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Galway water rights handover could be jobs disaster

Enda Cunningham

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The City Manager has been asked not to sign over control over the local authority’s water network to the newly-established Irish Water, after it emerged the Council will have no say whatsoever on pricing and repairs.

The impending changeover has been branded “disastrous” by one councillor, who warned it could cost hundreds of jobs in the hospitality and leisure sectors, as well as rising costs for households.

Under the Government’s new ‘Service Level Agreement’ with the local authority, pricing for domestic and commercial customers will be controlled by the by the Commission for Energy Regulation, while reports for leaks and service interruptions will be handled by a central call centre in Limerick.

The City Manager and his senior officials are understood to have serious reservations and concerns about Environment Minister Phil Hogan’s new legislation – it will have an impact across Council departments, including finance and property.

Brendan McGrath is due to make a report to councillors at a meeting today (Monday) outlining the impact the changeover will have and is expected to allow councillors vote on the issue.

Cllr Michael Crowe – Chair of the Council’s Transport and infrastructure Committee – has proposed (and received backing from other councillors) that the Manager not sign the Service Level Agreement (SLA), despite the Minister holding the executive power to introduce the change.

The SLA is supposed to be signed later this month – the issue is expected to cause a heated debate in the Council Chamber next week.

Ironically, Irish Water is headed by the former Galway City Manager John Tierney.

“There are serious questions to be answered regarding the transfer of the city’s water supply over to Irish Water. For example, when a there is a problem like a burst and a member of the public wants to report it, they will have to ring Irish Water and not City Hall. Imagine!

“When repairs need to be done, Irish Water will have to give approval to Galway City Council before the works can be carried out. Furthermore, and this is my deepest concern, the price of water will be decided by the Energy Regulator and not by the Council in our Budget (until now, commercial water charges have been set by local authorities).

“It will work the same as electricity and gas do now. The regulator decides and that’s it. No appeal, no direct say, end of story. Effectively, some guy in an office in Dublin will decide on how much our water will be. It is absolute madness.

“We have seen through the rise of gas and electricity costs what centralising power to an office in Dublin does. It results in higher prices for everyone.

“This whole rush to ram this through and hand everything over to Irish Water is nonsense. We should do all we can to stop this. Since our difficulties with cryptosporidium we have done enormous work and now have water that is second-to-none in the country. And now after all this, the Government has decided to take our water out of our control and hand it over to an office in Dublin. 

“Every water user in Galway should now understand that this will result in higher prices. The big users such as hotels, leisure centres, sports clubs etc will all see their costs rise and subsequently the prices for their customers will rise,” said Cllr Crowe.

A spokesperson for the City Council said the issue is under ongoing discussion between the City and County Managers’ Association and the Water Services Transition Office.

“The Manager is proactively and strongly looking after issues for a seamless provision of water. Collectively, as Managers (around the country), they are engaging with Irish Water.

“The transition to Irish Water is a dynamic process which is ongoing, for example, the City Manager received the latest draft SLA on Thursday morning, which he will be considering and bringing before councillors on Monday,” said the spokesperson.

He said that repairs will be fixed by customers phoning the Irish Water call centre, which will then dispatch a crew.

CITY TRIBUNE

Brave Holly’s battle against leukaemia

Denise McNamara

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A keen young camogie player from Knocknacarra diagnosed with leukaemia at the start of the first lockdown has now learned that she has lost her sight in one eye due to a rare complication.

Holly McAlinney was the picture of health at age seven. Her mother Sharon remembers the day schools were closed last March that her teacher had remarked that Holly had difficulty hearing in class.

She took her to the GP, thinking it was an ear infection and then her jaw swelled up so she thought it may have been her adenoids acting up. When medication did nothing to relieve the symptoms, they sent off a blood test.

“I went to the doctor with her on my own, you were only allowed one parent in at a time. They asked if I could call my husband so I knew things were bad. They confirmed it was leukaemia on a Wednesday and on the Monday we were in Crumlin Children’s Hospital getting chemotherapy – that’s how quickly it’s all been.”

Holly is now in the middle of her fourth round of chemo, which she undergoes weekly one day a week in the Dublin hospital. When she finishes this, she will have a fifth round given over two years to ensure the cancer doesn’t return.

Her medical team are extremely positive about her prospects. There is currently a 98 per cent survival rate with leukaemia, which is of course a huge relief to family and friends.

But things haven’t gone plain sailing throughout the treatment. Holly developed ulcers on her duodenum which left her in intensive care for a spell. And then last week, the family learned that the leukaemia had infiltrated her left eye, leaving a gap which could result in permanent blindness.

“We’re seeing a specialist in University Hospital Galway (UHG) next week but we don’t hold out much hope the sight will come back. Holly’s the most upbeat of all of us because she’s so young – she can’t see the repercussions into the future.

“That’s the way she’s been throughout the treatment. The first two rounds were heavy and the third quite light so she bounced right back. She was in school September and October, you wouldn’t know she was sick, and we felt she was safe because everything was so clean and with all the bubbles.

“It was right back down with the fourth round which was the heaviest so she can’t go see anyone just her brother – it’s heart-breaking.”

Her school friends have been keeping in touch by sending videos and cards to Holly to cheer her up.

While camogie and swimming will be out of the occasion for the foreseeable future, Sharon is confident they can find other hobbies that will enthral Holly, who is a very sociable and sporty girl. Sharon trains Holly with the U-8 camogie team with Salthill-Knocknacarra GAA.

The frequent trips to Dublin and hospital appointments has meant that Sharon has had to give up her job working in the Little Stars Montessori on the Cappagh Road, where son Alex still attends afterschool. Dad Rob works as an alarm engineer.

New mothers that Sharon met in Holly’s parent and baby group in Knocknacarra have organised a fundraiser to help the family get through the financial stress of coping with cancer.

They are planning a hike on December 6 at Diamond Hill, Connemara and have already raised €16,000 in donations.

“Rob and I are both from Salthill, but it’s been amazing the amount of people we wouldn’t have heard or seen in years who have contacted us to offer support. It’s only when you’re in trouble that you realise how good people can be.”

■ To make a donation, log on to GoFundMe

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Connacht Tribune

Full details of the Christmas Covid restrictions

Enda Cunningham

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The Taoiseach announced this evening that the country will move to Level 3 restrictions from next week, with shops, gyms, hairdressers, hotels, restaurants and gastro-pubs set to reopen.

“It hasn’t been easy. Many individuals and businesses have made huge sacrifices. And many more are totally fed up with Covid-19 and everything that has come with it over the past nine months. I understand that feeling. Very often I share it,” Micheál Martin said in an address to the nation.

“This cannot and will not be the kind of Christmas we are used to but it will be a very special time where we all enjoy some respite,” he said, as he announced the planned move to “Level 3, with some modifications”.

The use of face coverings is now recommended in crowded workplaces, places of worship and in busy or crowded outdoor spaces where there is significant congregation.

From 1 December, under Level 3, as set out in the Plan for Living with Covid-19:

  • weddings with up to 25 guests are permitted (same as current provisions)
  • funerals with up to 25 mourners are permitted (same as current provisions)
  • no organised indoor events should take place, other than as provided below
  • gatherings of 15 people may take place outdoors
  • non-contact training may take place outdoors in pods of 15
  • only individual training should take place indoors and no exercise or dance classes are permitted
  • no matches/events may take place except professional and elite sports, approved inter-county Gaelic games, horse-racing and approved equestrian events, all behind closed doors
  • gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools may reopen for individual training only
  • nightclubs, discos and casinos should remain closed
  • hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs may open with services limited to residents only
  • non-essential retail and personal services may reopen
  • people should continue to work from home unless absolutely necessary to attend in person
  • public transport capacity is limited to 50%

From 1 December:

  • households should not mix with any other households outside those within their bubble
  • people should stay within their county apart from work, education and other essential purposes

From 4 December:

  • restaurants and pubs operating as restaurants (serving a substantial meal) may reopen for indoor dining with additional restrictions, (including requirement for meals to be prepared on site, inside the premises). This includes access for non-residents to restaurants in hotels
  • higher, further and adult education should remain primarily online

Adjustments for the Christmas Period

From 1 December:

  • places of worship to reopen for services with restrictive measures, subject to review in January
  • museums, galleries, and libraries to reopen
  • cinemas to reopen
  • wet pubs to remain closed except for takeaway/delivery

From 18 December to 6 January:

  • households can mix with up to two other households
  • travel outside your county to be permitted

From 7 January, the measures put in place prior to 18 December will apply, subject to ongoing review of the trajectory of the virus.

The measures for cross-border travel will be the same as for travel between all other counties, that is, from 1 December, people should stay within their county apart from work, education and other essential purposes while from 18 December to 6 January, travel outside the county is permitted.

It has further been agreed that the use of face coverings is now recommended in crowded workplaces, places of worship and in busy or crowded outdoor spaces where there is significant congregation.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Proposals to change speed limits in Galway City are voted down

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Planned speed limit changes for Galway City are stuck in the slow lane after councillors rejected a proposal for new bylaws.

The bylaws would have introduced a 30km/h zone in the city centre and 19 other changes, including increased speed limits in areas such as Bóthar na dTreabh to 80km/h.

Management at City Hall have now been sent back to the drawing board to draft new speed limit bylaws after a majority of elected members voted against them – it could at least two years before new proposals are ready.

At a meeting this week, several councillors spoke out against plans to increase speed limits to 80km/h on approach roads into the city.

Many of them criticised the system of selecting roads for speed limit changes, lashed the public consultation process and decried the lack of input from councillors, despite speed limits being a reserved function of elected members.

Councillors were particularly peeved that the proposal had to be accepted in its entirety, without amendments, or rejected outright – they could not pick and choose individual changes.

Deputy Mayor Collette Connolly (Ind) led the charge against the bylaws, which she described as “idiotic”.

She lambasted the “incomprehensible decision” not to lower speed limits to 30km/h outside schools and she said it was “utter raiméis” (nonsense) that speeds can’t be lowered to 30km/h, if 85% of the traffic on that road travels at 50km/h.

Cllr Connolly said the bylaws were “flawed”, and cited the decision to leave Rahoon Road/Shantalla Road at 50km/h, despite a crèche and two schools on other roads like Lough Atalia remaining at 30km/h.

(Photo: A speed van on Bóthar na dTreabh on Thursday morning)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, including how each councillor voted and a map of the proposed changes, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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