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Bradley Bytes

Galway’s culture – you won’t find it in fancy 2020 bid books

Dara Bradley

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Spot the difference: Senator Hildegarde Naughton’s ‘entitlements’ leaflet on the left, and party colleague’s, Deputy John O’Mahony’s, on the right.

Bradley Bytes – A sort of political column by Dara Bradley

Now that Galway has been short-listed for the European Capital of Culture 2020 – well done Galway, ya ride ya – it is perhaps an apt time to ponder the city’s culture.

We mean Galway’s real culture. Of the variety you won’t find in any official ‘bid book’. Or #IBackGalway hash-tags trending on Twitter.

Think Galway’s drink culture; where getting scuttered after a day watching horses run around a field, or while wearing a Donegal GAA jersey at 10am while waiting for student pubs to open on a certain Tuesday, is socially acceptable. Drunkenness is such a cultural norm in Galway you could fill an entire bid book on it.

So too our culture of treating people with mental health like they’re pariahs. Galway, where we have a culture of closing mental health beds in Ballinasloe, and cramming mentally ill patients into a psychiatric unit in University Hospital Galway (UHG) where they must first pass through the overcrowded Emergency Department.

A culture exists where patients expressing suicidal thoughts could just as easily be told to ‘take an overdose’ in order to get into the psychiatric unit, and those who are in there can abscond and take their own life. And there’s no outrage . . . sure isn’t it part of our culture?

Of course psychiatric patients aren’t the only ones treated with contempt in culturally diverse Galway. We also have a culture of allowing sick, vulnerable and often elderly patients wait on trolleys for hours on end in corridors of the Emergency Department.

It is now a cultural norm to spend hours in ED . . . and if you’re lucky enough to get seen in the ED described by the Taoiseach as “not fit for purpose” and have been treated but have no nursing home to go to, it’s your fault and you’re a bed-blocker.

And what about our culture of profligacy? This is a city where a culture of paying shed-loads of money for things we don’t need/nobody wants, like a revamped Eyre Square or an art house cinema, prevails. That’s not in any bid-book either.

We could go on – Galway’s culture of discrimination of Travellers, of electing gombeen politicians, of teachers and their children sleeping rough in their cars, of spending hours and hours on end in traffic jams and so on and so forth – but you get the drift.

So every time over the course of the next year you hear someone talk about ‘backing Galway’ in its bid for city of culture, spare a thought for Galway’s true cultural heroes, the three Ps: the pissheads, and the pariah psychiatric patients, and the bottomless-pits of money wasted on projects.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

CITY TRIBUNE

Council’s ‘systematic neglect’ of Irish in Ireland’s bilingual city

Dara Bradley

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An Coimisinéir Teanga, Rónán Ó Domhnail, whose report was critical of Galway City Council.

Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Oifig an Coimisinéir Teanga, an office established to safeguard language rights, published its annual report for 2020 recently.

In it, Galway City Council was criticised for erecting a large number of Covid-19 signage last year, written in English only.

The investigation, which was used as an example in the annual report, was not new. It was covered in the Tribune in January, after the Council had its knuckles rapped.

But publication of the report by Rónán Ó Domhnaill highlights once again the general attitude of officialdom towards the Irish language.

Galway was declared a bilingual city by the local authority that didn’t bother to use Irish on its Covid-19 signs. What does that tell us?

Basically, that the cúpla focal are good for restaurant menus and street signs when we’re trying to shake down the Yanks for dollars, but Gaeilge is surplus to requirements when using signs to tell people how to stay safe when there’s a killer virus on the loose.

The Council put its hands up when An Coimisinéir Teanga launched an investigation following a complaint made in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic.

And after the annual report was published, it even sent its Irish-language officer onto the airwaves of RnaG to declare “tá sorry orm” on behalf of the Council.

The Council argued, as a mitigating factor, that breaches of the Official Languages Act occurred when it was, “operating under unprecedented circumstances in the middle of a global health pandemic which resulted in a significant percentage of our staff operating remotely in crisis-management mode”.

Far from mitigating, it actually just made it worse. If the State won’t communicate with you in your native tongue during a global crisis, when will it respect your rights?

You could argue, ‘why burden the Council with red tape about bilingual signs during Covid?’ But doing it correctly and not breaching the Act, was just as easy. We see bilingual Covid signage all the time now. Why not do it right in the first place?

An Coimisinéir Teanga’s investigation found: “The erection of bilingual signage was simply omitted. This failure was caused by systematic neglect in the administrative practices of the City Council in relation to language legislation.”

Systematic neglect, no less; in other words, they couldn’t be arsed about Irish.

Unless, of course, it’s useful for winning Capital of Culture designations or wooing American tourists. City Hall is all about Gaeilge then.

(Photo: An Coimisinéir Teanga, Rónán Ó Domhnail, whose report was critical of Galway City Council).
This is a shortened preview version of Bradley Bytes. To read more, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Pedestrianisation plan was missing one thing – a plan!

Dara Bradley

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

On the last two weekends of August 2019, Brendan McGrath, Chief Executive of Galway City Council gave his blessing to the Westend Traders organisation to temporarily pedestrianise Dominick Street Upper.

The street from Monroe’s to Bierhaus was cordoned off to traffic from 7pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for two successive weekends. Dubbed a ‘pilot’ scheme, it was hailed a success by local businesses.

And, in fairness, it was a success. The closure facilitated on-street furniture, and a party atmosphere ‘back the West’. It was the place to be; a new rival to the Latin Quarter.

The trial gave a flavour of the potential to ‘re-imagine the public realm’, as the City Hall engineers would say.

There was one problem, though – the Council didn’t tell anyone in advance. Either they forgot, or couldn’t be bothered, but the local authority gave the go-ahead for the temporary street closure without consultation. There was no statutory road closure issued, which requires public notices to be published, and a period of public consultation. Residents weren’t asked.

Brendan McGrath just gave the nod, and it happened. A Council spokesperson at the time told this newspaper that Gardaí had been consulted; Mr McGrath had “no objection”.

Some residents made a fuss. They were annoyed, not by the closure per se, but for being bypassed.

It’s hard to believe that the Council learned nothing from that trial run. Almost two years on and the latest pedestrianisation “plan” has been haphazard.

True, there was an over-reaction online. Social media was a feeding frenzy. Some abuse directed at City Hall was not on. But it must take responsibility.

The Council had since August 2019 to prepare for pedestrianisation of Dominick Street Upper. It had months to prepare for the Government’s much-heralded ‘outdoor summer’.

And yet it failed to publish a coherent plan for the Westend, and it failed to consult in a meaningful way with residents. Ditto with Woodquay.

Credit to those at City Hall who at least tried to make something happen to benefit businesses; better than doing nothing. But there have been too many mistakes, too much confusion.

When the Council published public notices about its intention to make Dominick Street Lower a one-way and close to traffic at night Dominick Street Upper, the advert mixed up the streets.

Then there were mixed signals about which way they wanted the one-way system to operate. Inbound or outbound, nobody really could say definitively.

Emergency services – quite legitimately – raised official objections last week on health and safety grounds. That ultimately scuppered the guts of the proposals for both Dominick Streets.

What nobody has adequately explained is why were these organisations not consulted, and onboard, before the plan – such as it was – was leaked and before public notices were published signalling the intention to close roads.

The Small Crane and William Street West were included, then excluded and then back in again. Galway City Council over-promised. Businesses spent money on furniture based on those promises, which turned out to be undeliverable.

It all smacks of ‘back-of-a-cigarette-packet planning’ that changes depending what mood Twitter is in. It leaves a sour taste in those outdoor pints on a partially pedestrianised Westend!
This is a shortened preview version of Bradley Bytes. To read more, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Government is taking city renters for a ride

Dara Bradley

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

A three-bedroom townhouse on Presentation Road was advertised on Daft.ie in May with a monthly rent of €2,400. That’s two thousand four hundred euro – per month!

Now, it looked very nice and modern and it was brand spanking new. And it is in a lovely convenient location, a hop, skip and a jump from Shop Street.

For the same price you could rent a two-bed terraced property at Long Walk, also advertised on Daft.ie. So, one less bedroom but you have the added bonus of fantastic views of Claddagh and Nimmo’s Pier to compensate.

But an annual rent of almost €30,000 for a three-bed or two-bed city centre house is out of reach for most people. Who can afford €2,400 per month?

Experts say that you should spend no more than 30% of your gross income on rent. In order to keep to this rule, you’d need to be pulling in well over €7,000 per month, or more than €90,000 per annum.

Suffice to say they won’t be occupied by teachers, or Gardaí, or nurses or most ordinary hard-working single people. Even for couples, that’d be expensive.

And with rents like that, it’s easy to see why practitioners in other better-paid professions are struggling to rent while also saving for mortgages.

Average rents in Galway city are now €1,400, according to the latest Daft.ie report. That’s up by 6.1% year-on-year.

Average rents for a one-bed (€1,040), two-bed (€1,145), three-bed (€1,288), four-bed (€1,488) and five-bed (€1,627) have increased by between 2.4% and 7.3% in 12 months.

Obviously the two properties on Daft.ie cited above are above-average, primarily because of their location. But even the average rents for average houses in average locations are far in excess of what average people can afford.

Even renting a room has escalated. The average rent for a single room in the city centre is €460, up 18.6% in a year; it is €544 on average for a double room, up 16.2%.

These are supernormal profits. And that’s in a year when student demand was suppressed due to Covid-19, and competition from Airbnb rentals is down because there are few tourists. What will it be like when we get back to ‘normal’?

Galway Simon has consistently highlighted the problem of homelessness and lack of housing supply – and has predicted it will get worse.

Galway city is a Rent Pressure Zone. That’s supposed to mean annual rents can’t rise by more than 4%. The statistics prove otherwise. In reality, what it means is that everyone renting within the zone is under pressure.

The Government must act. If it doesn’t, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Greens will discover that there’s an inverse relationship between the cost of renting in Galway city, and their popularity in elections.

(Photo: The CEO of Galway Simon, Karen Golden. Based on rental costs in Galway, her predictions that homelessness will increase make sense).
This is a shortened preview version of Bradley Bytes. To read more, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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