Galway City councillor chides ‘the Meeja’ for Crown Square coverage


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Galway City councillor chides ‘the Meeja’ for Crown Square coverage Galway City councillor chides ‘the Meeja’ for Crown Square coverage

Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

At 2pm on Friday, December 16, a Galway City Council Corporate Policy Group virtual meeting was held on Zoom “at short notice”.

Chief Executive Brendan McGrath told councillors present – Mayor Clodagh Higgins and Councillors Frank Fahy (FG), Peter Keane (FF), Donal Lyons (Ind), Niall McNelis (Lab) and Martina O’Connor (Green) –  that a contract for the €45.5m purchase of Crown Square had been “executed” that morning.

And he told them he expected the sale would be completed the following Friday.

True enough, a circular to media and staff on Friday, December 23 confirmed the deal with developer JJ Rhatigan was sealed.

It was sent by the CE after 4pm when most people had switched on their Christmas ‘out-of-office’ automatic email replies and were knee-deep in mulled wine and mince pies.

The price quoted in the draft minutes of that meeting did not include the €11.1m required to fit-out the building. But sure what’s €11.1 million of public money among friends, eh?

All sorts of interesting questions were asked by councillors about the transaction. Some were answered. Others weren’t, or if they were, the replies were not logged in the minutes.

One contribution to the debate stuck out. It was from Councillor Peter Keane (pictured).

The city solicitor “noted for the record”, according to the minutes, “the very positive news story for the city on [sic] this significant achievement” of borrowing €45.5m to buy an office block.

This is a shortened preview version of this column. For more Bradley Bytes, see the January 13 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

And he also “noted his concern at the unbalanced media reporting on same”.

This wasn’t just a throwaway remark. Of all the things Peter Keane could’ve said, the one thing he wanted to highlight for the benefit of note-takers to record for posterity, was praise for the deal and criticism of media’s coverage of it.

Do councillors ever learn?

Just like the debacle with the Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture project, when legitimate questions went unanswered causing collateral damage. And like the woeful waste of public money on the ill-fated arthouse cinema project before that.

Some elected representatives would prefer if pesky journalists did not ask about the expenditure of large sums of public money.

And when media organisations such as this newspaper do ask questions, the answers to which city councillors should’ve been in possession of prior to voting in favour of a loan that will saddle ratepayers with €2 million annual repayments for 30 years, they revert to type and crib about ‘unbalanced media reporting’.

Remember, ‘pulling on the maroon jersey’ doesn’t have to be about arse-licking and talking-up Galway. Equally, it can be asking legitimate questions about the process around what is one of, if not the, biggest ever transfer of public money overseen by this local authority, in a deal that was closed six months after it was first mooted publicly.

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