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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway has lowest office vacancy rate in the country

Enda Cunningham

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The lack of supply of good quality office space is continuing to constrict the market in Galway City.

New research has found that Galway has the smallest office vacancy rate of any city in Ireland, at 8.4% – this compares to Cork at 11.6%; Dublin at 12% and Limerick at 17.9%.

According to a report on the country’s office market from Cushman & Wakefield (the commercial arm of Sherry Fitzgerald), activity in the city was “subdued” in the first three months of this year, due to the shortage of supply.

“The opening quarter of 2017 saw another subdued period of leasing activity in the Galway office market, impeded by the persisting supply/demand imbalance which is taking place in the market at present,” the report reads.

The take-up activity in the first quarter was by OpenJaw Technology of 750 square metres in Galway Technology Park in Ballybrit and 300 sq m taken by AIB at the IDA Business Park in Dangan.

“Total supply levels in Galway edged upwards by 2% in the first quarter of 2017, to stand at 25,400 sq m. This was as a direct result of a larger volume of secondhand space being brought to the market during the summer than was taken up,” it reads.

It adds that availability levels have been rising steadily over the past year – however, the majority of this is ‘Grade B’ space or building stock which is only completely to shell and core level.

There is “an acute shortage of Grade A space persisting in the market,” the report reads.

The research points out that just one office project began construction during the first quarter – the redevelopment of the City Limits complex in Oranmore – which will become around 6,500 sq m of space for around 440 workers.

It predicts that prime rents in Galway’s office market will rise from €250 to €300 per square metre per annum by the end of the year, and are likely to jump to €340 in 2019.

CITY TRIBUNE

Muggers face jail threat after random Galway City attacks

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The threat of a three-year sentence hangs over a couple who violently mugged three young women in separate attacks as they walked through the city on their way home from work and college on a winter’s evening.

One of the victims sustained a fractured elbow as well as extensive bruising to her body as one of the muggers dragged her along the ground at Eyre Square in an attempt to steal her handbag.  She also suffered a deep gash to her left knee and had to be treated at UHG for her injuries that evening. The other women suffered minor injuries when they too were attacked from behind and dragged along the ground.

While their physical injuries have healed, all three continue to suffer from the mental scars left by their attackers, all stating in their victim impact statements to a court this week that they no longer feel safe to walk the streets of Galway alone at night.

Rosanna Cawley, who is now 23, and from the Bog, Poolboy, Ballinasloe, and her then-partner, Willian Toohey, now 20, from Mountrath, Co Laois, pleaded guilty moments before their trial was due to begin before a jury at Galway Circuit Criminal Court in February 2020 to robbing a Canadian medical student’s handbag, her iPhone and iPad worth €735 at St Nicholas’s Street on November 5, 2018.

Toohey also pleaded guilty to attempting to rob another woman at Bóthar Breandán Uí Eithirr on the same evening and to assaulting a third woman, causing her harm, outside the entrance to the shopping centre in Eyre Square, also on the same evening in 2018.

Judge Rory McCabe directed probation reports on both accused and remanded them on continuing bail to November 4 last for sentence.  They brought €1,000 compensation to court for the victims on that date but the court was told they had missed several appointments with their probation officer and were not co-operating. It also heard Cawley had given birth in the interim.

Judge McCabe adjourned sentence to March and then to last week’s court to give the pair another chance to comply with the probation service.

Garda Michael Gallagher told the sentence hearing this week that at 5.30pm on November 5, 2018, Gardaí were alerted to a woman whose bag was pulled from her shoulder in Eyre Square.  She was attacked from behind and knocked to the ground, sustaining injuries to her elbow and body in the fall. Gardaí received a report a few minutes later from a Canadian medical student who had been injured when she was dragged along the ground after her bag was pulled from her shoulder near St Nicholas’s church.

The bag contained her laptop, iPhone, lecture notes and bank cards.

Shortly afterwards, Gardaí received yet another report from a third woman who said she had been the victim of an attempted robbery near Prospect Hill but had managed to hang onto her shoulder bag, even though she had been injured in the attack. Cawley was found in possession of one of the victim’s handbags when the couple were arrested a short time later.

Garda Gallagher read the victim’s separate impact statements into evidence.

The woman who was mugged in Eyre Square said the attack affected every day of her life since. She said she was dragged along the ground towards a steel pole and tried to move her head out of the way.  The muggers ran when her head hit the pole.

She sustained a deep cut to her knee and damage to her neck and back.  She had to seek counselling afterwards and can no longer walk alone in Galway City.  She no longer carries a purse or handbag and will not go out in the city on her own after dark.

The medical student’s mother had to travel from Canada to care for her daughter after she was attacked.  Her head hit the ground hard, she said, and her medical notes were taken as well as her phone and iPad.

The third victim said she had just finished her first day at work in a new job and was almost home at 6.30pm when she was attacked. She let out a roar and managed to stay upright while hanging on to her handbag which was ripped apart during the attack.

To be attacked outside her home was unnerving, she said, in her statement and she no longer trusts people. She too had to receive counselling after suffering panic attacks in public.

“I’m afraid to be alone in public anymore and I’ve no independence left,” her statement concluded.

The couple offered no explanation for their actions that evening, although Cawley claimed she drank two naggins of neat vodka and two cans of beer earlier.

The court heard the couple had brought another €1,000 to court for the victims.

Judge McCabe said the pair were looking at a three-year sentence as the victims had been left ‘out of the blue’ with physical and mental scars.

However, he said he would adjourn finalisation of sentence to November 3 to see how the pair continued to rehabilitate while under probation supervision.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Call for ‘wet pubs’ to be included in outdoor grants scheme

Francis Farragher

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So-called wet pubs should not be excluded from the Government grants aimed at improving shelter for outdoor facilities, according to a city councillor.

Cllr Alan Cheevers (FF) told last week’s City Council meeting that it was unfair to exclude the wet pubs from the grants in tourist areas like the city – worth up to €4,000 per applicant.

“Why wouldn’t the wet pubs in a city like Galway qualify for those grants – they need the outdoor shelter facilities too. This is just not fair,” said Cllr Cheevers.

He also made a plea for more of the tourism infrastructure money to be made available for the east side of the city.

“If officials go past The Huntsman, they think they’re going to get a nose bleed,” commented Cllr Cheevers.

However, Council Tourism Officer, Ruairí Lehmann, told the meeting that the grants criteria for eligibility was defined by Failte Ireland and was not a decision of the Council.

“If premises are not serving food, then they’re not eligible for the grant,” he said.

Under the Local Authority Weatherproofing and Outdoor Dining Infrastructure Scheme 2021, grants of up to €4,000 are available per outlet in key tourism centres such as Galway City.

While each local authority has an initial maximum allocation of €200,000, certain areas such as Galway City may be in a position to apply for additional funding, the Tourism Infrastructure report presented to this week’s meeting stated.

Grants can be claimed for such items as outdoor tables and chairs, awnings, windbreakers and heaters.

Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) said that while he welcomed any grants that would improve the outdoor facilities, he was greatly concerned about the future of Shop Street.

“We have a lot of units vacant here – we need to get tenants back into this area. Anything we can do to ease regulations and get people back into Shop Street would be welcome,” said Cllr. Hoare.

Cllr Imelda Byrne (FF) also welcomed the grants for the outdoor dining areas and also wanted the outdoor dining designation to be extended to cover the Forster Street area.

Mr Lehmann gave an undertaking to examine further the Forster Street issue as regards outdoor dining and to speak to the Gardaí on the matter.

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CITY TRIBUNE

NUIG drops Irish language requirement for staff

Dara Bradley

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Administrative staff hired or promoted at NUI Galway no longer require a level of proficiency in the Irish language.

The university has confirmed to the Galway City Tribune that the automatic requirement for all administrative grade one, two and three workers to have a level of Irish has been removed.

The change was approved by Údarás na hOllscoile, its governing body, at a meeting last year.

It follows a decision made in 2017 by NUIG to remove proficiency in the Irish language as one of the requirements for being president of the university.

According to minutes of the 2020 meeting – released to Galway City Tribune under Freedom of Information – one governing body member objected to the change in policy towards administrative workers having Irish.

The decision to change was recommended by the Academic Council of the university.  It was relayed to Governing Body members by Secretary for Governance and Academic Affairs, Clare McCann.

Ms McCann said that the recommendation was to “revoke the requirement of all administrative staff recruited and/or promoted to Grades 1-3 to have competence in Irish”.

The new rules also set out “governance and management arrangements with regard to the role of Irish in the university”.

One member of the governing body, whose name was redacted in the minutes, “noted her objection to the proposal  . . . expressing the view that the proposal does not adequately advance the role of the Irish language in the university”.

Professor Anne Scott, Vice President for Equality and Diversity, told the meeting that her office had received “at least 15 expressions of concern from staff considering making a complaint regarding the university’s position on the Irish requirement for administrative positions”.

She also noted that “many staff will welcome the passing of this statute”.

In a statement to the Galway City Tribune this week, a spokesperson for the university said: “University services are delivered through Irish and English as outlined in the university’s Scéim Teanga, thereby requiring a number of positions in each unit to have a high level of Irish.

“The automatic requirement for all Administrative Grade 1, 2, 3 posts to have a low level of Irish has been removed. Simultaneously, each hiring manager, when a post is to be filled, must identify who in the unit is capable of conducting the unit’s business through Irish. Only if this requirement is fulfilled can the post be advertised without a requirement for high-level Irish.”

The decision to abandon proficiency in the Irish language as one of the requirements for being president of NUIG was criticised by former Gaeltacht Minister Éamon Ó Cuív.

“Given that there are four centres of Irish in the university that conduct their business through Irish – Galway, Carna, An Cheathrú Rua and Gaoth Dobhair in Donegal – the question should be how could the new president be expected to carry out his or her business without being able to speak Irish,” Deputy Ó Cuív said at the time.

Current president, Professor Ciaran Ó hÓgartaigh was appointed subsequent to that new ruling coming in.

Prof Ó hÓgartaigh is fluent in both languages, carrying on a tradition at NUIG that dates back to 1929 whereby the NUIG President has been able to conduct university business in Irish and English.

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