Galway Councillors’ biggest mistake was €56.6m move to Crown Square


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Galway Councillors’ biggest mistake was €56.6m move to Crown Square Galway Councillors’ biggest mistake was €56.6m move to Crown Square

Bradley Bytes – A sort of political column by Dara Bradley

Everyone makes mistakes. Most mistakes don’t cost €56 million, however. That burden rests with the current crop of Galway City Councillors as they trundle from house to house in search of your votes.

Purchasing Crown Square from Rhatigan’s and okaying the decision to move City Hall from College Road to new offices in Mervue, is the defining decision of this outgoing Council.

The class of 2019-2024 will forever be remembered as the group of elected representatives who voted to approve a loan of €45.5m and gave the go-ahead for a deal we’re told will cost at least €56.6 million when fit-out costs at the new headquarters are paid.

They will be remembered as the councillors who made this momentous decision at a City Council meeting in June of 2022, having only received a written report about it the previous Friday.

There was no public consultation about it. There was no consultation with staff. And, although elected members were individually briefed by the then Chief Executive of Galway City Council about the plans – in meetings of which no minutes were kept according to Freedom of Information requests – councillors only got official receipt of the report that recommended they approve the loan, three days before they voted for it.

Imagine borrowing €45.5m after mulling over it over just one weekend?

What was the mad rush and why did councillors not postpone this momentous decision to allow for proper ‘due diligence’?

The original plan was for staff to have relocated to Crown Square by December 2023 – a full year after the loan was drawn down – but the project is an age behind schedule and rumours abound that workers want to remain at College Road.

In the meantime, the Council must meet its repayments. These cost €1.6m every year for 40 years, according to Helen Kilroy, Head of Finance. Yes, you read that right, one-point-six million every year for forty years.

Councillor Alan Curran, in fairness, wasn’t on the Council when this was voted through – his predecessor Owen Hanley, who resigned last year, had voted against it, while all 17 others voted in favour.

Councillor Imelda Byrne (FF), who is not seeking re-election, appears to genuinely regret voting for it, and several times suggested she was ‘hoodwinked’.

Other elected members have been critical of the deal after they approved it, when they realised the public and Council staff did not want them to borrow millions to solve a problem that almost nobody knew existed prior to June 2022.

Pictured: FF Councillor Imelda Byrne who isn’t seeking re-election, has suggested several times that  she was ‘hoodwinked’ over the costly  move from City Hall to Crown Square.

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