over the River Corrib.

However, Brendan McGrath told the meeting that the timelines for the range of capital transport projects – while challenging – were reasonable, pragmatic and achievable.

“All of the projects are moving forward but we must adhere to all the procedures and the different stages that have to be complied with: we have no choice in that,” said Brendan McGrath.

Senior City Council Engineer, Uinsinn Finn, in reply to a number of queries about potential new bus routes, said that while the Council worked closely with Bus Éireann and the bus companies, the local authority didn’t decide on the routes.

Earlier in the meeting, Cllr Peter Keane (FF), asked ‘how it could take 63 months’ to deliver a pedestrian/cycle bridge over the Corrib even though the piers (old Corrib Railway Line) were already in place for the project.

“How can it take over five years to put a bridge like this over the Corrib,” he asked, after hearing that this €11 million Greenways-linked project would not be completed until 2026.

There is a snappier timescale for the Salmon Weir Pedestrian/Cycle Bridge – to be located adjacent to the existing structure on the southern side – with planning consent expected by next Summer and a completion date set for the end of 2022.
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.

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Council removes ‘shop local’ signage despite agreement with Latin Quarter

Stephen Corrigan



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Signage promoting a ‘eat, drink and shop local’ campaign, erected by a local business group, was removed by the Galway City Council – despite an understanding that permission had been granted.

The bilingual signage was placed on a number of solar compactor bins and bollard-control boxes in the city centre by the Latin Quarter business group, in an attempt to promote local businesses grappling with the effects of Covid-19.

A source in the group told the Galway City Tribune that the signage cost around €3,500 and that permission to erect it had been given by a ‘senior Council official’.

The signs were put up in mid-October but only lasted around two weeks when City Hall’s Environment Department had them removed, claiming that they had not been consulted.

“There was clearly a breakdown in communications in City Hall because we had permission from a senior official to proceed, and then the Environment Department took issue with the signs and insisted that they had to be removed,” said the source.

A Council spokesperson said they were currently in discussions with the Latin Quarter to provide promotional material and added “there’s been no falling out here”.
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.

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